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Fertilizer ordinances cause more harm than good, experts say

These ordinances are a distraction from the real problem

In November, a broad-based coalition of green industry experts sent the City of Naples a letter putting the city on notice for its “unconstitutional and discriminatory” fertilizer ordinance.

The Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF) letter ultimately let the city know that if it does not withdraw its fertilizer ordinance within 30 days, it will file a lawsuit against the city.

It’s been more than 30 days, and we’ve yet to see what might happen between the two. But one thing is apparent: there are problems with a lot of the local fertilizer ordinances being passed by local governments.

EREF and others, along with experts in the state, are starting to speak out about the problem.

“Under a contract with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, we spent eight years studying the environmental impact of landscape fertilizers, and the findings of this research validated the state’s model fertilizer ordinance. Yet, today, there are more than 100 conflicting municipal ordinances on the books,” said Bryan Unruh, a professor at the University of Florida.

Beyond creating a confusing and conflicting environment, some are claiming this jurisdictional patchwork “does more harm than good” when it comes to Florida’s environment, especially at a time when the state is looking for solutions to water quality problems.

“This not only creates a confusing situation, but they ignore science and may have a harmful effect on Florida’s environment,” Unruh said.

Those concerned with local fertilizer ordinances point to the decades of science and history that have established that healthy lawns and landscapes act as some of the most efficient filters on the planet and support the well-being of our environment.

“Grass systems are the best bio filters known to man, which is why proper nutrition during the growing season is critically important,” Unruh said.

This same science and history also seems to invalidate the belief many hold that summer rainy-season fertilizer applications run off into local waters.

“In fact, there is no evidence that the more restrictive ordinances are having any positive impact,” Unruh added.

Experts and concerned parties point to the communities that have summertime rainy-season fertilizer ordinances on the books. Some of these ordinances are more than 10 years old, yet many of those communities have experienced severe red tide and water quality problems over the years.

Aside from the harm to Florida’s environment and water, experts and concerned parties also are concerned that these ordinances are a distraction from the real problem — septic tanks and failed sanitary and stormwater systems, which are considered largely responsible for nutrient loading and algae blooms.

In fact, state agencies charged with environmental protection and the University of Florida’s Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences have spoken against misguided fertilizer ordinances and bans because they do not address these root causes and, while sounding good, actually have the potential to do more harm to our waterways.

Written By

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Orlando Rising and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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