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Turning organic research into policy, and improving the environment

Summit to link environmental findings for organic with conservation goals

Maggie McNeil
(202) 403-8520
(202) 615-7997
Washington , DC
May 16, 2016
) — 

Confluences_Square(1).jpgA wide body of research has proven that many techniques used in organic agriculture deliver a host of environmental benefits, but widespread adoption of organic practices has been slow. Next week, scientific experts, farmers, policymakers, and organic stakeholders will gather in Washington to discuss how this research on organic's positive contribution to the environment can be incorporated into government programs to improve the sustainability of U.S. agriculture.

The first-ever Organic Confluences Summit being held by The Organic Center on Monday, May 23 will review the most up-to-date research on organic's positive impacts on the environment, and look at existing conservation programs. It will form the foundation for eventual recommendations from The Organic Center on ways that organic research can be used by policymakers to provide real-life solutions to help agriculture adopt environmentally friendly organic farming practices.

"This conference is extremely timely, given recent research on the multitude of benefits organic can provide to the environment and the need for policy incentives to encourage sustainable farming," said Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center.
The one-day conference in D.C. will kick off Organic Week organized by the Organic Trade Association.  Making the Confluences Summit possible are major grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service and the UNFI Foundation. Other sponsors include the Organic Farming Research Foundation, Stonyfield, Annie's, True Organic Products Inc., Lehigh Valley Organic Growers Inc. Hidden Villa Ranch/The Country Hen/Nest Fresh, and Earthbound Farm.
The conference is divided into two focus areas. During the morning session, academic and government researchers will present scientific findings concerning organic practices and soil health, water quality, biodiversity, pollinator health, climate change mitigation, and sustainability practices. Organic specialist Kathleen Delate of Iowa State University will give a whole-system assessment of the environmental impacts of organic practices. These scientific presentations will be followed by a review on organic research needs by Dr. Diana Jerkins of the Organic Farming Research Foundation.
The afternoon sessions will look at existing government agency sustainability incentive programs and how these can be used in collaboration with organic farmers to improve their implementation and effectiveness.
Wrapping up the conference, attendees will help identify how organic practices supported by scientific research can be integrated into federal and state sustainability incentive programs going forward.
"These discussions will build the scaffolding for a White Paper detailing recommendations not only for how environmental research on organic systems can be integrated into federal and state agricultural sustainability incentive programs, but how these programs can better support farmers already using organic practices and encourage more farmers to incorporate organic," Dr. Shade said.
More information about the Summit and The Organic Center is available on The Center's website.

The Organic Center's mission is to convene credible, evidence-based science on the health and environmental benefits of organic food and farming, and to communicate the findings to the public. The Center is an independent non-profit 501(c)(3) research and education organization operating under the administrative auspices of the Organic Trade Association.