SALEM, Ohio — The National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance kicked off the first-ever alfalfa checkoff Jan. 1 — the U.S. Alfalfa Farmer Research Initiative.
The new checkoff is a farmer-funded investment in alfalfa-related research to help drive innovation and profitability in the alfalfa industry.
The alliance’s board of directors voted unanimously to begin the national checkoff program to facilitate a farmer-funded program, advancing industry research.
The checkoff program will be implemented voluntarily by seed brands, donating $1 per bag of alfalfa seed.
“Alfalfa is America’s most valuable field crop, but most people don’t realize it,” said Beth Nelson, president of the National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance. “We have seen the acres decline over the years and we blame that on a lack of research in the industry.”
NAFA is asking alfalfa growers and industry representatives to weigh in on research topics they feel are a priority for the industry. To do so, visit NAFA’s website at www.alfalfa.org and provide input.
The survey results will be used to establish priorities for the first call for research proposals, which will be announced this spring.
Since in many cases there isn’t a “first purchaser” of alfalfa, because much of the harvested product is used on the farm or sold to a neighboring farm, they had a challenge orchestrating a collection point, said Nelson, who has been NAFA president since 2006.
“Our goals is to raise half a million dollars, if we get more seed companies on board, that goal is likely to double,” Nelson said.
Ohio farmers planted an estimated 390,000 acres of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures in 2016, up roughly 60,000 acres from 2015’s totals according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Pennsylvania farms planted around 360,000 acres of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures in 2016, down around 80,000 acres from 2015.
With alfalfa planted at an average rate of 15 to 20 pounds of seed per acre and alfalfa seed being sold in 25-pound bags, it is estimated that Ohio and Pennsylvania alone could contribute more than $700,000 toward research if all seed companies were involved in the program.
NAFA will not keep any administration funds.
“The unique thing about this program is that 100 percent of the funds raised will be used to support public research into alfalfa and alfalfa forage systems, and it will be driven by the alfalfa industry, primarily farmers,” Nelson said.
The alliance hopes alfalfa farmers patronize participating alfalfa seed brands to support the U.S. Alfalfa Farmer Research Initiative.
“Our hope is to start the program in 2017 and then have it run in perpetuity,” she said.
If your favorite alfalfa brand is not on the list, contact NAFA at 651-484-3888 for information on how a seed marketer can become a participating brand.
Seed marketers facilitating alfalfa checkoff
• Alforex Seeds
• Gold Country Seed
• ProHarvest Seeds
• America’s Alfalfa
• Hubner Seed
• Rea Hybrids
• Browning Seed
• Jung Seed Genetics
• S&W Seed Company
• Kruger Seeds
• Simplot Grower Solutions
• Latham Hi-Tech Seeds
• Legacy Seeds
• Lewis Hybrids
• Stone Seed
• Fontanelle Hybrids
• W-L Research
• Forage First
• Prairie Creek Seed
Don’t see your favorite alfalfa brand on the list? Contact NAFA at 651-484-3888 for information on how a seed marketer can become a participating brand.