Each year CAFA uses its first board meeting to develop an agenda and evaluate issues that need to be addressed during the year. However, it’s becoming more and more difficult to keep on top of new or expanded regulations and other issues that increase production costs and make it even more difficult to farm.

CAFA’s 11 member board is comprised of eight alfalfa growers — two each in four districts that stretch from the intermountain region in the north to the low desert in the south. In a state as big as California and a crop that’s grown statewide it can be difficult to be at the forefront on all developing issues.

To help prioritize issues this year CAFA is in the beginning stages of developing a survey that will be circulated to members in early to mid-summer. It was initially motivated by a former board member who farms in the San Joaquin Valley and is concerned about the differences in hay testing among laboratories. Other topics are under consideration and there will be plenty of space for entering concerns that should be brought to the attention of CAFA’s board. The latter is important because each area of California has its own issues and CAFA’s goal is to do whatever it can to support growers and industry members throughout the state.

Also, it’s always better to deal with problems as early as possible rather than fighting an uphill battle. A good example is the weed-free forage program that federal agencies and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) were initiating several years ago. The program had a number of serious repercussions, including the potential to disrupt the hay market. An effort to protect alfalfa growers was spearheaded by Tom Ellis, CAFA board member, and the CDFA realized that it needed to rethink its weed-free forage program regulations. The positive result can also be attributed to the California Farm Bureau Federation, which worked closely with CAFA and lent its support.

As we’ve stated in other Farm Press columns, CAFA welcomes input from non-members as well as members. The Association works on local, regional and statewide issues and provides as much support as possible. Don’t hesitate to contact CAFA whether you’re a member or non-member. You can respond by e-mail — akiess@cmc.net — or call 415/892-0167.

• A 10 percent drop?

We visited the National Agricultural Web site (www.nass.usda.gov) when the Prospective Plantings Report was issued the end of March. We were a bit surprised that the hay acreage forecast was 1,500 acres — only 1 percent lower compared to last year.

Since the Plantings Report lumps all hay together there won’t be a breakout for alfalfa until the June 30 report is issued. In his April 2 weekly newsletter, hay market analyst Seth Hoyt (www.thehoytreport.com) noted that sudan hay is expected to be significantly higher than last year and higher rainfall in the central and northern valley this winter increased dryland grain hay acres. He said a 7 percent drop this year would put alfalfa acreage at around 910,000 acres, the lowest since 1943. However, he believes that California’s alfalfa acreage will be at least 10 percent lower than last year.