Dr. Dan Putnam, extension agronomist and forage specialist and CAFA board member along with Brandon Fawaz of Fawaz Farming attended the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance’s (NAFA) Fly-In Feb. 12-13 as CAFA's representatives.
United with growers and industry representatives from across the country, the group "stormed the Hill" and visited with several members of the California congressional delegation. The group arrived shortly after the passage for the Farm Bill and was able to congratulate lawmakers on their work. The NAFA delegation met with staff of House and Senate Ag Committee members, House and Senate Ag Appropriations Committee members, and several government agencies including USDA’s Risk Management Agency and the Agricultural Research Service. This Fly-In was a very productive one, with NAFA representatives attending over 100 meetings to promote national alfalfa and forage interests.
Our CAFA representatives seized this opportunity to reinforce the need to support long-term alfalfa research and justly pointed out the disproportionate funding alfalfa receives when compared to other major crops. There was also significant discussion about USDA-ARS establishing a presence in the West with a focus on alfalfa and specifically longer-term water research. California's current drought is an example of why this sort of research needs to be funded preemptively and continuously — so that we may be better prepared to deal with the volatility of nature.
The culmination of lobbying and education efforts undertaken by NAFA and allied state groups like CAFA has resulted in the authorization of the Alfalfa and Forage Research Program (AFRP). Continued efforts ensured this language was maintained in the 2014 Farm Bill. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) emerged as the industry’s champion and was instrumental in ensuring alfalfa and forage research funding was included in the budget reconciliation bill for fiscal year 2014. This was passed in January and included $1.35 million in funding for the AFRP.
Noting the 10 percent participation rate in the alfalfa crop insurance program, the group discussed the distortion that occurs when other major crops have greater government support and it becomes difficult for farmers to maintain their alfalfa acreage. It was made clear that the alfalfa industry is not looking for anything special, but is simply interested in establishing a level playing field with other crops.
CAFA continues to collaborate with NAFA and industry members as we seek to promote and protect the alfalfa and forage industry in California. This work complements CAFA’s engagement at the state level through events like the March 19 California Ag Day celebration and corresponding legislative dinner. These local events have allowed industry members to build relationships with state legislators and to begin to educate them about the industry’s importance to the economic and environmental health of the state. Your membership sustains these and other important activities, thank you for your support.
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You can learn more about the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance at: www.alfalfa.org