Author Archives: Casey Reynolds, PhD

About Casey Reynolds, PhD

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

USDA to Begin Processing Payments for Turfgrass Producers under CFAP2

The USDA announced on March 24th that they will be re-opening and expanding pandemic assistance programs to provide Covid-19 relief to producers. This announcement included 4 parts with the following focus:

  1. Investing $6 billion to expand help and assistance to more producers
  2. Adding $500 million of new funds to existing programs
  3. Carrying out payments under CFAP 1, CFAP 2, and CFAP AA
  4. Re-opening the CFAP 2 sign-up period to improve access and outreach to underserved producers

This announcement also provides further clarity on when farmers who applied for CFAP 2 assistance by the February 26th deadline will begin to receive payments. The USDA will be finalizing routine decisions and minor formula adjustments on current and past applications and begin processing payments for certain applications that were filed as part of CFAP assistance, including those filed by turfgrass sod farmers. They will also re-open CFAP 2 for a new sign-up period for at least 60 days beginning April 5th, 2021.

As always, TPI will work with the Farm Service Agency to provide and updates and clarity to turfgrass sod farmers and we are always here to help if you have questions. You can also contact your local FSA office, visit www.farmers.gov, or click Read More below for additional information.

Sod Farmers Eligible for CFAP2 Relief Funds beginning January 19th 2021

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide additional assistance through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), expanding eligibility for some agricultural producers and commodities, including sod, as well as updating payments to accurately compensate some producers who already applied for the program. Producers who are now eligible and those who need to modify existing applications due to these updates can contact USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) between Jan. 19 and Feb. 26. Some of these changes are being made to align with the recently enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 while others are discretionary changes being made in response to ongoing evaluation of CFAP.

TPI has been working with the US Farm Service Agency on CFAP2 relief since the fall of 2020. “We always enjoy working with FSA officials and thank them for their cooperation”, says TPI Executive Director Dr. Casey Reynolds.

Newly eligible producers can submit a new CFAP 2 application or producers who need to modify an existing one can do so between Jan. 19 and Feb. 26, 2021 by contacting their local USDA Service Center. New applicants can also obtain one-on-one support with applications by calling 877-508-8364.

Please contact your local Farm Service Agency office for more information.

 

Farmers Encouraged to Apply for CFAP2 funds by December 11th

The United States Farm Service Agency encourages 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. TPI has been in close communication with FSA throughout the pandemic sharing the impacts COVID-19 has had on our members. Although there are not specific details, we do anticipate future changes to program eligibility and we will let members know if there are any updates to COVID response programs from USDA.

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.