The CAFA members who helped build a statewide grower organization from scratch know the time and effort needed to get up and running. At the National Alfalfa Symposium in San Diego in December, CAFA and other state organizations were brought up to speed on a new challenge that will organize the alfalfa and forage industry on a national level.

CAFA organized a meeting of state organizations at the request of Dan Undersander of the University of Wisconsin. He has taken on the daunting task of making the newly formed National Forage Coalition a major force in representing the interests of growers nationwide. The main objectives are to become active in the legislative process and to promote research. As mentioned in an earlier column, the coalition was formed by the National Alfalfa Alliance, National Hay Growers Association and the American Forage and Grassland Council.

Besides CAFA, interested parties at the meeting included good representation from the San Joaquin Valley Hay Growers Association, and representatives from Washington, Nevada and Nebraska hay associations. Also in attendance were several people from the Intertape Polymer group, whose consultant is dedicated to establishing a national alfalfa and forage organization.

The response was positive at the meeting and while there is obviously a lot of work to do, the first step in the process is moving forward. The next step is to establish a mission statement and continue to organize a national coalition that speaks with a “unified voice.”

Good support from industry members

The Alfalfa Symposium was also the site of CAFA's annual meeting and as usual, the association received good support from industry members. Thanks are in order to Valent Corp. and DuPont Ag Products for helping sponsor CAFA's breakfast meeting. The UC Alfalfa Workgroup also contributed, allowing CAFA to increase the seating at the breakfast from 80 to 100.

Two CAFA members contributed prizes for a hay judging contest, with Joe Burch of PolyExcel and Joe Machado of America's Alfalfa stepping to the plate. The contest drew lots of interest from symposium attendees.

At the annual meeting breakfast, CAFA's guest speaker, Bill DuBois, broke down the complex issue of the Imperial Valley water transfer agreement and its implications for agriculture. DuBois, who at one time farmed 2,000 acres in the Imperial Valley, is a Natural Resources Consultant for the California Farm Bureau Federation. Born in 1916, he continues to serve agriculture and apply his expertise to water issues, splitting his time between the Imperial Valley and Sacramento.

The Symposium and CAFA's annual meeting in December helps set the tone for the coming year and the association's board of directors will meet this January to chart a course for 2005. CAFA's board has three new grower members this year, with Robert Ferguson of Stockton replacing Joe Rominger in District 2 and Philip Bowles of Los Banos replacing Johnny Tacherra in District 3. In the low desert, Danny Walker of Westmorland has replaced Jim Kuhn. Rominger and Kuhn were founding members of CAFA and contributed greatly to the association's development during the past six years.