Looking at who benefited from the farm bill approved by Congress in May shows what a strong national organization like NAFA can accomplish. It caused quite a stir in many circles around the country, including the Corn Belt where op-ed pages in major newspapers were urging President Bush to veto the bill as promised. The bill reminded us that alfalfa and other forages have been ignored far too long.

When the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance (NAFA) was launched in 2006 it appeared to be a real plus for the forage industry. Two years later it is making progress in representing an industry that lacked a strong voice despite its importance.

The more we get acquainted with NAFA the more we believe it will greatly enhance the alfalfa/forage industry's ability to be heard on critical issues. Their public policy focus includes: farm bill initiatives, developing grant programs for critical research needs, USDA-ARS research, and developing alfalfa as a feedstock for bio-energy as well as bio-products.

Supported by seed producers and other industry sources, NAFA offers something a state association like CAFA can't — a presence in Washington, D.C. and contacts with legislators and government agencies. Their mission and objectives are to ensure “the ability of the alfalfa/forage industry to compete effectively and profitably, domestically and abroad. NAFA provides a forum for consensus building among stakeholders and is a political advocate on behalf of the industry.”

According to its Web site, NAFA was launched “as a hybrid of the former National Alfalfa Alliance and other industry organizations and includes state/regional seed and hay grower associations, genetic suppliers, seed marketers, allied industries, and university/Extension personnel.” It serves as an “umbrella organization in an effort to be an effective political advocate on behalf of the alfalfa/forage industry on a national level.”

We're pleased to report that NAFA and its seven-member staff have done an excellent job in representing the industry on a national level and they've responded to CAFA. NAFA took CAFA's solutions for developing a practical alternative to bale tagging RR alfalfa, and then worked with USDA-APHIS to make it happen. They're also supporting CAFA's efforts to have the USDA-ARS increase dairy/forage research in California. In mid-May, NAFA was back in Washington, D.C., with a list of items that included the latter issue and other ARS research initiatives, such as bio-energy. They were also scheduled to discuss the alfalfa/forage industry with Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer who was sworn in this past January. Other agenda items included meetings with EPA officials to discuss the seed industry, current pesticide issues and new pesticide chemistry. Plus, a meeting is scheduled with USDA-APHIS to see if more information is needed to complete the agency's Environmental Impact Statement for RR alfalfa.

An agenda item that caught our attention was the plan to visit congressional offices to stress the importance of existing research and the need for more funding. Given the lack of money at the state level, finding ways to fund critical research is a big plus. After two years of seeing how it operates, NAFA leaves us with the feeling that the alfalfa/forage industry is no longer an afterthought for legislators and other policy makers.