Category Archives: Government Affairs

Federal and State Guidance on Essential Services, Agriculture

Many states are looking to the federal government for clarity on essential services classification and how it impacts farms in their communities.The USDA and other federal partners, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have released guidance to help state and local jurisdictions and the private sector to identify and manage essential services. The CISA’s coronavirus resources page contains many resources on essential services, including food and agriculture. Please consult the CISA website below for further information.

CISA doesn’t dictate how individual states have to classify essential services, but rather they offer guidance only. Additionally, some states have provided more specific guidance on particular segments of agriculture including sod production as well as horticultural industries, landscaping, etc. Given the rapidly evolving status of Coronavirus worldwide these classifications can change daily, so please consult global, national, and local resources when possible for applicable laws in your area.

TPI and Coronavirus: Shared Solutions for Farms

Date: March 23rd, 2020

Subject: Coronavirus Impacts and Resources

Dear fellow sod producers and industry professionals,

The current coronavirus pandemic has impacted our daily lives in ways that just weeks or even days ago may have seemed incomprehensible. I am sure that the health and well-being of your families, employees, and farms are at the top of your mind. As we navigate our way through this uncharted territory the TPI Board of Trustees and Staff are diligently working to provide as much support and resources as we can to turfgrass seed and sod producers worldwide.

Facebook Group for “TPI and Coronavirus: Shared Solutions”

Log onto Facebook to see solutions like those included below and to share your own successes. https://www.facebook.com/groups/2260051950968694/about/

  • Provide customers more options for remote sales and pickups that reduce physical interaction
  • Reduce shared items (trucks, phones, computers, etc.) among employees and/or dedicate specific items to each employee where possible
  • Reduce or eliminate shared items such as time clocks or paper logs that multiple employees may have to touch daily
  • Provide EPA approved disinfectant/sanitizer in as many areas as possible
  • Locks sales offices and post signs to let customers know you are still open and taking orders
  • Post English and Spanish COVID-19 posters in the workplace (see Helpful Resources below)
  • Provide reporting procedures for employees to comfortably report health, known or anonymous
  • Check out the Facebook Group page “TPI and Coronavirus: Shared Solutions” for more tips

Helpful Resources

Covid-19: How to Protect Yourself

Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

EPA List of Approved COVID-19 Disinfectants

Printable Posters and Brochures for the Workplace, English and Spanish

American Farm Bureau: Impacts of COVID-19 on Agriculture

USDA Coronavirus Resources

US Department of Labor Coronavirus Resources

Call to Action

TPI is working hard to make sure that our voice is heard by elected officials and policymakers during these difficult times. Please contact your secretary of agriculture, elected officials, Farm Bureau, and others to let them know that your farms are part of the agricultural community and need to be included in important farm exemptions. Please reach out to TPI’s board of trustees and staff if we can help.

Sincerely,

Hank Kerfoot

TPI 2020 President

Write your US Senator to Fix Ag Commodity Trucking Laws

Congressional representatives recently penned a letter to Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), both of whom serve on the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies. This letter was signed by 33 U.S. Congressmen and women who called on them to end the ambiguity in U.S. trucking regulations resulting from the recent mandate on Electronic Logging Devices. This letter specifically lists turfgrass and asks for its continued recognition as an agricultural commodity by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Now, a similar letter is being written to Representative Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) in the U.S. Senate. This letter is currently supported by Rep. David Perdue (R-GA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and now is your chance to provide your support. Please use the link below to notify your Senators to support this common sense legislation and end the current ambiguity around agricultural commodities with regard to federal trucking laws.

Thanks to AmericanHort for providing this online link. Click below to provide your comments.

New Trucking Bill introduced into the U.S. Congress

A new bill to tackle U.S. trucking regulations was introduced in the United States House of Representatives on January 10th, 2020. The bill, titled the “Freedom from Regulating Edible Supplies and Horticulture (FRESH) trucking act is sponsored by Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL). This bill is similar to H.R. 1673 and S. 2025, which have already been introduced in the House and Senate. One notable difference in this bill for sod producers though is that it explicitly includes the term “sod” in the its language in regard to perishable agricultural commodities. The full language of the proposed bill can be found below as well as a link too Rep. Steube’s web page. TPI will continue to work on this issue impacting sod haulers to make sure that our members are included in future hours of service regulations and amendments, so be sure to watch our website and Industry Harvest e-newsletters for more information. As always, please reach out to us if you have questions or are able to help with any of these bills in your area.

 

Modification of Hours of Service Regulations

Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall amend part 395 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, to establish that, with respect to a motor carrier or driver transporting any agricultural, horticultural, or floricultural commodity (including both fresh and processed products, as well as sod and other agricultural products sensitive to temperature and climate and at the risk of perishing in transit)—

U.S. Congress Funds $3M in Turfgrass Research

With the December 20, 2019 signing of the FY20 Federal Appropriations bill by President Trump, turfgrass research conducted by the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) received a significant increase.  The $3,000,000 in new funding boosted federal turfgrass research from $1,000,000 annually.

The new funding is allocated for research in turfgrass genomics, water efficient grasses and systems, and ecosystem services.  Genomics is the study, understanding and mapping of the genomes of major turfgrass species, of which very little research on these grasses has been conducted.  Understanding and mapping of genomes can lead to improved genetics, and subsequently better disease, heat, cold and drought tolerant grasses.

Research on water efficiency is critical to understanding the physiology of plants and how they respond to drought, reduced irrigation and low-quality irrigation water.  Ecosystem services refers to the contributions of turfgrass systems to the environment, society and the economy.  In other words, how does turfgrass provide benefits to the soil, water, air, human health and safety, and the economy, as well as how can those benefits be maximized.

The National Turfgrass Federation, Inc. (NTF) led the effort to obtain the funding, with significant assistance from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA), Turfgrass Producers International (TPI) and other allied associations.  The 2019 National Golf Day, organized by We Are Golf (www.wearegolf.org), significantly aided the effort as the funding request was a top priority for the 150+ participants on that day.  The new funding is an excellent first step in addressing priorities of the National Turfgrass Research Initiative (NTRI), as outlined in the 2018 Farm Bill.

The National Turfgrass Federation, Inc. (NTF) is a 501(c)6 non-profit with the mission of promoting the need for turfgrass research and its associated value to society through implementation of the National Turfgrass Research Initiative (NTRI) and its priorities.  NTRI is an industry-sponsored initiative to gain federal funding for turfgrass research, helping to solve the larger issues in the turfgrass industry.

For more information contact: Kevin Morris, National Turfgrass Federation kmorris@turfresearch.org.

The Growing Waste Problem of Synthetic Turf Fields

plastic turf

What happens to a synthetic turf athletic field when it’s time for replacement? You can find them sitting on vacant plots of land across the country, according to an investigation by the York Daily Record and York Sunday News publications.

“Used artificial turf is expected to produce 1 million to 4 million tons of waste in the next 10 years, and it has nowhere to go, according to solid waste industry analysts,” the journalists report.

The article discusses the difficulties of recycling or disposing of synthetic turf. The only recycling facility in the world that can fully separate the parts is in Denmark, and bringing turf to landfills is an expensive and heavy lift (literally). Due to a lack of regulation and government oversight, old turf ends up in empty lots, backyards, public spaces and private land. The crumb rubber and chemicals in turf also present potential safety and health concerns for the surrounding environment.

Kyla Bennett, science and policy director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, says the best solution is to use natural grass.

This problem highlights a consequence of using a synthetic, disposable groundcover for our athletic fields. Unlike synthetic turf, natural grass is a sustainable plant with an endless lifespan.

For more information, click Read More for the full article from the York Daily Record

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.