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.
The Lawn Institute invites researchers to submit proposals for funding as part of the 2020 TLI Call for Proposals which is now open. Applications are due December 4th, 2020. Please reach out to Dr. Casey Reynolds at creynolds@TurfgrassSod.org or 847-737-1846 with questions.
TLI Research Objectives
The Lawn Institute (TLI) is a charitable foundation that was created in 1955 to assist in and encourage the improvement of lawns and sports turf through research and education. The TLI website www.TheLawnInstitute.org provides homeowners, lawn care professionals, policy-makers, and others with research-based information on the care and importance of natural grass as an essential component of urban and suburban landscapes. Applications for research funds can be requested on any topic, but the TLI Research Committee will place priority on proposals in the following research areas:
- Cultural Impacts of Natural Grass – Research that includes, but is not limited to societal health and well-being, fitness, athletic field safety, socio-economics, consumer attitudes, etc.
- Environmental Awareness of Natural Grass – Research that includes but is not limited to, carbon sequestration, heat abatement, pollution entrapment, soil remediation, run-off reduction, etc.
- Natural Grass Input Reductions – Research that includes, but is not limited to drought tolerance, reduced water use, nutrient requirements, traffic tolerance, integrated pest management, etc.
- Extending Harvested Shelf-Life of Natural Grass
- Reducing Production Costs of Natural Grass
- Natural Grass Research Communication & Education – Information that can be used to develop content on The Lawn Institute website for educating policy makers, homeowners, and the general public on turfgrass science, management, impacts, etc. This can include literature reviews on environmental impacts, turfgrass benefits, regionally specific turfgrass selection and management, weed/insect/disease control, and more.
As anyone who has played on plastic, artificial turf fields know, crumb rubber waste can literally show up almost anywhere. Parents and athletes have cited it showing up in shoes, socks, helmets, clothes, and even laundry machines where it can make its way into public water systems. Runoff waste from even the legal uses of these products can allow crumb rubber and plastic fibers to move into storm drains and other areas. As The Seattle Times reported on August 28th, the illegal uses of these products can have serious consequences as well. Click Read More below to see the full story from The Seattle Times.
USDA Announces Additional Crops Eligible for CFAP Relief
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that additional commodities would now be covered under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced on August 11 that the deadline to apply for CFAP has been extended to September 11th, from the original deadline of August 28th, 2020. When the CFAP program was first released in May of 2020 the horticulture industry and specialty crops, including sod, were not part of the original funding program. However, the USDA also announced as part of Docket ID: FSA-2020-0004 that they would be willing to consider additional crops to be eligible for CFAP funding and that they were particularly interested in nursery products, aquaculture products, and cut flowers.
As a result of this request for information, AmericanHort partnered with state and national associations, Farm Bureau, and others to build a coalition of over 100 groups to communicate the needs of the horticulture industry to the USDA, the U.S. Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Congress. After these efforts, the USDA announced that it was going to extend CFAP eligibility to nursery and cut flower crops as well as indoor and outdoor grown plant materials.
Inventory already shipped but unpaid, spoiled, or that was lost due to marketing channels from January 15th to April 15th is eligible for funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Security (CARES) act. Additionally, the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) program will pay for inventory that has not left the farm and has spoiled or not able to be sold from January 15th to April 15th. Any inventory that can be sold after April 15th is ineligible for funding. Additionally, it is important to note that the reimbursement rate is different between CARES and CCC. The CARES act will reimburse products at 15.55% of the wholesale inventory and CCC reimburses at the rate of 13.45% of wholesale inventory. Payment limits through CFAP are $250,000 per person or entity.
Natural grass sod meets the definitional requirements of specialty crops, but it does not currently qualify for funding through CARES or CCC because it does not meet the requirement of a 5% or greater price reduction during the period of January 13th to April 10th, 2020. If your farm has experienced this price reduction then please contact Dr. Casey Reynolds at TPI’s office so that we can work with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) to document these losses for future funding opportunities.
For more information on the CFAP program and funding requirements, please visit Farmers.gov by clicking “Read More” below.
On August 5th, 2020 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published in the federal register that they have determined sod to be agriculture and as such U.S sod haulers can claim important Hours of Service (HOS) exemptions as part 49 CFR 395.1(k)(1), commonly referred to as the 150 air-mile radius rule. This ruling comes on the heels of two years of collaboration between the FMCSA and TPI which began in 2018 after several TPI members reported to us that they were experiencing confusion among local law enforcement officials as to which crops can or cannot claim important agricultural commodity exemptions. Much of this began when a new mandate on Electronic Logging Devices and Hours of Service Supporting Documents was published in the federal register in 2015 under Docket No. FMCSA-2010-0167.
This mandate established minimum performance standards for ELDs and required their use for documenting hours of service after the full compliance date took effect on December 16th, 2019. While the rule and the date seemed clear, it was often unclear among truck drivers and law enforcement officials with regard to who could claim agricultural exemptions relieving them of HOS and electronic logging devices (ELD) requirements. The FMCSA’s agricultural commodity definition in 49 CFR 395.2 defines agricultural commodities as “Agricultural commodity means any agricultural commodity, non-processed food, feed, fiber, or livestock (including livestock as defined in sec. 602 of the Emergency Livestock Feed Assistance Act of 1988 [7 U.S.C. 1471] and insects)”. However, modern agriculture includes many other commodities outside of food, feed, fiber, or livestock that are commonly recognized as agriculture by other federal and state entities. This confusion caused many agricultural associations, including TPI, to reach out to the FMCSA directly for clarity.
TPI’s executive director, Dr. Casey Reynolds, and TPI’s policy consultant Jonathan Moore met with FMCSA officials in November 2018 to discuss this topic. “After almost two years of working with the FMCSA, we are pleased to announce to U.S. sod farmers that they can in fact claim important agricultural commodity exemptions for getting their perishable products safely to market”, says Dr. Reynolds. “We appreciate and respect the time and efforts of FMCSA officials and thank them for their accessibility, cooperation, and transparency throughout this entire process.”
The official announcement can be found in the U.S. Federal Register at the link below. Note that the ruling may seem confusing, as it states that the action by FMCSA is a denial of application for exemption (from TPI) as moot. The reason for this is that FMCSA analyzed our application, public comments, and applicable law and they determined that turfgrass sod is an agricultural commodity already subject to the HOS exemption, so the exemption was unnecessary, therefore moot. TPI’s application was submitted under 49 CFR 381 – Waivers, Exemptions, and Pilot Programs with the intent of requesting that FMCSA include turfgrass sod in the definition of an agriculture commodity.
For more information on this important ruling, please consult the resources below or call our office and we will be happy to discuss it with you. TPI members can also download this announcement and the full list of exemptions from the TPI member portal for their drivers to keep in their trucks. These documents help in determining which exemptions apply when hauling agricultural commodities as well as making them available for sharing with local enforcement officials if needed.
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The official announcement can be found in the U.S. Federal Register at the link below.
Hours of Service of Drivers: Turfgrass Producers International; Application for Exemption https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/08/05/2020-17087/hours-of-service-of-drivers-turfgrass-producers-international-application-for-exemption
The TPI staff and board of directors are currently working to address the potential impacts of Covid-19 on TPI’s 2021 International Education Conference and Field Day just outside of Austin, TX from February 22-25, 2021. We have been in contact with the Hyatt Lost Pines, TPI’s host hotel in Lost Pines, Texas, to develop plans for various scenarios around Covid-19. The current travel restrictions, social distancing guidelines, limits on large gatherings, etc. are impacting meetings all over the world and TPI’s is no different.
We’d love to hear from our members on how they feel about attending the TPI 2021 International Education Conference and Field Day next winter. We know a lot can change between now and then, but ask that you please take a moment to fill out the brief 2 question survey below so we can plan accordingly. As always, please feel free to call the TPI office with questions or comments.
Turfgrass Producers International has been working closely with the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on recent legislation regarding Hours of Service (HOS) and Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) since 2017. A new mandate on Electronic Logging Devices and Hours of Service Supporting Documents was published in the federal register in 2015 under Docket No. FMCSA-2010-0167. This mandate established minimum performance standards for ELDs and required their use for documenting hours of service after the full compliance date took effect on December 16th, 2019. While the rule and the date seemed clear, it caused much confusion among truck drivers and law enforcement officials with regard to who could claim agricultural exemptions relieving them of HOS and ELD requirements. This confusion caused many agricultural associations, including TPI, to reach out to the FMCSA directly for clarity.
One Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) published in September of 2018 under Docket No. FMCSA-2018-0248 called for industry comments in four specific areas including the short-haul HOS exemption, adverse driving conditions, the 30-minute rest break provision, and the sleeper berth rule to allow drivers to split their required sleeper berth time. On May 14th, 2020 the FMCSA published a final rule around these changes, and they will take effect 120 days after the date of publication. Complete details on this final rule can be found on FMCSA’s website at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/newsroom/us-department-transportation-modernizes-hours-service-rules-improve-safety-and-increase and in the July/August issue of Turf News magazine.
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TPI members will see a brand new resource hitting their mailboxes soon. The 2020 TPI Weed, Insect, and Disease Control for Turfgrass Producers is a newly finished book that was mailed to TPI members on June 4th. The first edition contains over 110 pages of information on herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides registered for use in turfgrass production in over 30 countries. This book was authored by turfgrass faculty members at four universities and colleges in the United States and Canada and includes information relevant for use in Australia, Canada, the European Union, and the United States. It is FREE to TPI members with additional copies available for purchase for $25 each or 5 for $100.
Information included in this book includes:
- Product selection, rates, application timing, etc.
- Mode of Action resistance management
- U.S. and international use of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and plant growth regulators
- Sprayer calibration and interpreting product labels
- Photos of common insects and diseases in turfgrass production
- And more…
Interested in receiving this FREE book and other TPI member benefits? Click here to learn more! https://www.turfgrasssod.org/join-tpi/TPI-1
(Washington, D.C., May 19, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America’s farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Farmers and ranchers will receive direct support, drawn from two possible funding sources. The first source of funding is $9.5 billion in appropriated funding provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability (CARES) Act to compensate farmers for losses due to price declines that occurred between mid-January 2020, and mid-April 2020 and provides support for specialty crops for product that had been shipped from the farm between the same time period but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channels.
Request for Additional Commodities
Sod is not currently on the list of eligible commodities for relief funds. Producers of commodities not included on the original CFAP list who believe they’ve suffered a five percent-or-greater price decline between January and April 2020, and who face additional marketing costs due to COVID-19, may submit comments to provide information about additional commodities. The USDA will consider additional crops to be eligible for CFAP by collecting information on potentially eligible crops, and TPI has been in direct communication with them.
USDA is particularly interested in the obtaining information with respect to the following specific categories of agricultural commodities:
- Nursery Products
- Aquaculture Products
- Cut Flowers
Read more about this request for information. TPI is working with the USDA on market impacts to sod production. If you have experience or information to share from your area please contact TPI directly at 847-649-5555.
CFAP applications open on May 26th.
Click below to read the full article
The 2020 NFL Field Managers Symposium invited eight sod farms who regularly produce sod for NFL teams in-season to participate in a round-table discussion. It was a two-hour, interactive session, teaming the sod producers with 125 field managers and staffers. Three members of the NFL Team Operations Department also attended.
With input from field managers as well as the sod producers, they covered a broad range of topics, including sod farm certification, on-field events, growing scheduling, harvesting and installation timing, transportation, scheduling and the most important factor, communication. While each of the sod producers has developed their own proprietary product, and those products differ in the grass species and cultivars, and vary in production methods from grown on plastic to grown in the field, they all face similar issues and challenges—and have the same objective—a safe, game-ready field that meets NFL expectations.
Tony Leonard, Director of Grounds for the Philadelphia Eagles says that in-season sodding impacts nearly all the NFL field managers. Leonard says, “Even the synthetic turf field managers have done it at some point if they have hosted international soccer in their stadium. Installing ready-to-play natural grass over synthetic turf has its own set of challenges with keeping newly laid natural grass sod alive indoors.”
There is no margin for error with the NFL field. As Leonard said, “Because of our partnership with the sod grower, we trust them to provide us with a safe field in excellent condition to play an NFL game.”
The eight sod farms and their attending representative were: James Betts for Tuckahoe Turf Farms – New Jersey; Chad Price for Carolina Green Corp. – North Carolina; Jonathan Holland for Precision Turf, LLC – Georgia; Donald Thomas for Quality Sod – Florida; Jimmy Fox for Evergreen Turf – Arizona; Joe Wilkins for Green Valley Turf Co. – Colorado; Greg Dunn for West Coast Turf – California; and Marty Schaafsma for Schaafsma Sod Farm – Illinois.
For more information on this story, check out the current issue of Turf News. To join TPI and receive a free Turf News subscription please visit https://www.turfgrasssod.org/join-tpi/