The forage industry now has a voice in Washington, D.C. Three forage associations — the National Alfalfa Alliance, the National Hay Association and the American Forage and Grassland Council — have formed the National Alfalfa Coalition.

Its purpose is to encourage forage research and the gathering of forage statistical data, monitor legislation and promote hay exports, says Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin forage agronomist and one of the coalition organizers.

“We need to speak with one voice on topics that we agree upon,” he adds. The coalition has already convinced USDA's National Ag Statistics Service, which was planning to eliminate hay production reports, to instead expand its forage coverage.

“We visited with people from the statistics service and one guy said, in 15 years, we were the first to come and talk about alfalfa.” After explaining a pilot project on collecting haylage data, the coalition convinced the statistics service to expand forage data collection to include haylage figures in 18 major dairy states, says Undersander.

“Ag statistical data says that hay is the No. 3 crop and alfalfa is No. 4, so that's the message we're trying to take to Congress,” he says.

The coalition has hired an alert service to keep it informed on possible legislation that would affect the forage industry. Its next step is to form a rapid response team to act when a surprise bill that could impact forages comes before Congress.

For more information on the coalition, contact Undersander at 608-263-5070 or djunders@facstaff. wisc.edu, Don Kieffer from the National Hay Association at 727-367-9702 or haynha@aol.com, Rod Christensen of National Alfalfa Alliance at 509-585-6798 or agmgt@agmgt.com, or Ed Twidwell of the American Forage and Grassland Council at 225-578-4070 or etwidwell@ agctr.lsu.edu.