Universities across the country have been awarded more than $19 million in grants to solve organic agriculture issues through research, education and extension projects. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan made the announcement Friday. She said the grants are an important part of the new "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative.
Merrigan notes organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing sectors of U.S. agriculture. Since the late 90s organic production in the U.S. has more than doubled and the consumer market has grown even faster. Organic food sales have more than quintupled, increasing from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $24.6 billion in 2008. Through the 2008 Farm Bill, she says USDA and Congress are committed to helping the industry succeed by addressing critical issues.
The "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative was launched in September. USDA says it emphasizes the need for a fundamental and critical reconnection between producers and consumers.