Education and better communications between alfalfa and forage growers and the support system they rely on is critical for the industry's success. Since its inception in November of 2002, the Arizona Forage Producers Association (AFPA) has keyed in on identifying common problems and will eventually begin tackling an issue that cuts across all segments of Arizona agriculture; water.

A “non-marketing” organization, the AFPA is eager to work with the dairy industry and other end users to forge a relationship that benefits everyone. Communicating directly with dairymen and learning what they need will be an on-going effort that's essential for helping producers adjust to change and understand market trends.

According to Steve Husman, University of Arizona Extension Agent located in Casa Grande, Pinal County, there is a critical need for growers to have a better grasp of the relationship between quality and market dynamics. That's why the “primary focus” is on understanding hay quality. The goal is to benefit from meeting forage quality demands and not to influence markets, stresses Husman. When water management issues are addressed, he says, the objective will be to strike a balance between irrigation efficiency and optimum crop quality.

The U of A helped the association make good strides in getting organized and its input will become more important as issues like irrigation management come to the forefront. In the meantime, efforts will continue to focus on the AFPA's mission of supporting research, promoting educational programs and helping growers become more productive through better pest management, harvest technology, improved varieties and other factors that boost crop quality.

In March the AFPA launched a major educational effort at its first annual meeting, held at the Maricopa Agricultural Center. Experts from Arizona and other states addressed topics such as hay sampling, forage testing, formulating rations with forages, alfalfa weed control and mite control in corn.

Growers get more money directly from forages than any other crop in Arizona, a statistic that may surprise many people. The value of alfalfa and forages is gaining recognition in Arizona and other states as growers realize the need to meet market demands and provide a unified voice.

One key to success for all associations is feedback from concerned parties, including members as well as non-members. The AFPA board members who volunteer their time to work on behalf of the industry encourage suggestions on issues that need to be addressed and can be contacted by phone and/or e-mail as follows.

Lee Banning (President), Banning Farms, Laveen. 602/576-7116. Leesr@smetrade.com

Tracy Johnson (Secretary), Larkin Cattle Co., Avondale. 623/932-3970.

David Stueve, Paradise Cattle Co., Stanfield. 520/424-3303. Stueve@aol.com

Cecil Borboa, Papago Farms, Eloy. 520/466-2565. Pagagofarms@hotmail.com

Wade Accomazzo, The Accomazzo Co., Tolleson. 623/936-8505. Wade@accomazzo.com

Allan Simons (Treasurer), Arizona Crop Improvement Association, Tucson. 520/318/7271. Absimons@ctaz.com

Del Wakimoto, Avi Kwa Ame Farms, Mohave Valley. 928/346-1232. Akafarm@ctaz.com

Cory Mellon, Doug Mellon Farms, Inc., 2191 S. 4th Ave., Yuma. 928/782-4482. Cmellon@digitaldune.net

Jimmy Crosby, Three C Livestock Co., St. Johns. 928/337-2036. Jimmy@showsteer.com

Doug Kuhn, Willcox. 520/384-5282.

Robert Boyle, Robert Boyle Farms, Coolidge. 520/560-2878.

More information on the Arizona Forage Producers Association is available on the Web at: www.az-fpa.org.