Forage agriculture in Michigan has many facets. Forages are the third most widely grown field crop in Michigan, with 1.57 million acres dedicated to hay, haylage, greenchop, and corn silage in 2011, approximately 24% of the total field crop acres in the state. Traditional forage crop uses like hay and silage production, pasture, and grazing crop residues are essential components of dairy, beef, sheep, goat, and equine enterprises. Resource conservation uses such as CRP, waterway protection, pest control, and wildlife habitat are critical to both row crop and livestock enterprises. In addition, forages are rapidly expanding onto new frontiers. Interest in cover crop use, including many species with dual potential as forage, has never been greater for row and specialty crops. Forage crops such as switchgrass, corn stover, and alfalfa are becoming major players in the developing biofuel industry. Few agricultural enterprises in Michigan can avoid contact with some aspect of forage crops.
The Michigan Forage Council (MFC) is a non-profit 501c(3) (pending) volunteer organization that is recognized by the State of Michigan as the official commodity group for forage-based agriculture. As such, it participates in educational and policy-setting initiatives from the Michigan legislature, MDARD, Michigan Farm Bureau, MSU Extension, and MSU forage research programs. The MFC is an affiliate member of the American Forage and Grassland Council (AFGC), which performs similar functions on a national level, and the National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance (NAFA), which focuses on promoting forage industry interests in Washington DC. The MFC also represents the Michigan Grasslands Conservation Initiative (GLCI).
Membership in MFC is open to forage producers and buyers, forage industry professionals, public service personnel, and anyone else interested in the promotion of forage agriculture, regardless of whether they live in Michigan. Because the forage industry does not have a checkoff program, MFC activities are funded almost solely by its modest membership dues.
Some recent activities of MFC include:
- Co-sponsorship of the annual Great Lakes Forage & Grazing Conference (with MSUE).
- Setting of annual research funding priorities for Project GREEEN in the area of forages. Project GREEEN is a state legislature-funded competitive grant program that allocates approximately $2 million per year in research and education grants across all plant industries in Michigan, using commodity group priorities as an evaluation criteria.
- Convincing MSU to continue funding a forage research/extension position in 2011 and beyond
- Influencing MSU not to terminate its forage research program in 2011.
- Sponsorship of the Beginning Dairy Farmer Conference, MSU
- Continued sponsorship of the Michigan Hay Sellers Website
In addition to the benefit of direct participation in policy-setting, members of MFC receive subscriptions to Michigan Hay and Grazier
quarterly newsletter, the AFGC The Forage Leader
quarterly newsletter, AFGC monthly Email Blast updates, and the commercial publication Progressive Forage Grower
. Members get discounted registration fees for some sponsored MFC and AFGC events, as well as access to a digital library of forage-related articles and videos on the members-only section of the AFGC website.