The organic food industry has been growing at a rate of 20-30% per year for the past 10 years in the U.S., with a commensurate increase in land farmed under certified organic management, and an increased need for research on organic farming practices and systems. In Washington State, organic acreage has increased 8-fold since 1993 and the organic food industry is valued at over $200 million per year. The organic sector supports thousands of businesses of all sizes, with extensive positive repercussions for rural communities. Organic systems generally lead to improved environmental performance and farmworker safety thus lessening the need for the public sector to bear these costs. Organically approved products, often developed by small businesses, need testing for efficacy and registration. Conventional growers also benefit from the development of organic practices and products, which they are increasingly adopting to deal with pesticide resistance and regulatory constraints and because adoption of these methods can lead to reduced costs, improved biological performance, and enhanced environmental protection.
Beginning with early organic research in the 1970's, WSU had been an active participant in the pursuit of information, tools, and organic solutions to agricultural production and sustainability challenges. The CSANR continues this legacy by funding cutting edge organic research through the Organic Grant Program, analyzing organic statistics, and connecting the public to organic agriculture resources, information and experts.