- The University of Rhode Island and The Organic Center have secured a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) for a new organic food safety research project.
- The 4-year project aims to provide organic growers and industry stakeholders with science-based tools and training to comply with both organic agriculture rules and food safety requirements.
- The project, titled “Developing Risk-assessment, Educational, and Communication Tools to Lower Food Safety Barriers for Organic Specialty Crop Growers,” is an extension of a previous grant that identified food safety as a major challenge for organic farmers.
- The Organic Center was awarded almost $635,000 to direct the project’s national extension and education efforts, including hosting 10 regional, in-person workshops.
- Researchers from the University of California at Davis and the University of Georgia will also participate in the project.
The University of Rhode Island and The Organic Center have announced a new collaboration on a significant organic food safety research project. The project is enabled by a $3.5 million grant recently awarded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI).
Addressing Unique Challenges in Organic Farming
Organic produce and specialty crop growers face unique challenges in meeting National Organic Program standards and multiple food safety requirements. The 4-year project aims to equip these growers with science-based tools and training to help them comply with both regulations.
Building on Previous Research
The project continues earlier work led by Dr. Patrick Baur of the University of Rhode Island and The Organic Center. A national needs assessment had identified food safety as a top production challenge for organic farmers, both operationally and administratively. Dr. Baur stated, “We will develop a new food safety management tool for organic soil amendments. And we’re also going to develop a suite of new communication and training tools aimed at the entire fruit and vegetable sector.”
Educational Efforts and Workshops
The Organic Center was awarded almost $635,000 to direct the project’s national extension and education efforts. This will include hosting 10 regional, in-person workshops to help organic experts understand the biggest food safety rules and challenges and to educate food safety specialists on organic practices.
Dr. Amber Sciligo, Director of Science Programs at The Organic Center, emphasized the importance of collaboration. “If we can get farmers, organic certifiers, technical assistants, and food safety professionals all on the same page, then meeting organic and food safety standards simultaneously will become more feasible for organic farmers,” she said.
Researchers from the University of California at Davis and the University of Georgia will also participate in this important project, adding further expertise to the initiative.
Image provided by Rhode Island