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American Forage and Grassland Council celebrates 75th anniversary

Robert Shoemaker for Progressive Cattleman Published on 27 December 2018
American forage & Grassland Council Anniversary

The American Forage and Grassland Council (AFGC) will celebrate its 75th anniversary at the AFGC conference Jan. 6-9, 2019, at the Hyatt Regency at the Arch Hotel in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Researchers, industry representatives and farmers come together at the conference to promote and learn about America’s forage, grassland and livestock industry. Forages, grasslands and grazing lands constitute more than two-thirds of all agricultural lands in the U.S.

The AFGC lineage started in 1944. The Joint Committee on Grassland Farming (JCGF) formed when 30 dedicated grasslanders met in Buffalo, New York. The mission of JCGF was to “research the production methods, equipment, facilities, preservatives and utilization of forage crops.” Jack Bartlett served as the first chairperson. In 1945, JCGF published the first booklet, Green Fields are Gold.

Carl Bender became the second chairperson in 1946. Zur W. Craine was secretary-treasurer of the organization in 1948 and continued serving the organization in this position for 15 years.

JCGF changed its name, after much deliberation, to the American Grassland Council (AGC) in December 1957. W.A. King, chairperson of JCGF, served as the new AGC president. The group initiated a quarterly publication, Grassland Progress, in 1958.

The first state Grassland Council formed in 1960 in Pennsylvania.

In 1962, the first American Grassland Council (AGC) held the National Grassland Field Day in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The Kentucky Forage and Grassland Council formed in 1964. Frank G. Bamer, professor emeritus from Pennsylvania State University, joined AGC as a part-time, paid executive secretary in 1965. In 1966, the AGC was unofficially renamed to the American Forage and Grassland Council (AFGC); it also renamed Grassland Progress to Forage and Grassland Progress.

From there, the organization had a rich and vibrant history in the early years after the name change to AFGC, which became official in July 1968. John E. Baylor began his 19-year run on the AFGC executive committee in 1967.

Other events continued to shape AFGC. In 1968, AFGC held its first conference in Chicago, Illinois. AFGC celebrated the silver anniversary at Purdue University in 1969. The bylaws underwent major change in 1970. AFGC’s 1972 hay marketing task force got underway, chaired initially by James B. Stere (New Holland Machine Co.) and later by John E. Baylor.

Corporate membership hit an all-time high at 54 members in 1974. The first affiliate advisory committee, a vital link between the AFGC board and state councils, formed in 1978. AFGC also changed the conference format in 1978 to better accommodate producers and non-professionals, a tradition that continues today.

John Baylor took a six-month sabbatical leave in 1979 from Pennsylvania State University and moved to Lexington, Kentucky, to set up the International Grassland Congress headquarters on the University of Kentucky campus. The AFGC and University of Kentucky jointly sponsored the 14th International Grassland Congress in 1981. Proceeds from this meeting helped establish the American Forage and Grassland Foundation in 1983.

The vision of AFGC today is “to be recognized as the leader and voice of economically and environmentally sound forage agriculture” and the purpose is to “advance forage agriculture and grassland stewardship.” Approximately 21 affiliate councils with over 2,500 members are vital to the organization. The annual conference encourages young scientists, industry members and farmers to become involved in an exciting part of agriculture.

AFGC is currently seeking to win the bid to host the International Grassland Congress in 2023. By 2050, the world’s population will be close to 10 billion people, and the demand for high-quality protein products derived from forages and grassland agriculture will double. The future is bright for AFGC and the forage and grassland industry.

For more information about AFGC membership, events and history, please visit our website (American Forage & Grassland Council) or contact us via email or via phone at (800) 944-2342.  end mark

Robert Shoemaker is a past president of AFGC.