What does it take to get $3 million from the government to do research for alfalfa and other forages across the U.S.? The question might be answered this year. Three million bucks is real money to most people, with the exception of Congress, and it’s frustrating to see what’s happened so far. The 2008 farm bill authorized the Alfalfa & Forage Research Program (AFRP), but Congress has yet to pony up the money.

For several years CAFA has asked California members of the House and Senate to help authorize funding. This year the National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance (NAFA) may have made inroads that will open the door. NAFA’s D.C. Fly-In last February brought growers from around the country to meet with members of Congress and regulatory agencies. CAFA was represented Bob Ferguson of Stockton and Philip Bowles of Los Banos. The Fly-In this year focused on the Appropriations Committee.

In April we learned that South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson was circulating a letter to his colleagues to support funding for AFRP. Senator Johnson is known for his strong support for agriculture and he is on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

If Sen. Johnson is successful, AFRP will tackle a number of research programs in 2013. Issues that NAFA are including: alfalfa’s yield and persistence, pest pressures, bio-energy potential of alfalfa and other forages, and reducing losses at harvest and storage. It’s too early to know for sure, but the Washington, D.C. Fly-In in February may have done its job and opened the beginning of an alfalfa/forage research program.