Turfgrass Producers International and others in the National Turfgrass Federation were on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from May 14-16thto discuss legislative and regulatory issues impacting turfgrass producers in the United States and the natural grass industry as a whole. Representatives from the turfgrass industry included Dr. Brian Schwartz from the University of Georgia, Dr. Mike Kenna from the United States Golf Association, Kevin Morris from the National Turfgrass Federation, Ben Copeland Jr. from SuperSod, Bob Helland from the Golf Course Superintendents Association, Jonathan Moore, TPI’s policy consultant in Washington, D.C., and myself. We visited Senate and Congressional offices representing citizens from Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Wisconsin as well as multiple federal agencies. Primary areas of discussion included transportation, federal research funds, and public-private partnerships to further the natural grass industry.
U.S. Senate and Congressional Meetings
Part of our time in Washington, D.C. was spent visiting with Senate and Congressional representatives to gather support for federal research funds devoted to the natural grass industry. If appropriated, these funds would support research all over the United States from Arizona, Utah and Georgia in the southwest and southeast, to Maryland and Wisconsin in the transition zone and north. In addition to meeting with Senate and Congressional offices to discuss federal research, we also spent time with administrators from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA-AMS), the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FIFA). Each of these federal agencies has a vested interest in agricultural research, and we continue to work with them to explore opportunities to promote the natural grass industry.
Agricultural Trucking Relief Act, 2019
TPI was also in Washington, D.C. to continue gathering support for H.R. 1673, also called “The Agricultural Trucking Relief Act of 2019”. This bill was introduced to amend the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 with respect to the definition of agricultural commodities. Recent trucking regulations impacting the need for Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) and Hours of Service (HOS) have brought into question the definition of an agricultural commodity. The current definition as stated in the United States Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 395.2 exclude natural grass sod from ag commodity exemptions. This is also true for horticultural crops (Shrubs, Christmas Trees, Cut Flowers, etc.) not typically considered as traditional agriculture. Turfgrass Producers International has been working the U.S. Department of Transportation on this issue since Phase II of the new ELD rules took effect in December of 2017.
MSMA Registration in Sod Production
Lastly, we also met with representatives from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discuss permanent re-registration of the herbicide MSMA, which is a common trade name for the active ingredient “Monosodium acid methanearsonate”. MSMA is a broad-spectrum organic arsenical herbicide that has been registered for use in the United States since 1964.It is a Group 17 post-emergent herbicide that is labeled for control of many annual and perennial weed species such as crabgrass, dallisgrass, foxtails, johnsongrass, goosegrass, nutsedge, and others. The use of MSMA and other organic arsenicals has been under pending threat of termination by the EPA for 10 years now dating back to 2009. However, even though all uses of MSMA (except cotton) were to be prohibited after December 31, 2013 the EPA agreed to conduct a scientific review related to the mode of action of inorganic arsenic prior to the final cancellation of MSMA. For more information on this topic and a full recap of TPI’s efforts in Washington, D.C., check out the July/August Issue of Turf News