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An increase in federal funding for forage crop research and the start of a voluntary checkoff by alfalfa seed suppliers were among the highlights of annual reports given by representatives of the Midwest Forage Association to members of county forage councils at their annual meetings.

Those reports were given via a telecommunications link to members of the Sheboygan County Forage Council by MFA president Beth Nelson and in person by MFA events coordinator Morgan Tschida at the Calumet County Forage Council meeting.

Thanks in part to the annual Fly-In to Washington, D.C., which was conducted for the sixth year on Feb. 8-11, federal funding for alfalfa and forage research programs increased from the previous $1.35 million to $2 million for the 2016 fiscal year — $650,000 of which was directed to the Midwest region, the MFA representatives reported. In conjunction with the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance, they will ask for $3 million in federal funding for fiscal 2017.

A portion of the $650,000 coming to the Midwest region will be devoted to research on crop pollinators, Tschida said. Another $100,000 being obtained annually through the federal Agricultural Research Service is dedicated to research on alfalfa pollinator insects.

Crop insurance coverage

As an organization, the MFA is advising is producer members to obtain seeding year crop insurance for forages (mainly alfalfa). The deadline to obtain a policy from a private insurance agent for 2016 seedings is March 15.

Nelson and Tschida reported that negotiations are under way with the federal Risk Management Agency, which oversees the crop insurance program, to allow forage growers to establish an actual revenue or production history on their crops. That would be similar to a provision available for insurance on other major crops.

It was noted that alfalfa is the third most valuable crop in Wisconsin, which ranks second among the states for its portion of the nation's $12.4 billion value for its alfalfa production in 2014.

Industry support

A new source of funding will be a voluntary checkoff of $1 per bag of alfalfa seed sold by the suppliers of some brands of alfalfa, Nelson and Tschida reported. They pointed out, that unlike many other sectors of agricultural production, forages do not have a mandatory checkoff program for research, education, and promotion.

Additional funding comes from MFA's industry sponsors, who for 2016 include the seven Gold category (at least $5,000) charter members from 2007, seven Silver ($2,500), two Bronze ($1,500) and 28 from the allied industry ($500).

Tschida and Nelson urged producer members to take advantage of the coupons ($50 or more each) being offered by 12 of the sponsors in conjunction with the purchase of supplies, services, or equipment. Producers who pay the $50 national fee, of which $5 is returned to the local county or regional council, are entitled to the entire set of coupons.

Since its initial awarding of $8,000 for forage related research projects in 2007, MFA has distributed a total of $150,000 for such projects in Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota.

The MFA publishes its Forage Focus magazine four times per year, provides a monthly email update titled Clippings and sponsors field days and other meetings. More information is available at www.midwestforage.org, by calling (651) 484-3888 or by email to mfa@midwestforage.org.

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