CAFA’s Board of Directors will soon begin to outline a “Strategic Plan” in a one-hour conference call meeting. The August meeting is the beginning phase for determining what direction the organization will be taking in the years ahead. Then the next step is a face-to-face meeting of CAFA’s 11-member board some time later in the year or perhaps at this year’s Alfalfa, Forage and Grains Symposium in December.
Regardless of what changes might occur, CAFA has made big strides in the relatively short time that the organization was formed. It has been done on a shoestring budget that is usually less than $50,000 per year, which shows that the grower-led board has worked hard to fight for the alfalfa and forage industry.
I recently took a look at the Articles of Incorporation that was filed in 2000 and CAFA has been true to its word in the past 11 years. The “purpose of the organization” includes educating the public about the importance and role of alfalfa and forages in California. The educational part of CAFA is extremely successful with two different information materials. The California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom is now in its ninth year and during that time hundreds of thousands of Alfalfa Fact Sheets have been sent to schools, conferences, workshops, and other venues such as county fairs and county ag days around the state.
The other educational material is the 24-page booklet, “Alfalfa, Wildlife & the Environment” which was published nearly 11 years ago and is still in print. Written by UC and USDA specialists, the booklet is a strong tool for providing in-depth information that debunks a number of myths that have plagued alfalfa over the years.
Approximately 6,000 booklets have been sent to a variety of sources, including legislators, environmental groups, regulators and teachers. When CAFA was formed, alfalfa was often called a low-value, high water wasting crop by environmentalists and urban dwellers. Some environmentalists even went as far as to recommend that alfalfa should not be planted in California. But a combination of disseminating information and direct responses has made a significant difference over the last several years.
Other subjects listed on the Articles of Incorporation have also been a priority, starting with CAFA’s role as leadership for the alfalfa/forage industry, along with support for research, and special services to the hay and forage industries. Given the shoestring budget to work with, CAFA’s all-volunteer board has done yeoman work and will continue to do so when the strategic plan is completed.
Fly-in is back
Early this year our column featured the Washington D.C. Fly-In  that has been organized by NAFA (National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance) in the last two years. CAFA is an affiliate of NAFA and it has sent grower board members the past two years to meet with California legislators during the Fly-In. Recently NAFA announced that it will be “storming Capitol Hill” next February. The Fly-In has been successful and it’s good to hear that another is in the works for next year. The focus will be on the importance of research funding for the alfalfa and forage industry.