The federal government has set aside $1.35 million for alfalfa and other forage research as part of its recently passed Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.
The move is a major step toward bringing federal funding for forages in line with that of other major crops, says Beth Nelson, National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance (NAFA) president.
USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) will administer the money within the Alfalfa & Forage Research Program, she announced this week.
“This is big news. Although we requested $3 million, a new start in this economic climate is almost unheard of, so we’re very, very pleased with the appropriation.”
This is the first budget to allocate funds to the program. NAFA has worked to get the program funded ever since it was authorized as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, Nelson says. The effort is part of a larger push to get alfalfa a seat at the “main table” with corn, soybeans and wheat.
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Although alfalfa is the fourth most valuable field crop in the country, it lags far behind the big three in national attention and research dollars. In 2012, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service budget included $3.7 million for alfalfa research, less than a tenth of what the big three commodity crops each was allotted.
“We certainly pale in comparison,” Nelson says.
Alfalfa has found a champion in Washington, D.C., she adds. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) has pushed for alfalfa to receive more USDA backing, both in research and crop insurance.
“The details of the Alfalfa & Forage Research Program are yet to be finalized, but the money has been appropriated for fiscal year 2014. NAFA looks forward to working with NIFA on this new competitive research program,” Nelson says.
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