Thursday, December 1, 2011

SB 604 - Fertilizer Preemption bill to be heard in Senate Ag on Monday

Sen. Charles S. "Charlie"Dean, Sr.'s S 604  Fertilizer Use on Urban Landscapes will be heard in the Senate Agriculture committee Monday, Dec. 5, 2011 at 12:30 p.m.
Please call the committee members and urge them to vote NO on this bill which would exempt lawn workers holding “limited certification” from any restrictions on fertilizer application.  The only urban turf fertilizer restrictions in Florida are those that have been adopted by localities.  This bill preempts them and will leave local governments and taxpayers defenseless against nutrient pollution from lawn applicators who apply fertilizer as part of their daily work every day. 

Fertilizer is a potent source of nitrogen and phosphorous which cause harmful algal blooms that threaten public health, lower property values, and damage the ecosystems necessary for Florida’s water based economic activities such as commercial and recreational fishing, and tourism.

A person-to-person communication is best (visit or phone call).  Be sure to ask the name of the person you speak to.  More talking points are below the contact information for committee members.

If you send an email be sure to include “Please vote NO on SB 604” or similar language in the subject line. Contact information is below for all committee members.  They will be in their district offices today and tomorrow (Friday).  If you call the Capitol office on Monday morning, be

 prepared to leave a brief voice message.  And be sure to mention if you are a constituent or if you live in one of the counties they represent.

Thanks!  Your calls do make a difference!

Senate Agriculture Committee 2012
Sen. JD Alexander                                                         
DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee, Polk, St. Lucie  
District phone: (863) 679-4847                                   
Capitol phone: (850) 487-5044                         

Sen. Larcenia J. Bullard, Vice Chair                       
Broward, Collier, Hendry, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Palm Beach       
District phone: (305) 668-7344                                   
Capitol phone: (850) 487-5127                         

Sen. Paula Dockery                                                       
Hernando, Lake, Osceola, Polk, Sumter                    
District phone: (863) 413-2900                                   
Capitol phone: (850) 487-5040                         

Sen. Rene Garcia                                                           
District phone: (305) 364-3100                                   
Capitol phone: (850) 487-5106                         

Sen. Alan Hays                                                               
Lake, Marion, Seminole, Sumter, Volusia                 
District phone: (352) 742-6441                                   
Capitol phone: (850) 487-5014                          

Sen. Bill Montford                                                        
Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Wakulla      
District phone: (850) 653-2656                                   
Capitol phone: (850) 487-5004                         

Sen. David Simmons                                                     
Orange, Seminole                                                            
District phone: (407) 262-7578                                   
Capitol phone: (850) 487-5050                         

Sen. Gary Siplin, Chairman                                       
Orange, Osceola                                                              
District phone: (407) 297-2071                                   
Capitol phone: (850) 487-5190                         

Ironically, the bill inserts legislative findings saying how important best management practices are for commercial fertilizer application. Then it exempts lawn applicators from precisely those best management practices!   

In fact, the bill exempts holders of “limited certification” from any restrictions BECAUSE THERE ARE NO RESTRICTIONS OTHER THAN LOCAL ONES.  This bill is complete carte blanche for lawn applicators.  There is no state regulation of fertilizer application and the bill preempts local ordinances! 

Additional Talking Points:

The proposed exemption is based on ZERO data or science – there is no proof that the exemption is needed for any reason!  Sarasota County has now lived through 4 full years of rainy season bans without any of the doom and gloom predicted by the commercial applicators.

At least 40 municipalities and 6 counties in Florida have implemented a strict (no exemptions) rainy season ban on nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer application on urban lawns.  Why?  Because there is no debating this truth: When it rains in those communities during the summer, it pours! It doesn’t matter who applies the fertilizer or how much training they’ve had; if it rains soon after application, the fertilizer washes away into local waters – no matter who applied it.

The exemption would also allow commercial applicators to ignore other protective measures found in local ordinances – they would be able to use even more quick release nitrogen fertilizer than is recommended by the Green Industries BMP Manual, apply it closer to at-risk bodies of water, and apply phosphorous fertilizer year round without proving there is a deficiency.

An exemption for commercial applicators would also:

1.      Establish two classes of homeowner: If you can afford a professional then you can ignore your responsibility to the communityIt is a “pay to pollute” arrangement, but the proceeds don’t go to mitigation or elimination of the source of the pollutant; they go to the polluter! 

2.      Give an unfair advantage to the commercial applicators over the distributors and vendors of ordinance compliant do-it-yourself products.

3.      Undercut voluntary compliance and make enforcement of the rainy season ban impossible.  Enforcement is only possible when (1) all applicators (professional and homeowner) are obligated to follow the same rules, and (2) the restricted period is defined by easy to understand parameters. Without an across-the-board rainy season ban the homeowner rainy season ban is unenforceable.

4.      Directly conflict with IFAS County Extension and FDEP recommendations found in the Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Handbook (FYN Handbook) in regards to fertilizer-free zones, rainy season application, yearly total nitrogen application rates, and percentage slow/controlled release nitrogen.

Under SB 604 lawn applicators would be able to ignore these best practices from the FYN Handbook:

·         No Fertilizer application within 10 feet of a waterbody

·         No fertilizer containing N or P  June 1 – September 30 

·         Limit total Nitrogen to 4 lb/1000ft2 per year

·         Use no less than 50% water insoluble, or slow release Nitrogen fertilizer

David Cullen
Sierra Club Florida lobbyist