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JUNEAU

Jason Sterr, Brownsville, was re-elected president of the Dodge County Forage Council last week in Juneau during that group's annual meeting and forage seminar.

Sterr reported on activities in which the organization was involved during the past year, including presenting awards to forage growers competing at the Dodge County Fair, participating in the joint twilight meeting with Fond du Lac County forage members and promoting the organization at events.

The group ran a successful fall silage burn-down, a service provided to members when corn silage is nearing the time for harvest. About 15 farmers brought in 25 samples of corn to test. The organization also did peak-stick readings and reported them early in the alfalfa harvest season to guide members on the best time for cutting first crop hay. Both services will continue.

Members also heard from Chelsea Russell, local council director with Midwest Forage Association. Dodge County Forage Council is an affiliate of MFA.

Russell reported that alfalfa and forages are finally getting some recognition by members of the Congress, and as a result there will be opportunities for farmers to obtain forage crop insurance that not available in the past.

Through its affiliation with the National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance, funding has been secured for alfalfa and forage research. For the second year, the NAFA was successful in securing $1.35 million for alfalfa and forage research. Over $650,000 was awarded to the Midwest region, she said.

Since its beginnings in 2007 when it distributed a mere $8000, the Midwest Forage Research Program has funded nearly $150,000 worth of forage-related research projects in North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Now in its ninth year, research continues to be a priority.

Projects funded are aimed at helping farmers in the Midwest region with projects dealing with seeding rates, alfalfa persistence and more.

MFA and local forage councils strive to provide education for members through local, regional and national educational events. The organization also provides updated information on forages through its magazine, newsletters and website.

Forage insurance

Roxanne Brixon of Great American Insurance described the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency that expands crop insurance coverage for farmers to help them protect against loss of forage.

Insurance for forage seeding is based on a set price per acre, which, in 2016, is $273. Coverage levels are available to 85 percent, and the plan covers winterkill. Organic prices are also included in the plan.

Seeding coverage includes alfalfa, alfalfa-grass mix and red clover, and irrigated and non-irrigated fields are covered.

Applications are due March 15, and there is no production report requirement as is the case with other crops. Seeding after July 1 is considered a fall seeding under this plan.

'Prevent plant is included and coverage is by the acre,' Brixon said, 'so in case of a loss, you get paid on every acre that does not meet the minimum stand counts.'

If cover crops are planted it must be at half-rate to insure the forage seeding.

The yield plan of coverage is measured in tons with a price set by RMA at $160 per ton this year. In this plan, a farm uses its own history or the county yeilds to establish databases and then selects a coverage level to calculate a guarantee in tons.

'If you average 5.6 tons of alfalfa per acre, and you select 75 percent coverage level, your guarantee is 4.3 tons per acre,' she said. 'If you harvest 3.2 tons per acre, we will pay you 1.1 tons at the rate of $160 per acre ton on every acre insured.'

The Pasture, Rangeland and Forage part of the program is an area-based plan of insurance that uses a rainfall index to determine losses and trigger indemnities.

'It is important,' said, 'for farmers to understand that payments are not based on individual rain gauges on their farm or a single weather station.

'New pricing methodology for PRF will better reflect the replacement cost of feed and the losses producers experience, as well as the addition of an irrigated practice for haying that will reflect the cost of additional irrigation when there are precipitation shortfalls.'

Finally, she described the Whole Farm Revenue protection plan that insures the revenue on the entire farm operation for commodities raised or purchased for sale. Included in this is hay and forage if it is a commodity that is normally raised for sale.

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