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Green Bay - At annual county forage council meetings in east central Wisconsin counties, representatives of the Midwest Forage Association (MFA) have been informing current and potential members of the activities of the organization and benefits of membership.

Seventeen county or regional councils in Wisconsin and Minnesota form the core of the MFA, which has also attracted members around the country and major sponsorships from equipment, product, and service suppliers, local council director Chelsea Russell and member services intern Mandi Schwartz point out.

In addition to receiving the quarterly Forage Focus magazine and a monthly electronic update titled Clippings, members receive coupons from 13 participating companies – each worth $50 to $100 when redeemed with a purchase. Using only one of the coupons is a saving of more than the annual cost of membership for a farm, Russell and Schwartz indicate.

National economic impact

In Wisconsin and in the United States as a whole, alfalfa is the 3rd most valuable agricultural crop, trailing only corn and soybeans with its economic value of $10.3 billion in 2015. Yet the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agricultural has been devoting $47.6 million to research on corn compared to only $5 million on alfalfa in recent years, the MFA representatives observe.

More support has come through the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, which has awarded $7 million over the past three years for research and other activities. Twenty-seven states have shared in that distribution with Wisconsin's total of $600,000 being the most received by any state.

Another new development is federal funding to support the pollinator species for alfalfa and other crops. Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, and South Dakota are primary targets for that funding.

On its own, the MFA also funds research project. Nine such awards, totaling $31,000, were given in 2016 with Wisconsin receiving five of them.

Since January 1 of this year, 25 seed companies have been contributing $1 from the sale of each bag of alfalfa seed to research ventures. MFA members are invited to offer ideas on how funds from this new checkoff should be used.

Organizational activities

As a member of the National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance, members and officials of the MFA take part in an annual Fly-In to Washington, D.C. Intended to gain support from Congress, that event was held on February 7 to 9 this year. In addition to research funding, the MFA is hoping to boost the coverage provisions for alfalfa in the federal crop insurance program.

In conjunction with the Wisconsin Custom Operators and Professional Nutrient Applicator of Wisconsin groups, the MFA is also a sponsor of an annual symposium. Held on January 23 to 25 this year and offering 28 program sessions, it drew an attendance of nearly 500, Russell reported.

MFA members also have online access to the entire archive of articles that have been published in the Forage Focus magazine. More information about the MFA is available on the www.midwestforageassociation.org website.

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