Author Archives: Casey Reynolds, PhD

About Casey Reynolds, PhD

Dr. Casey Reynolds is the Executive Director at Turfgrass Producers International

Sod Farmers Encouraged to Apply for CFAP2 funds by December 11th

TPI was notified on December 1st that The United States Farm Service Agency encourages sod farmers to apply for CFAP2 funds at their local FSA office prior to the December 11th, 2020 deadline. Producers interested in CFAP2 are encouraged to submit an application to the program before December 11th. This action ensures any future changes to the program impacting your application or eligibility are streamlined.

TPI has been working with the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) to allow sod farmers to apply for federal relief through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP and CFAP2). FSA staff have told us that we can expect a decision on sod’s eligibility to be announced in the Federal Register sometime in January of 2021.

The Farm Service Agency will post a Notification of Funding Availability (NOFA) announcement in January in the US Federal Register. “We are in close contact with FSA officials in Washington, D.C. and they have assured me that they will notify us when the NOFA is posted”, says Dr. Reynolds. “We will absolutely stay on top of this for our members and let them know as soon as the FSA announces their decision.”

It is important to note that there is no guarantee yet that sod will be added as an eligible commodity, which is what we are waiting to learn in the NOFA next January. For now though, the FSA has encouraged producers wishing to apply for funds to go ahead and get their applications into the system and processed ahead of the December 11th deadline. This ensures any future changes to the program impacting your application or eligibility are streamlined.

Click the link below to learn more or begin the application process.

TPI Expects Decision in January 2021 on Covid Relief Funds

TPI has been working with the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) to allow sod farmers to apply for federal relief through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP2). FSA staff have told us that we can expect a decision to be announced in the Federal Register sometime in January of 2021. On September 18th, the USDA announced additional funds up to $14 billion that may be available to farmers who continue to face market disruptions and additional costs associated with Covid-19. TPI and the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) have been trying to determine if US natural grass sod farmers experienced a decrease in sales volume or sales price from January 15th to July 31st, 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

We released a call for information in early October and sod farms from throughout the United States responded with pricing and volume data for the first two quarters of 2020, when Covid-19 impacts were most substantial. The USDA Farm Service Agency received substantial input and has indicated to TPI that they will be releasing a decision in January 2021 on the eligibility of sod farmers to request relief through CFAP2 funds. There will be a Notification of Funding Availability (NOFA) announcement in January in the US Federal Register, and we will share it with TPI members and the industry as soon as it is posted, so please stay tuned for more information.

In addition to working with USDA-FSA Staff, TPI’s executive director Dr. Casey Reynolds also visited with USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey in October at Turf Mountain Sod in Hendersonville, NC to discuss this important topic.

Please reach out to us if you have further questions, and we will be happy to assist you. Email Dr. Reynolds at creynolds@TurfgrassSod.org or 800-405-8873 for further information

DOT Issues Interim Final Ruling on Sod as Agriculture

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced on November 24th, 2020 an Interim Final Rule (IFR) on agricultural commodities as defined in the U.S. federal transportation code 49 CFR 395.2. Recent mandates on Electronic Logging Devices have caused confusion among truck drivers, farm owners, and enforcement officials as to who can or cannot claim important agricultural exemptions relative to Hours of Service (HOS) and Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). TPI has been working with the FMCSA on this issue since December 2018 to make sure that U.S. sod haulers get included in these important agricultural exemptions. “We are pleased to announce to the industry today that this new ruling removes any ambiguity around whether or not sod is an agricultural commodity”, says Dr. Casey Reynolds, TPI’s executive director.

“Our members have expressed to TPI how important these exemptions are and we have been working behind the scenes on their behalf since 2018 to make sure they are able to get their perishable products to market. We want to thank the officials at the FMCSA for their time, support, and transparency as we navigated the federal rule-making process.”

“This is a classic example of the value and importance of trade associations like TPI and the many state associations who work on behalf of sod farms”, says Dr. Reynolds. “We could not perform this type of work without the membership dues paid by our members, and we thank them for their support.”

The official summary and the new ag commodity definition as stated in the announcement are listed below. TPI will submit comments on behalf of the sod industry but any producer willing to submit public comments can do so as well through the link below. Comments must be submitted on or before December 24, 2020.

FMCSA Summary of the Ruling

FMCSA clarifies the definition of the terms “any agricultural commodity,” “livestock,” and “non-processed food,” as the terms are used in the definition of “agricultural commodity” for the purposes of the Agency’s “Hours of Service (HOS) of Drivers” regulations. Under current regulations, drivers transporting agricultural commodities, including livestock, from the source of the commodities to a location within 150 air miles of the source, during harvest and planting seasons as defined by each State, are exempt from the HOS requirements. Furthermore, the HOS requirement for a 30-minute rest break does not apply to drivers transporting livestock in interstate commerce while the livestock are on the commercial motor vehicle. This interim final rule (IFR) clarifies the meaning of these existing definitional terms to ensure that the HOS exemptions are utilized as Congress intended.

This IFR defines agricultural commodities under 49CFR 395.2 as follows:

49CFR 395.2 Definitions.

Agricultural commodity means:
(1) Any agricultural commodity, non-processed food, feed, fiber, or livestock as defined in this section.

(2) As used in this definition, the term “any agricultural commodity” means horticultural products at risk of perishing, or degrading in quality, during transport by commercial motor vehicle, including plants, sod, flowers, shrubs, ornamentals, seedlings, live trees, and Christmas trees.

Click “Read More” below to see the full announcement in the U.S. Federal Register as well as instructions on how to submit public comments.

USDA Under Secretary Discusses Covid Impacts on Farms

Bill Northey, the USDA’s Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation visited TPI member Linda Bradley’s farm in Hendersonville, NC on October 20th, 2020. He was there to meet with sod, blackberry, and Christmas tree farmers to discuss the impacts of Covid-19 on farms and marketing channels. TPI was on-hand to to share with the Under Secretary many of the experiences that have been relayed by TPI members with regard to how Covid-19 has impacted their operations. On September 18th, the USDA announced an additional $14B in federal aid for farmers impacted by Covid-19, but as of the date of this event, sod farmers have been ineligible to apply for relief funds. TPI has been working directly with the USDA Farm Service Agency to get included in recent federal relief programs administered through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP2).

Also in attendance were state and county representatives form the NC offices of the USDA Farm Service Agency as well as the Executive Director from the NC Christmas Tree Growers Association and representatives from the NC blackberry industry.

Prior to leading the Farm Programs and Conservation Mission Area overseeing the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Risk Management Agency and the Farm Service Agency, Mr. Northey served as the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture from 2006 to 2018. A fourth-generation farmer, Mr. Northey served as a commissioner of the Dickinson County Soil and Water Conservation District, and president and chairman of the National Corn Growers Association. He was also president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture from September 2011 through September 2012, while serving as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture.

Mr. Northey has a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Business from Iowa State University and an MBA from Southwest Minnesota State University.

USDA Farm Service Agency Request for Covid-19 Impacts on Natural Grass Sod Sales

The USDA Farm Service Agency has requested information from U.S. sod farms on the impacts of Covid-19 to their sales volume and prices during the period of January 15th to July 31st 2020. On September 18th, the USDA announced additional funds up to $14 billion that may be available to farmers who continue to face market disruptions and additional costs associated with Covid-19. These funds are administered through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP2) and TPI has been working with the USDA Farm Service Agency on this issue to determine if US natural grass sod farmers experienced a decrease in sales volume or sales price from January 15th to July 31st, 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

If you are interested in this program, please submit your sales volume and pricing data during the period of January 15th to July 31st 2019 and 2020 to Georgi Gabrielyan at georgi.gabrielyan@usda.gov using the spreadsheet below titled “Covid-19 Impacts on Sod Sales” on or before Friday, October 16th.

Covid-19 Impacts on Sod Sales

Please reach out to Dr. Casey Reynolds at creynolds@TurfgrassSod.org or 800-405-8873 for further information.

TPI Response to NFLPA Request for Grassing All NFL Fields

October 6th, 2020

ATTN: JC Tretter, NFLPA President

NFL Players Association

1133 20th St NW

Washington, DC 20036

CC: Team Owners, University and High School Athletic Directors, Sports Field Managers, Coaches, Athletes, Parents

SUBJECT: TPI Statement on NFLPA’s Statement on Field Safety

Dear President Tretter,

We commend you for your recent NFLPA President’s statement on September 30th, 2020 titled “Only Natural Grass Can Level the NFL’s Playing Field”. We too have been closely following recent research published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2019 which demonstrates the increased rate of lower body injuries to NFL and NCAA athletes when playing on artificial turf. While we recognize the need for multi-purpose venues in some scenarios, it is important to challenge team owners, university athletic directors, and others with one fundamental question. Do we want our athletes playing in a concert venue, or do we want to host concerts and other events in an athletic venue? If the answer is the latter, then there is little doubt that natural grass is the safest proven choice.

Our U.S and International sod-producing members meet this demand daily by producing farm-fresh natural grass for professional, university, and amateur sports venues worldwide. They have proven time and again that they can rise to the challenge in grassing indoor and outdoor stadiums for NFL and NCAA football games, professional soccer matches, special events and more. Advancements in grass varieties, harvesting techniques, planting methods, shipping, and equipment allow natural grass sod producers to provide the safest possible playing surface often in as little as a few days. After speaking with several of our members who produce natural grass sod for NFL and collegiate stadiums, they assure me that with proper planning and communication that they could provide natural grass fields for all NFL games.

On behalf of TPI’s staff and Board of Directors, we welcome this prioritization on player safety, and we encourage others to follow your lead. We write today to re-assure athletes, owners, athletic directors, coaches, and sports field managers everywhere that our network of professional, knowledgeable, and resourceful natural grass sod producers are prepared and ready to meet this demand head-on.

Sincerely,

Casey Reynolds, PhD

Executive Director, Turfgrass Producers International

To read the full statement from NFLPA President Tretter as well as to view TPI Resources on recent American Journal of Sports Medicine research on field safety click the links below.

U.S. EPA Announces Decision on Atrazine and Simazine Registration

On September 22nd, The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an interim decision on proposed changes to the labels for Atrazine and Simazine. These herbicides are used for pre-emergence and early post-emergence control of many grassy and broadleaf weed species in warm-season grasses. While there were mandatory reductions in use rates for residential turf, there were little to no changes for atrazine or simazine use in sod production. For more details on the announcement, please click “Read More” below for a brief summary and links to the official decisions.

The Lawn Institute is Accepting Proposals for New Logo

Calling all designers!! Want to make your mark on The Lawn Institute? We’re looking for a new logo and would love your help! The Lawn Institute’s Board of Directors recently approved a new website which is currently under construction, and we would like a new logo to go with it. We have consumer research to guide us in the direction of the logo, but are opening up the design for proposals and are providing a $500 stipend to the designer of the winning proposal. If you or anyone on your team is interested in submitting a design for consideration, please contact Dr. Casey Reynolds at creynolds@TurfgrassSod.org or at (847) 737-1846. Submissions are due December 1st, 2020.

USDA Announces Additional $14B Covid-19 Relief to Farmers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that there will be an additional set of funds available to farmers who have experienced market disruptions resulting from Covid-19. These funds will be administered through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) under CFAP2 and will be available from September 21st through December 11th 2020. TPI is currently working with the USDA Farm Service Agency to determine if sod producers are eligible for these funds as they were not included in the first round of federal relief under CFAP earlier this year. Visit the website below to learn more about how to apply for these funds for other agricultural commodities, particularly food crops.