Membership renewal notices are mailed to most CAFA members on the second week of December. As a grassroots organization that relies primarily on annual membership dues, late December through January is a key period. Despite the collapse of the hay market in the fall of 2008, membership renewal numbers weren’t affected in 2009.

With the hay market slide in 2009, a year that growers would like to forget, we had some concerns for the 2010 membership renewal drive. But, the initial response was strong and reinforced our contention that CAFA has a strong core of supporters, both growers and industry members who understand the importance of having a voice that speaks for the alfalfa and forage industry.

The core that supports CAFA may not be an extremely high percentage of California’s alfalfa and forage producers, but they understand the importance of having a voice and their dues are helping support the entire industry. New and proposed regulatory issues continue to plague the ag industry and there’s no reason to believe it will change, especially with the current administration.

A grower who made a sizeable donation with his 2010 membership renewal told us he wants only one thing from CAFA – a strong voice. He pointed out that time constraints prevent him from being more active and added that growers are sometimes criticized for not being active in issues that impact agriculture. But, he added, the problem is lack of time rather than the lack of interest.

CAFA was formed in 1998 and followed two failed attempts to establish a statewide commission in California. While still relatively new, CAFA has become the go-to organization for forage growers and other industry members. We’ve made significant strides and the outlook is improving with the national groups that are also dedicated to the forage industry.

As mentioned in previous columns, CAFA is a member of the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance. NAFA was launched a few years ago and is working on our behalf to have the USDA Agricultural Research Service focus more on dairy-forage systems in Western states. Recently, the American Farm Bureau Federation reinstated its National Hay Commodity Committee which was sidelined several years ago. It’s a big boost for the industry and another partner that CAFA can work with to get its voice heard.

• Supreme Court hearing

U.S. Supreme Court rulings are often difficult to predict and we’re anxiously awaiting the court’s decision regarding RR alfalfa. The court has set April 27 for oral arguments that will determine if a lower court’s decision to halt the planting of RR alfalfa seed was done improperly.

Hats off to Monsanto for carrying the issue to the Supreme Court. The RR alfalfa injunction was highly questionable due to the scientific information that was presented. In 2007, however, a federal district court judge ordered a halt to the sale of RR alfalfa seed and ruled that an environmental impact statement (EIS) must be conducted.

Monsanto says an evidentiary hearing should have been held before the ruling was made. It also contends that the injunction imposed unnecessary restrictions and costs for alfalfa hay and seed growers. A decision on the case will likely be issued in June. This is the first time the Supreme Court makes a ruling on the risks of genetically engineered crops.