Organic agricultural research in the United States is getting a boost from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) with a $19 million investment into the initiative "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" and that's to be awarded to research programs in universities around the country.
The move, announced Monday, comes in response to rapidly increasing demand for organic foods, according to the department.
"These grants are an important part of USDA's new ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative, which will help develop local and regional food systems and spur economic opportunity by assisting organic producers with new production and marketing practices to meet rising consumer demand," Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan said in a statement.
According to USDA figures, organic food sales in the United States have increased more than fivefold since 1997 while organic acreage has only doubled in that same period.
The market research firm Mintel has said that organic food purchases now account for about three percent of total US food sales, and those figures are expected to rise steadily by 19 percent to 2013. More than two-thirds of US consumers buy organic products at least occasionally, and 28 percent buy organic products weekly, according to the firm.
Launched in September 2009, the ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' is aimed at supporting local farmers and community food groups; strengthening rural communities; enhancing direct marketing and farmers' promotion programs; promoting healthy eating; protecting natural resources; and helping schools connect with locally grown foods.