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Organic Confluences Conference: Making Research Count


The primary goal of this conference is to address constraints in organic production including barriers to increasing adoption of organic practices and expanding organic acreage. In an effort to achieve this broader goal we will bring together a diverse group of organic stakeholders to improve the dissemination and adoption of scientific research aimed at overcoming common challenges to organic production.While scientists are increasingly conducting research and developing new methods to address the diversity of obstacles faced by organic farmers, research results are often slow to reach growers, and farmers can be hesitant to adopt new methods and technologies. The need for improved research dissemination and utilization also extends to policymakers. Agricultural issues are debated by legislators and translated into policy by executive agencies. Scientific data are needed at every step to develop meaningful regulations, yet communication among scientists and policymakers is lacking.
As a result, policymakers may not have access to existing information, and scientists may not be aware of knowledge gaps that need to be filled.Barriers to the dissemination and adoption of scientific research results are likely occurring on a number of levels.Due to a lack of clear communication channels, researchers may not be fully aware of priorities relevant to organic and transitioning farmers or policymakers, and research results may not be translated into actionable recommendations: Clear lines of communication among scientists, farmers and policymakers are necessary to ensure that existing solutions and tools are reaching their target audiences, and to ensure that researchers are aware of challenges that require research and innovation. Furthermore, if pertinent research is completed but the results are not presented in a manner that is accessible to non-scientists, relevant information may remain underutilized by farmers and policymakers.Researchers may not be disseminating
research results through the best channels to reach organic farmers or policymakers: New funding initiatives for organic agriculture research, such as the OREI, are expected to encourage researchers that have traditionally focused on conventional farming systems to enter the realm of organic agriculture research. While this shift is generally positive, research suggests that conventional and organic growers are likely to utilize different resources to obtain information. Additionally, policymakers are often not included as target audiences for research dissemination. Accordingly, it is imperative that researchers are not simply incorporating outreach and education plans into their research programs but that they are disseminating research through appropriate outlets to ensure that results reach those whom they were intended to benefit.Existing outlets for research dissemination are not sufficient to meet the needs of organic farmers: Many educators, cooperative extension agents and
USDA personnel who do not work with organic producers regularly lack a basic understanding of organic agricultural practices, the needs of organic and sustainable farmers, or existing research aimed at addressing those needs. Furthermore, existing resources for organic and sustainable farmers are scarce across many parts of the country. For instance, the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) funds only one organic specialist for the entire U.S.Organic agriculture research funding programs may not consistently prioritize research most needed by organic producers: Organic producers must understand and rely on complex biological processes that occur over long time periods. Even when scientific interests and producer needs are in sync, the majority of research funding is restricted to short-term experiments using reductionist approaches. While these strategies are common in conventional agriculture research, they may not be ideal for sustainable and organic systems, which require
more holistic methodology. Similarly, because organic farming relies on an understanding of biological processes that vary based on localized factors including topography, soil chemistry and climate, research results from one area or crop may not translate to others.The Organic Confluences Conference will address each of these potential communication pitfalls through panels, case studies and discussions, while providing a venue for scientists, farmers, policymakers and organic stakeholders to assess the state of research communication and barriers that constrain diverse stakeholders from utilizing research results and adopting new technologies.Conference participants will include organic and transitioning farmers, scientists, extension agents, industry members and key policy influencers. The conference will be held in Washington, D.C., on May 2-3, 2017, in conjunction with the Organic Trade Association's Policy Conference and Farmer's Advisory Council Summit, which are
attended by organic farmers from small and large farms, distributors, researchers, leading and emerging organic brands, retailers and policymakers.

Shade, J.
Integrative Biology Organic Center For Education and Promotion
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