Category Archives: Government Affairs

A Day on the Hill with the National Turfgrass Federation

TPI joins National Turfgrass Federation Representatives on Capitol Hill May 14-16, 2016

Turfgrass Producers International and others in the National Turfgrass Federation were on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from May 14-16thto discuss legislative and regulatory issues impacting turfgrass producers in the United States and the natural grass industry as a whole. Representatives from the turfgrass industry included Dr. Brian Schwartz from the University of Georgia, Dr. Mike Kenna from the United States Golf Association, Kevin Morris from the National Turfgrass Federation, Ben Copeland Jr. from SuperSod, Bob Helland from the Golf Course Superintendents Association, Jonathan Moore, TPI’s policy consultant in Washington, D.C., and myself. We visited Senate and Congressional offices representing citizens from Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Wisconsin as well as multiple federal agencies. Primary areas of discussion included transportation, federal research funds, and public-private partnerships to further the natural grass industry.

U.S. Senate and Congressional Meetings

Part of our time in Washington, D.C. was spent visiting with Senate and Congressional representatives to gather support for federal research funds devoted to the natural grass industry. If appropriated, these funds would support research all over the United States from Arizona, Utah and Georgia in the southwest and southeast, to Maryland and Wisconsin in the transition zone and north.  In addition to meeting with Senate and Congressional offices to discuss federal research, we also spent time with administrators from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA-AMS), the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FIFA). Each of these federal agencies has a vested interest in agricultural research, and we continue to work with them to explore opportunities to promote the natural grass industry.

Dr. Brian Schwartz with Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), Chief Sponsor of H.R. 1673

Agricultural Trucking Relief Act, 2019

TPI was also in Washington, D.C. to continue gathering support for H.R. 1673, also called “The Agricultural Trucking Relief Act of 2019”. This bill was introduced to amend the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 with respect to the definition of agricultural commodities. Recent trucking regulations impacting the need for Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) and Hours of Service (HOS) have brought into question the definition of an agricultural commodity. The current definition as stated in the United States Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 395.2 exclude natural grass sod from ag commodity exemptions. This is also true for horticultural crops (Shrubs, Christmas Trees, Cut Flowers, etc.) not typically considered as traditional agriculture. Turfgrass Producers International has been working the U.S. Department of Transportation on this issue since Phase II of the new ELD rules took effect in December of 2017.

MSMA Registration in Sod Production

Lastly, we also met with representatives from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to discuss permanent re-registration of the herbicide MSMA, which is a common trade name for the active ingredient “Monosodium acid methanearsonate”. MSMA is a broad-spectrum organic arsenical herbicide that has been registered for use in the United States since 1964.It is a Group 17 post-emergent herbicide that is labeled for control of many annual and perennial weed species such as crabgrass, dallisgrass, foxtails, johnsongrass, goosegrass, nutsedge, and others. The use of MSMA and other organic arsenicals has been under pending threat of termination by the EPA for 10 years now dating back to 2009. However, even though all uses of MSMA (except cotton) were to be prohibited after December 31, 2013 the EPA agreed to conduct a scientific review related to the mode of action of inorganic arsenic prior to the final cancellation of MSMA. For more information on this topic and a full recap of TPI’s efforts in Washington, D.C., check out the July/August Issue of Turf News

EPA Re-affirms Glyphosate Poses No Risk to Public Health

Article originally published on April 30th, 2019 by press@epa.gov

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has re-affirmed that there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with the label and that it is not a carcinogen. These findings are consistent with the conclusions of scientific reviews conducted by many other federal agencies and countries.

EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler and United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue have weighed by stating publicly that “EPA has found no risks to public health from the current registered uses of glyphosate,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “If we are going to feed 10 billion people by 2050, we are going to need all the tools at our disposal, which includes the use the glyphosate,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “USDA applauds EPA’s proposed registration decision as it is science-based and consistent with the findings of other regulatory authorities that glyphosate does not pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.”

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in U.S. agriculture and has been studied for decades.  For more information on this EPA announcement, please visit the link below:

Agricultural Trucking Relief Act Introduced into Congress

Article written by Rachel LedBetter, Rachel.ledbetter@mail.house.gov

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Austin Scott (R-GA-08), a senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, released the following statement upon reintroducing the bipartisan Agricultural Trucking Relief Act (H.R. 1673). H.R. 1673 would provide clarity for the definition of “agricultural commodity” as it relates to transportation policy and compliance with new Electronic Logging Device (ELD) and the Hours of Service (HOS) rules and regulations.

“Transportation carriers are vital to the movement of goods and services from coast to coast and everywhere in between, and our farmers depend on them to ensure that we are able to feed and clothe not only our country, but the world,” said Rep. Scott. “H.R. 1673 would more clearly define ‘agricultural commodities’ as applied to transportation laws, extending regulatory relief for all farm commodities including aquaculture, floriculture, and horticulture.”

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the main agency responsible for administering agricultural trucking laws, including new ELD and HOS rules and regulations. Currently, the “agriculture commodities” definition does not apply to all agricultural products, making it difficult for those that transport these commodities to comply with regulations.

H.R. 1673 would create a clearer “agricultural commodity” definition for FMCSA to use when implementing and enforcing ELD and HOS. Currently, horticultural products have been recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USAD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and numerous other federal and state agencies as an agricultural commodity. However, horticultural and aquaculture products such as nurseries, sod, turfgrass, and freshwater and saltwater aquatic plants, algae, and other organisms are not currently included in the “agriculture commodity” definition used by the FMCSA. H.R. 1673 would ensure that agricultural, aquacultural, horticultural, and floricultural commodities are clearly defined as “agriculture commodities” for use under the FMCSA.

Joining Rep. Scott as original co-sponsors of the bill include U.S Representatives Neal Dunn (R-FL-02), Al Lawson (D-FL-05), and Kurt Schrader (D-OR-05).

H.R. 1673 is supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation, AmericanHort, and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

TPI addressing new regulations affecting U.S. Sod Haulers

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have rolled out a new mandate on Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) for U.S commercial trucking operators.  Dr. Casey. Reynolds, TPI’s Executive Director has presented this information to turfgrass producers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, New Jersey, Michigan, Texas, and will be traveling to Minnesota in late-March. As with any new federal trucking law, enforcement questions have arisen at the state level which is one of the reasons the DOT is phasing this new rule in on a 3-year implementation timeline. TPI met with FMCSA official in Washington, D.C. last fall to discuss how this new mandate impacts sod haulers. 

This information was presented in the January/February issue of Turf News to keep TPI members up-to-date on the latest information. If you have questions about how this new ELD mandate impacts sod haulers in your state, please contact Dr. Casey Reynolds at creynolds@TurfgrassSod.org and TPI will be happy to work with you on this issue.

A Day on the Hill with the National Turfgrass Federation

Representatives from the National Turfgrass Federation (NTF) made a trip to Washington, D.C. in early May to discuss the impacts and importance of the natural turfgrass industry on the United States economy, environmental health, and urban well-being. The timing of this trip comes during the United States House of Representatives and Senate negotiations for the 2019 United States Farm Bill, which is the primary legislative tool that affects U.S agriculture and food policy. 

The objectives of this visit were to introduce the natural turfgrass industry to policy-makers and express the importance of federal support, both in the form of farm bill language and appropriations, for facing current and future challenges including water use, drought, pests, public perception, etc. Estimates place turfgrass as potentially the 4th largest crop in the United States at over 60 million acres, and unlike many agricultural crops, it is present in every city, county, and district in America. Turfgrass maintenance alone is estimated to be a $60 billion industry nationwide, yet federal funding for turfgrass science and research lags far behind other major agricultural crops. Currently, with less than $750,000 of dedicated annual federal support in USDA-ARS, turfgrass scientists receive approximately 0.00125% of the industry’s economic impact in maintenance alone.

Over the course of the visit, NTF visited with republicans and democrats from Georgia, Utah, Arizona, Kansas, Maryland, and representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture. The message delivered was that university scientists have great success at returning value on each dollar of private or publicly funded grants. However, there are currently few grant opportunities at the federal level large enough to support large-scale projects in turfgrass genomics, developing hardier varieties that tolerate heat, drought, salt, etc., and understanding the ecosystem services of the natural turfgrass industry on a national scale. In order to explore these areas, it’s important for policy-makers to understand that turfgrass science is an integral part of the agricultural industry and should be recognized as such. It overlaps with other sectors of science and is one of the most dynamic crops in agriculture. 

USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue

Dr. Brian Schwartz from the University of Georgia, and home state of the USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, highlighted the value that new varieties bring to turfgrass producers and the industry as whole. Dr. Casey Reynolds of TPI discussed that even though many people think of natural turfgrass as present in urban and suburban communities, the turfgrass producers who harvest this crop are farmers who face many of the same challenges as growers of any other agricultural crop. Federal recognition in the farm bill and support of turfgrass research to produce new varieties that meet the needs of homeowners, landscapers, athletic field managers, and golf course superintendents will not only bring added value to turfgrass producers, but also to end users who have a need for newer, lower input turfgrasses. As Secretary Perdue convincingly stated in response to NTF, “You don’t have to convince me of the value that farmers bring to society.”

USDA Staff Visits

Language in Title VII of the current House of Representatives Farm Bill states the case for the National Turfgrass Research Initiative, and NTF will continue to pursue these efforts. The current farm bill, the Agricultural Act of 2014, is set to expire at the end of 2018. 

On-hand for the National Turfgrass Federation were Kevin Morris of NTEP, Dr. Mike Kenna of the USGA, Dr. Brian Schwartz of the University of Georgia, Dr. Joe DiPaola of Agronomic Intelligence, Mark Johnson of GCSAA, and Dr. Casey Reynolds, Executive Director of TPI. Johnathan Moore, a public affairs consultant, and Robert Helland, Director of Congressional and Federal Affairs for the GCSAA, were also present and were vital to the success of the visit. Special thanks to Kevin Morris of NTEP, for taking a lead role in this endeavor.

TPI attends National Turfgrass Federation Meeting in Washington, D.C

 Approximately 40 attendees participated in a professionally facilitated workshop on September 19th and 20th, 2017 hosted by the National Turfgrass Federation and the U.S. National Arboretum to discuss turfgrass research needs, priorities and funding strategies. Attendees included representatives from golf, parks, seed and sod, lawn and landscape, irrigation, equipment, plant protection/enhancement industries as well as university researchers, non-profits and the federal government.  

The historical context and development of the 2004 National Turfgrass Research Initiative (NTRI) was presented, as well as presentations outlining USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), non-profits (United States Golf Association and other turf organizations) and commercial turf industry research accomplishments. Participants were then divided into six groups, with each group being asked to identify and develop their top 5-6 research needs. From these groups, a total of 28 research needs were compiled and presented to all participants and voted on before being consolidated into 18 broad research topics.

Participants came from across  the United States and represented the following entities: 

  • Government: 38%
  • Non-profits: 29% 
  • Industry: 25%
  • Universities: 8%

There were many research topics identified which included, but were not limited to, social research to identify green industry perceptions and benefits, quantifying turfgrass, best management practices, alternative turfgrass species, genome sequencing, new cultivars, turf phytobiomes, carbon sequestration, turfgrass water use, urban microclimates, minimum levels for sustainable nutrition, and more…

Participants were then updated on potential funding mechanisms, as well as encouraged to discuss implementation strategies. The group decided to utilize the 2004 National Turfgrass Research Initiative as a framework, and update NTRI based on research priorities identified by participants. Several participants volunteered to help with an NTRI update, while others offered to further efforts in developing, funding, and implementing these research priorities.

Casey Reynolds, PhD was there on behalf of TPI and The Lawn Institute to participate as well as offer their resources and support for the National Turfgrass Federation. Special thanks to the all of those who participated by devoting their time, resources, and expertise to move this initiative forward and support the future of the turfgrass industry.