Author Archives: Casey Reynolds, PhD

About Casey Reynolds, PhD

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

National Turfgrass Federation Seeks Comments from Sod Producers on Senate Appropriations

The National Turfgrass Federation (NTF), a Beltsville, MD-based non-profit group which coordinates turf / sod research within the federal government and private industry, launched an initiative earlier this year seeking congressional funds for six Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) labs nationwide.  Aimed at federal appropriations for agriculture programs in the next fiscal year (FY2020), this initiative would address growing public demands for green landscapes requiring less maintenance, as well as research for environmental stewardship, ecosystem sustainability, and genomic sequencing for cultivars that are more drought, heat, disease, and traffic tolerant.    “This research would enhance turfgrass’s quality and affordability for consumers, while reducing maintenance costs,” says NTF Executive Director Kevin Morris. “Those benefits would directly impact appearance, utility, and multiple contributions for environmental sustainability.”   NTF’s $3 million funding request for FY20 would be allocated among six ARS labs in Georgia, Arizona, Utah, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.  These sites were selected based on best available resources and staff expertise for conducting this research.   “NTF views this approach as carving out a dedicated line item appropriation for turfgrass science,” Morris adds.  “Establishing a cooperative venture among several ARS labs and their respective regions could broaden the scope of benefits from scientific discovery and provide a collaborative research model that might be useful for future interests.”

In June 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives included NTF’s proposal in their FY20 Agriculture Appropriations measure.  The Senate agriculture appropriations panel did not follow suit.  Thus, NTF looks to a House / Senate conference in hopes an agreement can be reached that includes all or part of this proposal in a final funding bill.  Any expressions of support from turfgrass sod producers to senators and congressmen in those six states slated for ARS research — along with lawmakers representing Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Florida — would be very helpful.   “As with any research program, dividends often go beyond where money is initially allocated,” Morris says.

Covering approximately 60 million acres in the U.S, turfgrass is America’s most visible crop.  Statistics indicate it is the third largest crop in total value with estimates exceeding $60 billion annually.  Home and commercial landscapes comprise 65-70% of turfgrass acreage with roadsides, parks, sports fields, golf courses, cemeteries, airports, and sod / seed production comprising most of the remaining acreage.  Turf industries, which covers commercial & residential lawn care, golf course and sports field management, roadside maintenance, public parks, and product sales and services, employs approximately 1 million people in the U.S.   For more information on this ARS funding proposal, contact NTF’s Kevin Morris at kmorrisntep@gmail.com.

Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) Phase 3 Begins Dec 16th, 2019

As many of you know, recent changes to regulations on hours of service (HOS) and electronic logging devices (ELDs) for commercial vehicle operators have caused much confusion and concern among turfgrass sod haulers in the United States. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a Final Rule in the Federal Register in December 2015 regarding Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) and Hours of Service (HOS) Supporting Documents [Federal Register: Docket No. FMCSA-2010-0167]. In short, it states that by December 16th, 2019 all commercial motor vehicle operators are required to have electronic logging devices (ELDs) that are self-certified and registered with the FMCSA.

This new mandate incorporates the traditional HOS exemptions for hauling agricultural commodities within 150 air-miles of an owner’s farm or other source, but it has also raised the question among state and federal regulators and enforcement officers as to what exactly constitutes an agricultural commodity.

TPI has been working on this issue since Phase 2 of the new ELD mandate took effect in 2017 and is currently working three separate avenues of relief that could potentially provide a resolution. These include working directly with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on bills S.2025 and H.R. 1673. For more information on the upcoming ELD Phase 3 mandate and how TPI is working on behalf of sod producers, check out the link below and the November/December issue of Turf News magazine.

2019 Georgia Sod Producers Field Day, Nov 5-6 in Fort Valley, GA

2019 Georgia Sod Producers Field Day

Tuesday, November 5

Super-Sod Turf Farm 158 Sod Farm Rd, Fort Valley, GA 31030

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm – Evening reception for attendees and exhibitors

Wednesday, November 6

Fort Valley State Agricultural Technology Conference Center 46 Camp John Hope Rd, Fort Valley, GA 31030)

Agenda

8:00 am – 10:30 am Fort Valley State Agricultural Technology Conference Center

Green industry and legislative updates:

  • Casey Reynolds, Turfgrass Producers International – Update on National Trends in Sod Production
  • Snellings Walters Insurance Agency – What you need to know to make sure you are covered.
  • Bryan Tolar, Tolar Capitol Partners – Legislative updates for our industry
  • Growers’ Roundtable – What are the most important issues that are coming?

11:00 am – 3:00 pmSuper-Sod Turf Farm, Fort Valley, GA

Super-Sod Turf Farm 158 Sod Farm Rd, Fort Valley, GA 31030

  • Trade show, equipment demonstrations & sod harvester drag race
  • Lunch by Huckleberry’s BBQ

ETP Farm Tours in Oslo, Norway from September 12-13 2019

By ETP office

On 12-13th September ETP organized its 3rd ETP Farm Tour in Oslo, Norway, with past 2 Farm Tour held in UK (2015) and Italy (2016). Taking advantage of a mild end of summer weather, 96 sod farmers and industry delegates from 20 European (and non-European) countries joined this event, which was a first of its kind for Norway.

The perfect organisation of this Farm Tour was the work of Johnny Trandem, a former Board member of ETP, and his Family and Company Østfold Gress AS.

In an intense 2-day program, the participants saw and learned how turf is grown in Norway. There was also time to interact and network with each other, and enjoy the atmosphere of stunningly beautiful Norway.

The centre of the event was the Hotel Ullevaal Panorama, in Oslo (NO), next to the Ullevaal Stadion, home ground of the Norway national football team, and the site of the Norwegian Cup Final. As participants gathered and registered for the event, they could enjoy a welcome drink & food in the Stadium’s meeting room. A first opportunity to catch up and network with friends and colleagues.

The welcome was followed by the ETP General Assembly (where balance 2018 and budget 2019 were approved) and by the seminar session, with presentations from the invited Speakers Martin Bocksch (Deutscher Rollrasen Verband e.V.), Filippo Lulli (Turf Europe Srl), Morten Eirik Engelsjord (Floratine Norge) and John Riiber (Head Greenkeeper of the Oslo Golf Club).

Albrecht Knigge, ETP President, also announced the 2020 Turf Expo, which will be held on September 10th – 11th 2020 at Pattensen, Germany.

After the visit of the Stadium pitch, the participants enjoyed a pleasant dinner and evening all together.

The next day was dedicated to the technical visits of the ETP Farm Tour. The first stop was at the sod farm Bærum Ferdigplen, a company with more than 20 years of experience that supply sod throughout southern Norway. Second stop was at the Oslo Golf Club, the oldest in Norway with a kind and complete report talk of the Greenkeeper. Before the last visit, the delegates stopped and had lunch at the Holmenkollen area, the world’s biggest ski arena, were they could go on top and looked around the whole Oslo area with a nice September weather.

ETP Sponsors Barenbrug, Campey, DLF, TPI and Vanmac offered a 5 minutes presentation to the delegates in the Østfold Gress’s hangar, elegantly organized to host the participants.

The Farm Tour was closed by an exquisite welcome and a pleasant outdoor visit in the Østfold Gress facilities, after which the participants were left to chill out and relax in Johnny’s wonderful farmyard, with drinks and coffee while caterers were preparing for the evening’s barbecue dinner.

ETP wishes to thank everyone who attended the Farm Tour and the local organizers (Johnny Trandem and his Family and Company Østfold Gress AS) for making this a most entertaining and informative event. We hope to see you in September 2020 for ETP’s 3rd Turf Show in Germany.

See you then !!

2020 Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP)

U.S. seed and sod producers wishing to participate in the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) can check with their State Farm Service Agency (FSA) office for deadlines on applying for non-insured crop disaster assistance. According to the program fact sheet published by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) “provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops to protect against natural disasters that result in lower yields or crop losses, or prevents crop planting”. Of the wide range and variety of crops covered under NAP, value loss crops including but not limited to Christmas trees, ornamental nursery crops, and TURFGRASS, are all crops eligible for coverage. The established coverage period for turfgrass is October 1-September 30, 2020.

Be sure to check out future issues of Turf News magazine for a fully-detailed article on how turfgrass producers can participate in various crop insurance programs. In the meantime, to obtain additional information regarding the NAP program and insurance availability for your turfgrass operation, turfgrass producers are strongly encouraged to visit their local FSA Service Center. You can find your local service center by following this link:

https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app

For additional information about the NAP program, producers can also follow this link to view the NAP basic provisions, fact sheets and additional documents:

https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/disaster-assistance-program/noninsured-crop-disaster-assistance/index

U.S. DOT Seeks Comments on Agricultural Commodities and Hours of Service

TheFederal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has released a public comment period for clarifying the definition of “Agricultural Commodities” with respect to Hours of Service (HOS). TPI has submitted a comment on behalf of all U.S. sod producers and has provided directions below for its members to provide public comment.

The FMCSA is accepting public comment on this issue through September 27, 2019. TPI is asking turfgrass producers in the United States to provide public comment through Regulations.gov following the instructions below:

  • Go to the following link: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FMCSA-2018-0348-0001 (Note: This page may load slowly)
  • Click “Comment Now” on the right-side of this page
  • Each submission must include the following information:
    • Agency Name: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
    • Docket #:FMCSA-2018-0348
    • Your name, address, email, and phone number.

Your participation in this comment period is vitally important to the FMCSA hearing and understanding how important it is that sod haulers be allowed to claim agriculture exemptions for hauling sod. These exemptions affect Hours of Service (HOS) and Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) for each and every sod producer in the United States. TPI has been working diligently on this issue since Phase 2 of the new ELD mandate came into effect on December 18th, 2017.

If you have questions on this issue or how to participate in the public comment process, please contact Dr. Casey Reynolds at creynolds@TurfgrassSod.org. You can also read the full Public Comment page regarding Agricultural Commodities and Hours of Service by clicking “Comment Now” below.  Thanks very much for your support of this important matter.

EPA Stands Behind Glyphosate Ruling That It Does Not Pose Cancer Risk

Original story by EPA Press Office

On August 8th, 2019 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would no longer approve product labels claiming that glyphosate causes cancer. Glyphosate has recently been in the news due to recent lawsuits in California where juries have awarded multi-million dollar lawsuits to plaintiffs claiming that glyphosate resulted in them having non-hodgkins lymphoma. This is partly due to California’s Proposition 65 which has labeled the popular herbicide as a carcinogen, which is in direct opposition to other federal agency rulings, including the EPA’s, who states that it is not a carcinogen.

“It is irresponsible to require labels on products that are inaccurate when EPA knows the product does not pose a cancer risk. We will not allow California’s flawed program to dictate federal policy,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “It is critical that federal regulatory agencies like EPA relay to consumers accurate, scientific based information about risks that pesticides may pose to them. EPA’s notification to glyphosate registrants is an important step to ensuring the information shared with the public on a federal pesticide label is correct and not misleading.”

For more information on this story, click Read More below or check out the Sept/Oct issue of Turf News, which should be hitting TPI member mailboxes early next month.

TPI’s Exemption Request for Sod Haulers Closes with 47 Comments on Ag Commodities

A new federal mandate on Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) that came into effect in 2015 has called into question what exactly defines an agricultural commodity. From December of 2015 through December of 2017, use of ELDs was voluntary. However, in December of 2017 Phase 2 of this new law mandated the use of ELDs as well as automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) through December of 2019. After December 2019, the use of ELDs will be required for all commercial haulers except for those claiming certain exemptions. At the heart of this issue for turfgrass producers and others in the agricultural industry is the definition of “agricultural commodities” as defined in 49 C.F.R 395.2. The current definition states agricultural commodities as “any agricultural commodity, non-processed food, feed, fiber, or livestock” and its interpretation has proven vague since the new ELD mandate took effect.

As a result, TPI submitted an application for exemption to the United States Department of Transportation in December of 2018 to request that all transporters of turfgrass sod be eligible for Hours of Service (HOS) exceptions for agricultural commodities provided in U.S. Federal Code 49 C.F.R. 395.1(k)(1). This application included a public comment period that was posted to the U.S. Federal Register on June 19th, 2019. This comment period was open for 30 days and closed on July 19th, 2019. During that time, 49 turfgrass producers and other industry representatives provided public comment supporting turfgrass sod’s inclusion in the definition of an agricultural commodity. TPI also submitted a public comment on behalf of its members and cited many reasons why turfgrass sod should be granted the same exemptions as other agricultural commodities with regard to Hours of Service (HOS) and Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs). These include but are not limited to:

  • The United States Department of Agriculture includes sod in the Agricultural Census, and defines it as a horticultural commodity within the agricultural industry
  •  Title 7, Chapter 38 of the U.S. Federal Code lists turfgrass sod in its definition of Specialty Crops
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists turfgrass sod in its Worker Protection Standards
  • Many state departments of agriculture consider turfgrass sod an agricultural commodity
  • Turfgrass Sod is treated as agriculture by other federal agencies with regard to taxes, unemployment, occupational safety and health, federal wage-hour laws, and more.

TPI is awaiting the Department of Transportation’s decision and will announce it to our members when available. Please reach out to us if you have questions or comments, and we will be happy to help out.

Click on the link below to read all of the public comments in the U.S. Federal Register.