Category Archives: Government Affairs

FMCSA Publishes New Final Rule on ELD and HOS Mandate

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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USDA Announces Details of Direct Assistance to Farmers

(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

Sod Checkoff Initiative Launches New Website

sod industry checkoff

Members of the U.S sod production industry have asked Turfgrass Producers International (TPI) to investigate the potential industry-wide interest and impacts of a potential sod industry checkoff. Over the next 12-18 months, TPI will host online webinars to seek input from producers and to share information on what a potential checkoff could look like for the sod industry. The first webinar is to be held on Tuesday, May 19th from 11am to 1pm EDT.

This is the first official meeting to discuss the potential of a sod checkoff program and now is the first of many opportunities to provide input and get involved. Any sod industry checkoff would be designed, implemented and governed by sod producers, for sod producers and all U.S. sod producers will have a chance to provide input on establishing an industry-wide checkoff.

Please go to http://sodcheckoff.org to learn more, submit questions, and to sign up for email alerts about upcoming webinars and other important information.

 

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

Small Business Guidance (US SBA)

CARES Act Information

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

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.

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.