CAFA encourages members to get in touch whenever there's an issue that needs to be brought to the attention of the Board of Directors. The message appears in CAFA News and various types of correspondence. With an all-volunteer board and a shoestring budget, you need all the input possible to keep on top of developing issues, whether local, regional or statewide. That's especially true in a state as big as California.
CAFA occasionally hears from members and does what it can to provide support. Recently, we received a letter taking us to task for not doing enough to defend Roundup Ready Alfalfa and questioning our commitment to providing leadership.
It's easy to understand the frustration over the federal court injunction that prohibits planting of RR alfalfa until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed, which takes a year or more to achieve. Add in the USDA/APHIS “administrative order” containing regulations that are almost impossible to comply with, and the frustration level is even higher.
In answering the letter, CAFA pointed out that it's important to understand that the eight growers and three non-growers on the Board of Directors volunteer their time. It's difficult for growers to find the time to serve on a board and some have taken an extra two-year term because no one else wanted to replace them. Except for a generous donation from the San Joaquin Valley Hay Growers Association, CAFA is primarily funded by dues with an annual budget of approximately $40,000.
Nonetheless, CAFA has accomplished a great deal for an all-volunteer board with a limited budget and one part-time employee. For example, CAFA played important roles in getting regulatory agencies to approve a 24 (c) label for zinc phosphide use in alfalfa, and to speed up label approval for Steward due to worm problems. In the year before Steward was registered, we tried to get a Section 18 when growers contacted CAFA to report difficulty in controlling armyworms.
CAFA has also responded to requests to explore new labels for herbicides that control problem weeds in alfalfa. We received resistance from the manufacturers, but we will do what we can to support new labels for materials that help solve pest control problems.
Recent CAFA newsletters have reported on the effort to have the USDA/ARS establish comprehensive dairy-forage research programs for Western states. The effort, supported by the California Farm Bureau and Western United Dairymen, involves the tough task of getting Congress to pass legislation that mandates more ARS positions in California and other western states. Sometimes, CAFA's efforts may not be visible because we partner with other organizations, such as our support for the Farm Bureau's effort to improve new tie-down regulations for hauling hay.
When the RR Alfalfa suit was in the court system it was out of CAFA's hands. However, CAFA did contact and work with APHIS in an effort to change the regulations issued July 12, especially the requirement to tag each bale of RR alfalfa.
If the regulations, particularly bale tagging, are modified to make it practical for growers to ship RR alfalfa, three CAFA board members deserve credit — Phil Bowles, Bowles Farming; Rick Staas, president, San Joaquin Valley Hay Growers Association, and Dan Putnam, University of California, Davis. CAFA will continue to monitor the situation and respond if the opportunity arises.