The University of Arkansas, in collaboration with The Organic Center and the University of California Cooperative Extension, has been awarded nearly $500,000 through U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic Research and Extension Institute. The funding will help support a three-year project studying the challenges and opportunities for organic rice production and use in the United States.
Currently, consumer demand for organic rice exceeds domestic supply and leads to significant import competition. Meanwhile, research is needed to determine whether domestic organic rice production can be competitive and sustainable, and what attributes consumers consider desirable in the rice they eat.
Assessing the economic impacts of production practices
The long-term goal is to facilitate the growth of organic rice production and the domestic market in the United States. Specifically, researchers will focus on identifying and assessing the economic impacts of different production practices used in domestic organic rice production.
To expand domestic consumption of organic rice, researchers plan to study consumers’ preferences. In addition, researchers will develop a multi-state outreach program to disseminate the findings of the research.
“It will be important to assess producer and consumer attitudes about organic rice production and consumption, and then identify any barriers that need to be overcome to improve the market opportunities” says Dr. Alvaro Durand-Morat of the University of Arkansas, who is lead project investigator.
The research will include using discussions with farmer focus groups and surveys, as well as studies of consumer behavior and attitudes concerning desired attributes of rice they buy and consume. Findings and results will be disseminated through many channels, including interactive Extension tools, presentations, and journal and newspaper publications, to reach targeted audiences.
Getting the word out
During the first year, The Organic Center will issue press releases and grower group announcements to publicize the planned research. It will also provide a web portal to post description of the project, updates and other information. Meanwhile, it will launch a social media campaign about the research via The Organic Center and Organic Trade Association Facebook and Twitter accounts.
This campaign will continue throughout the full four years of the project to disseminate information gathered at farmer and industry group listening sessions, requests for stakeholder input, research findings, and stakeholder meeting conference sessions and workshops.
Wider information dissemination
During the second and third years, The Organic Center will increase its outreach to allow wide dissemination of on-farm research findings and recommendations. Included will be webinars and publications explaining research results.
“We are thrilled to be a part of this monumental research,” said Dr. Jessica Shade, director of science programs at The Organic Center. “This project will fill a critical need to help increase the domestic supply of organic rice.”
The Organic Center contributed this article.