The National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance has announced creation of the first-ever U.S. Alfalfa Farmer Research Initiative (aka alfalfa checkoff program), a farmer-funded investment in alfalfa-related research to help drive innovation and profitability in the alfalfa industry.
“Until now, alfalfa was the only major crop without a farmer-funded checkoff program,” says Beth Nelson, NAFA president. “That needed to change in order for alfalfa to remain competitive with other cropping choices.”
The NAFA board of directors voted unanimously to begin a national checkoff program to facilitate a farmer-funded research effort to help advance industry research. The U.S. Alfalfa Farmer Research Initiative, implemented voluntarily by seed brand, will be assessed at the rate of $1 per bag of alfalfa seed sold. And 100% of the checkoff funds will be used to support public research into alfalfa and alfalfa forage systems.
Farmers are being asked to encourage their seed dealers and the companies farmers buy seed from, to facilitate the checkoff.
Proposal has support
The alfalfa checkoff program has broad grassroots support from state and regional hay associations and farmer members, says Nelson. Unlike other commodities, alfalfa does not have a common “first purchaser.” Seed marketers are the common industry partner helping to facilitate the checkoff program.
Farmers and industry members will assist in developing research priorities. A request for proposals will be circulated to all known public U.S. alfalfa researchers. NAFA will not assess any administrative costs, investing 100% of the checkoff funds in alfalfa research.
Alfalfa is a key to sustainable ag systems and is an economic engine in rural communities. Its value for soil conservation, nitrogen fixation, energy savings, crop rotation and wildlife habitat is unsurpassed. However, alfalfa must offer competitive value for farmers in order to provide these benefits and maintain or expand acreage base. Research is a key component to remaining competitive.
While NAFA has been successful in securing federal funding for the Alfalfa & Forage Research Program and the Alfalfa Pollinator Research Initiative, USDA’s public research portfolio needs to be better balanced to provide needed research to the nation’s third-most valuable field crop. “We’ve been making the case to lawmakers on the need for parity among the major crops in public research funding,” Nelson adds. “The checkoff clearly shows how serious alfalfa farmers are about their commitment to fund alfalfa research. It is imperative we come to the table with our own funding.”
Need to fund research
The checkoff will support research into improvement of yields, water conservation, development of new storage and harvest systems, creation of new uses and other research areas holding potential to advance the alfalfa industry.
Seed marketers who have committed to facilitating the checkoff, helping farmers invest in the future of the alfalfa industry, include: Alforex Seeds, America's Alfalfa, Browning Seed, Channel, CROPLAN, DeKalb, Dyna-Gro, Fontanelle Hybrids, Forage First, Gold Country Seed, Hubner Seed, Jung Seed Genetics, Kruger Seeds, Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, Legacy Seeds, Lewis Hybrids, NEXGROW, Prairie Creek Seed, Rea Hybrids, S&W Seed Company, Simplot Grower Solutions, Specialty, Stewart, Stone Seed and W-L Research.
“It's not too late,” says Nelson. “If your favorite alfalfa brand isn’t on this list, contact NAFA at 651-484-3888 for information on how a seed marketer can become a participating brand.”