“It was a good first start,” says Mark Rogen of the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance’s (NAFA) Washington, D.C., fly-in event that occurred this past month. Rogen, a Garretson, SD, producer, was one of nearly 50 growers and industry representatives to visit with congressional members, host a reception and attend nearly 100 meetings while promoting alfalfa and other forages.
“Alfalfa and forages need to have a voice, and staff members and congressional people were very receptive to what we had to say,” says Rogen, a partner in two dairies that grow their own corn silage and haylage. On familiar stomping grounds while representing the Midwest Forage Association (MFA) as part of the NAFA delegation, Rogen is a former South Dakota state senator who has also lobbied with other interest groups.
Beth Nelson, president of NAFA, agrees with his assessment. “It was successful,” she says, adding that NAFA presented alfalfa research findings not only to the House, but also the Senate.
The alfalfa delegation met with congressional staff members and went to various government offices, including the U.S. Trade Representative office, the Environmental Protection Agency, Agricultural Research Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Risk Management Agency and National Agricultural Statistics Service. They discussed research funding, how forage yields are accounted for and seed export issues, among other topics.
As a fairly young national organization, NAFA “did a very good job of getting us lined up with the right meetings,” Rogen says. “We need to be really organized ahead of time with good, simple talking points. The congressional staff people don’t have a lot of time, and we need to have a short white paper of issues or bullet points that they can hit home on. For the most part, we did that.
“We’re putting a face on their constituency,” he adds, acknowledging that, while 29 states were represented, more of the large forage-growing states east of the Mississippi River need to become involved.
He would like to see the forage industry work closely with the beef and dairy industries, as well as with corn growers. “Alfalfa and forages are very important to them, and they have been doing this lobbying in Washington for many years. They know how it’s done.
“We need support. Become involved. That’s the way for the small voices to be heard on a larger scale. If we all get involved, then we can really do some good things together.” He urges those interested in becoming members of NAFA or MFA to visit www.alfalfa-forage.org or www.midwestforage.org.