Category Archives: Government Affairs

USDA Adds Grass Seed to CFAP2 Relief Program and Sets Oct 12 Deadline

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is updating the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) for contract producers of eligible livestock and poultry and producers of specialty crops and other sales-based commodities. CFAP 2, which assists producers who faced market disruptions in 2020 due to COVID-19, is part of USDA’s broader Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative. Additionally, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has set an Oct. 12 deadline for all eligible producers to apply for or modify applications for CFAP 2.

TPI Seeking Member Updates to New Edition of Sod As Agriculture Document

Turfgrass sod producers, here is your chance to help protect important local, national, and international agricultural exemptions for sod. TPI is currently updating the current edition of the book “Sod As Agriculture”. This resource includes state and federal regulations which document sod’s status as agriculture. It is often important to sod farms locally when various agencies or jurisdictions question whether or not sod should receive often important agricultural exemptions. If you are aware of any local, state, or national codes and regulations that grant our industry any particular exemptions please pass them along, and we will include them in the newest edition of Sod As Agriculture. This TPI member-only resource will be printed and mailed to members in early 2022.

Please call or email Dr. Casey Reynolds at 847-737-1846 or CReynolds@TurfgrassSod.org with any exemptions you wish to be included in this new member benefit.

H-2B Returning Worker Exception Act

Reps. Cuellar (S-TX), Joyce (R-OH) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers just introduced the “H-2B Returning Worker Exception Act,” which would create a permanent H-2B returning worker cap exemption and include some program efficiency and integrity measures. AmericanHort and the H-2B Workforce Coalition have been working with the bill sponsors to create a common sense permanent solution to the H-2B cap issue.

Click Read More below to learn more.

Turfgrass Producers Hours of Service Glove Box Doc

Hours of Exemption Glove Box Doc

 

In case you’ve missed the positive news – TPI has worked with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to define sod as an agricultural commodity. This ruling makes the claim for exemptions relative to Hours of Service and Electric Logging Devices much easier. This ruling was announced in November and you can read more about the outcome here. TPI will always do our best in putting membership dollars to work on important policies and regulations impacting our industry.

 

Exclusive Turfgrass Producers International Benefit
As a result of this ruling, TPI is proud to introduce our latest member-exclusive benefit – the TPI Hours of Exemption Glove Box Doc. We are happy to set your drivers up for a successful route. If they are pulled over, this document is the information they need to prove sod is included in this latest legislation.

Glove Box Doc

Every TPI member farm received a copy of this new benefit in May along with a letter from Executive Director, Dr. Casey Reynolds. Since the delivery, feedback has been astounding. Our members are thrilled with this latest benefit. While we only sent two copies to each member farm, TPI members can request additional copies from our office.

Sod farmers would be left out of these important programs without TPI advocacy and efforts in regulatory affairs. Please join or renew today to continue to protect important agricultural exemptions!

 

TPI Member Benefits
In addition to the latest membership benefit, TPI offers year-round value to the industry and your business. We provide the latest research and technology findings in our bi-monthly, award-winning, Turf News. We host unparalleled events for the sod production industry for prime networking. We publish the annual Weed, Insect, and Disease Control Guide. These are just a few of the benefits of being a TPI member. Join today or renew today for access to these exclusive benefits.

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.