US Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has announced that US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding US$4.6m in grants for 11 projects in six states that will strengthen the Integrated Organic Program (IOP).

"These awards will help provide information to assist farmers and ranchers increase the production of high quality products while decreasing costs," Veneman said.

The IOP supports research, extension and higher education programmes to help organic farmers incorporate new technologies into their operations and to develop innovative marketing strategies.

"The Integrated Organic Program helps address the challenges faced by growers," said Agriculture Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, Joseph J. Jen. "The threat of pests, for example, can be much greater for organic farmers and ranchers because they rely on a system of natural checks and balances."