I admit to being somewhat biased when I critique CAFA’s performance in 2011. Looking back, the grower-led board of directors was successful in dealing with a number of important issues, including some that would have likely caused hardships if they weren’t addressed. Not all of our agenda was completed in 2011, but they will be put be on the table again, especially the request by growers to develop standardized hay testing, an issue that will take time and money to accomplish.

CAFA board members work diligently and often behind the scenes to do whatever is possible to make their case on behalf of the alfalfa and forage industry. Last year, for example, the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) targeted Velpar (hexazinone) after finding minute amounts of residue in a handful of wells in the San Joaquin Valley. Residues found in wells were well below thresholds. However, an environmental group asked regulators to pull the herbicide’s registration while DPR formed a subcommittee to make its findings and recommendations.

As usual when armchair environmentalists become involved, you can bet that they know more than growers, researchers, and anyone else in the alfalfa and forage industry. In the case of Velpar, the environmental organization said that “other options to control weeds” would eliminate the need for the herbicide. They probably haven’t heard of common groundsel.

CAFA board members attended a hearing in Sacramento and it’s response to DPR focused on the herbicide’s efficacy, the importance of controlling common groundsel and the economic hardship if it were restricted. And, the minute amount of residue in only several wells didn’t require restrictions, the right decision that DPR took when the findings and recommendations were analyzed.       

As stakeholders, CAFA is contacted by members and non-members for a variety of issues each year. In 2011 a grower member alerted the board that the USDA’s weekly alfalfa hay market report was being revised to develop a “simpler format that is more user-friendly.” There was enough time to respond and point out flaws that would decrease the hay market’s accuracy in California’s various regions.  

While other issues were worked on last year the one that took the most amount of time was support for the Roundup Ready alfalfa lawsuit of the Center for Food Safety versus USDA Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack. After several meetings, the board of directors agreed to be an “intervenor” and joined several other growers and industry members in support of the USDA’s deregulation of Roundup Ready alfalfa in January of last year.  

What’s in store for this year will take shape after CAFA’s board meets to chart a course for 2012. As always, important issues will pop up and require a quick response. It won’t be surprising if water use becomes directed at alfalfa given the lack of rain and snow in October through December. CAFA always encourages members and non-members to get in touch if there are issues that need to be dealt with whether it’s local, regional or statewide.