When the calendar turned to May the volume of issues on the table made it seem more like December instead of spring. This year’s agenda has expanded quickly since the beginning of the year and despite a shoestring budget that is a fraction of other ag commodities, CAFA is far from being inactive or taking a low profile on important issues. In fact, 2011 is shaping up to be a highly productive year.

At the January and February board meetings much of the discussion centered around CAFA’s survey in 2010 and Roundup Ready alfalfa (RRA). The latter has become an ongoing issue that environmentalists won’t let go of, despite a Supreme Court ruling and a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement that was conducted by USDA-APHIS. If you’re a writer, RRA is the gift that keeps on giving and giving. The environmental group that was successful in getting a federal judge to declare an injunction in 2007 has filed suit again, which it promised to do in January when RRA was deregulated.

A significant amount of time was devoted to RRA developments in the March board meeting and it will be an agenda item for some time, with CAFA working to help ensure that GE and non-GE fields will successfully coexist.

Last year’s CAFA survey confirmed that a majority of growers wanted the USDA to deregulate RRA. Other issues in the survey that received a high response included standardized hay testing, tracking new water quality regulations, and providing members with information on dairy industry trends. The survey also provided a write-in space and a participant’s request prompted CAFA to see if new methods and standards can be updated for testing stem nematode resistance.    

In late March CAFA was alerted to proposed changes to the USDA’s Market News and it became a topic at the March 31 board meeting. Over the years Market News has been a valuable information source that covers hay markets across California and other states. CAFA’s response to the proposed changes included: The need to define important market regions more accurately; weekly dairy and FOB prices for cottonseed, rolled corn, DDG, and other substitute feeds; statistics on hay trucked into California, and hay exports with reference to country of origin.

A surprise and a welcome development in April was a request from a cotton industry member asking if CAFA would be interested in joining the Cotton Research Station at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service facility in Shafter, Kern County. The prospect of becoming part of the long term cotton research location provides a chance to expand much needed alfalfa research and CAFA is pursuing the opportunity.

In addition to the new issues in 2001 CAFA is continuing to work on its relationship with the Audubon Society, which has cited alfalfa’s significance to wildlife and validates alfalfa’s role in providing extensive habitat. CAFA recently met with Audubon representatives who want to connect with growers to learn how to improve wildlife habitat. They plan to hold meetings in June in Yolo County and also in the Dos Palos/Los Banos area.