On Dec. 20, President Trump signed the “Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018” (commonly known as the Farm Bill) into law. The Farm Bill establishes policy for the next five years for the nation’s agriculture commodity and nutrition programs. It also contains provisions impacting golf course management. GCSAA’s government affairs staff has been tracking these provisions as the Farm Bill has progressed through the House of Representatives and the Senate. With the President’s signature, the bill has become law and will impact golf.
Funding included for the "National Turfgrass Research Initiative:
Title 7 of the Farm Bill includes language that would benefit the golf industry by advancing turfgrass research. It authorizes funding to enhance "research related to turfgrass and sod issues" identify new turfgrass varieties to "reduce water, fertilizer and pesticide use" and produce turfgrasses that "aid in mitigating soil erosion" and "protect against pollutant runoff into waterways". This would fund turfgrass research projects across the country and supplement the best management practices that superintendents use every day, which have reduced water usage by 21 percent and nitrogen use by 33.6 percent. GCSAA will continue to work with Congress and the administration as the Research Initiative is implemented, including making sure adequate funding is provided in subsequent appropriations legislation.
FIFRA Interagency Working Group
Title 10 of the Farm Bill contains language that would improve the interagency consultation process for the pesticide registration and review that is required under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Too often, this process has been delayed as federal bureaucrats have been unable to agree on what actions are needed when a pesticide potentially impacts a threatened or endangered species. This language helps codify an interagency agreement between the USDA, Department of the Interior, Council on Environmental Quality, and the EPA that requires a strategy to address this bottleneck. It defines a legal and regulatory framework relating to the pesticide consultation process that considers the ESA, as well as the pesticide permitting process under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). It also creates congressional oversight and agency accountability over the process by requiring multiple reports to the Senate and House Agriculture Committees. The goal is to improve the ESA consultation process for pesticide registration while continuing to ensure that pesticides registered under FIFRA cause “no unreasonable adverse effect” to humans or the environment.
Study on Methyl Bromide Use
Title 10 also includes language authorizing a study on methyl bromide use in response to an emergency event. The study would consider whether methyl bromide could be used in situations where no "technically feasible alternatives" exist and "the lack of availability of methyl bromide for a particular use would result in significant economic loss". GCSAA has advocated for greater access to methyl bromide stock for golf course management's needs. Hopefully, this study will help these efforts.
Not all language benefitting golf was included in the version of the Farm Bill that was sent to the President. Congress dropped earlier language that removed the duplicative NPDES Pesticide Permit requirement for chemical spraying on, over or near waters. It also dropped language that clarified that authority for the regulation of pesticides within most states and territories rests with the state departments of agriculture (i.e. state preemption). It also drops language that would have repealed the 2015 Clean Water Rule (WOTUS). A revised version of this rule has recently been proposed by the Trump Administration, and repeal efforts by the administration continue as well. The bill also fails to include the reauthorization of the Pesticide Registration and Improvement Act (PRIA), which is vital to the prompt and thorough review of pesticides used in golf course management.
GCSAA will continue to advocate on all these issues throughout the 116th Congress and beyond.