Q. How did the American Forage and Grassland Council (AFGC) get started?
The first step toward a unified organization for forages in America was the Joint Committee on Grassland Farming, established in 1944 at Rutgers University. In 1957 the Joint Committee reorganized as the American Grassland Council. Pennsylvania was the first state forage council to become affiliated with the national organization in 1963. The states of Indiana and Kentucky became affiliated soon thereafter. On July 15, 1968, the scope of the organization was broadened and it was named the American Forage and Grassland Council.
Q. What are some of the immediate goals for AFGC?
One of the biggest challenges we have recently faced is getting a new executive director to help us move forward with the mission we have set out. After working on the staffing change since last November, we have decided to work with Tina Bowling and her team from Kentucky. Bringing them on board will be a huge help in moving our ideas and work forward through 2010 and in the years to come.
In addition, we realize that one area we are still wanting to make some immediate increases with is the student section of our membership. We know that much of the future of agriculture and forages in general will be bringing active students into the mix of members we currently have so that the forage industry can remain strong not only today, but for future generations.
Another area we would like to see continue to grow is our state affiliates. We currently have 23 different state affiliates as members of the national organization and look to be bringing on two more by the middle of summer. Adding additional members on a state level never seems to be an easy task as it does take a lot of volunteer efforts on many peoples’ part, but the end results mean that the organization gains strength in meeting forage production needs for everyone, both locally and nationally.
Q. What are the benefits of being a member of AFGC?
Members receive a lot of benefits that come with being part of the AFGC. While not all of them, many of the benefits would include the following:
• The AFGC serves as a voice in forage-related issues on a state, regional and national level. We have representatives that work for our organization back in Washington D.C. and have been influential in providing needed expertise on state and regional issues when needed.
• Members have access and information from labs that are part of the National Forage Testing Association. This gives members an opportunity to get forage results from labs that have been certified in reducing the errors that can come up when sampling and testing forages for feed value and quality.
• The AFGC is closely teamed with the National Hay Association. Through pooled resources, we are better able to provide ongoing dialog and information necessary to helping forage growers through extended educational and national representation on issues critical to forage growers nationwide.
• The AFGC sponsors a professional certification program called the Certified Grassland Professional (CGP). This is similar in concept to the Certified Rangeland Professional of the Society for Range Management.
• Currently, all members of the association receive a bimonthly newsletter delivered either electronically or in the mail. In addition, they also receive eight issues of Progressive Forage Grower and six issues of Hay and Forage Grower each year. This helps keep our members up-to-date on the latest information available on forage production and ongoing changes in the industry.
• The Annual Conference is held each year to promote forage production throughout all the country. Highlights of the Annual Conference include Forage Spokesperson Contest, forage tours, Emerging Scientist Contest, Affiliate Council Meeting, annual AFGC business meeting, AFGC Board meeting, hay contest, photo contest, and banquet. This is in addition to a large number of presentations representing the latest in forage development and growing practices.
For the common member this all may seem like too much of something that doesn’t affect them on a personal basis, but for the member who wants to receive cutting-edge educational information, be in touch with policy makers or get connected with other facets of forage agriculture, AFGC has the network to make this happen.
Q. What makes AFGC unique?
Our mission revolves around being the voice and leader in forage agriculture. Because we bring together private individuals and growers with industry, public and educational representatives, we have been able to create a huge network of related ideas and goals that really help bring about important changes to the forage industry.
We also produce a newsletter that contains as much current and pertinent information as we have available to us which is distributed to the general membership on a regular basis. We try to provide this information both in print and electronically so every person who is a member can get it delivered to them in a way they can use it. We will continue to deliver the information by whichever means is best for the individual, as we feel that it is critical that everyone have access to it.
Q. What are the future goals of the AFGC?
Right now, we are quite strong as an organization east of the Mississippi River. Over the past few years we have gained five or six members to the west and hope to be able to continue that trend. These untapped areas represent an opportunity for use to be able to gain more information about the complexities of the forage industry nationwide and be able to offer a growing voice in national issues as a growing agricultural community. In many instances, it takes just one or two key individuals to get the ball rolling for a state and right now we are working on developing those relationships. FG