Veto Florida fertilizer preemption

Please ask the Florida Governor to veto the part of the budget bill that could end up with preemption of local fertilizer bans.

You can use this handy Waterkeepers Florida form to do that:

[Veto fertilizer ban preemption]

Who would benefit by the bill? Phosphate mines.

As everyone knows, fertilizer nitrates leaching through the soil into our springs and rivers is the main cause of the algae blooms that crowd out native vegetation and starve fish and manatees in the Suwannee River Basin. The state’s Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) won’t solve that problem. Counties and cities can pass ordinances to address the problem, but not so easily the relevant part of this bill becomes law.

The relevant part of line item 146 of SB 2500 reads:

From the funds in Specific Appropriation 146, $250,000 in nonrecurring funds shall be used by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) to evaluate the effectiveness of the timing of seasonal fertilizer restrictions on urban landscapes toward achieving nutrient target objectives for waterbodies statewide. IFAS must submit a final report, including results and recommendations, by December 31, 2023, to the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the chair of the House Appropriations Committee.

Here’s what “seasonal fertilizer restrictions” refers to. Mary Ellen Klas, Tampa Bay Times, May 1-2, 2023, Florida Legislature poised to deal serious blow to local water quality efforts: A proposal to restrict fertilizer management ordinances was tucked into a budget proposal at the last minute.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida legislators are poised to block one of the most effective tools local governments say they have to protect water quality in their communities in the face of red tide and blue-green algae outbreaks by banning rainy season restrictions on fertilizer use.

For years during the wet seasons, counties including Pinellas, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Sarasota and Manatee, as well as dozens of cities throughout Florida, have banned the use of fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus on residential or commercial landscapes during the rainy season in an effort to reduce the nutrients that cause harmful algal blooms and red tide.

And here’s why IFAS is already a problem:

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has adopted a model ordinance for fertilizer on Florida landscapes that was developed by UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) with the support of the phosphate industry.

[Harvey Harper III, a University of Central Florida civil engineering professor and president of Orlando-based Environmental Research & Design] calls the model ordinance “just a commonsense approach that really is nothing special.”

“It doesn’t go very far in terms of limiting fertilizer use,” he said Monday. “And the reason that you have seen local government taking more strict action is they are attempting to limit fertilization during the wet season months so that you have less runoff of fertilizer that is not included in the model ordinance.”

He said that IFAS has a stated objective “to produce the ‘greenest, healthiest lawn turf’ that you can get.”

IFAS is also “heavily sponsored by fertilizer industries, and a lot of their recommendations are based on green research that they’ve done for fertilizer companies,” Harper said.

I don’t know of any seasonal fertilizer bans in the Suwannee River Basin. If you do, please let me know.

However, it has been well established by the BMAPs that agricultural fertilizer leaching of nitrates into rivers and springs needs to be reduced more than 80% in the Suwannee River Basin.

This particular proposed preemption is not about that. But it’s best to stop this one before worse follows.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can help with clean, swimmable, fishable, drinkable, water in the 10,000-square-mile Suwannee River Basin in Florida and Georgia by becoming a WWALS member today!