About half of Arizona's forage producers are members of a new organization formed to help growers meet the challenges of the state's alfalfa and forage production and to promote their interests.

Arizona Forage Producers Association (AFPA) was formed last fall with Lee Banning of Laveen, Ariz., as its first president.

“We feel good about our membership at this point. Response has been excellent,” said Banning, who along with Mohave Valley producer Del Wakimoto were the driving force behind creation of the association.

“We have had exceptional assistance from the University of Arizona Extension Service agents. They were very instrumental in soliciting response from growers about whether a forage association would be something producers would be interested in,” said Banning. Alfalfa was the only major row crop in the state not represented by an association before AFPA was formed. “The initial response was very positive.”

Banning estimates there are between 200 and 250 alfalfa and forage producers in the state. Alfalfa is the largest acreage row crop in the state with about 245,000 acres standing in the state. Its value is about $185 million. This does not include about 40,000 acres of corn and sorghum produced for silage.

This compares to this year's Arizona cotton acreage of a little more than 200,000 acres.

Communication

“Our primary role in the beginning has been communication among producers in understanding why certain hay is has more value than other hay,” said Banning.

Like California, the dairy industry is growing in Arizona and pretty well drives the market. There are about 150,000 head of milk cows in the state, an increase of about 50 percent in the past decade.

“As growers we need to understand the relative feed value of hay and the value and importance of testing hay for its quality,” said Banning. “Not all bales of hay are created equal.”

The association will be involved with corn and sorghum forages, researching varieties for the various areas of the state.

“The association board was set up to have representation from the various regions of the state, and we have a dairy representative on the board,” said Banning.

While response has been good, Banning there was some concerns and opposition in the beginning that the association would become involved in setting hay prices. “That is not the association's purpose, but understanding markets it,” said Banning.

“We will cover a large number of topics in our communication efforts besides the quality issue,” said Banning.

AFPA will offer insight into hay and silage making techniques, equipment advances, impending pest problems as well as marketing strategies.

Western Farm Press has been designated the official publication of the new association and as such will provide space each month for an AFPA column.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com.