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Florida Fertilizer Ban Upheld

Efforts by the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) and local contractors to have municipal fertilizer restrictions removed have failed after a state senate committee voted 4-3 to maintain current laws regarding fertilizer application.

Fertilizer restrictions have been adopted in 64 Florida local governments to keep nutrients from washing into local waterways during the rainy season. The Senate bill would have allowed landscapers certified through fertilizer application training to ignore these local bans.

Jim Spratt, the FNGLA Director of Government Affairs, told LC/DBM the association's contention is that when debating this issue, everything needs to be based on science.

"We have seen some local municipalities implementing fertilizer blackout periods during the rainy season, which is in the summer, when plants most need fertilizer," he said.

According to the Naples News, during debate on the bill, the bill's sponsor, Committee Chairman Charlie Dean, summoned Terril Nell, a horticulturist at the University of Florida, before the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.

Jim Spratt -- Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association Director of Government Affairs -- Spoke to LC/DBM about legislation that was defeated in Florida that would have allowed for fertilizer use by landscape contractors during "black out periods" in the state.

"The science is very clear," said Nell. "Healthy turf grass reduces runoff and leaching because healthy turf grass slows down water flow, the roots are healthy, the roots absorb more nutrients. It's plain and simple."

Spratt said he understands the intention of the laws prohibiting fertilizer use but added the rules are hurting landscape contractors.

"Trained professionals should be treated differently than homeowners," he said.

During debate on the bill, the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee faced strong opposition from local governments proud of their ordinances and concerned about a decline in tourism because of poor water quality.

Spratt said much of the debate focused on the black out periods rather than the science behind fertilizer use.

"This was disappointing because it became a roadblock in the legislature," he said.

Spratt said the FNGLA is not giving up on this issue, noting that the association will keep working to get relief for landscape contractors.

"We learned that simply relying on the science is not enough to allay public thoughts on this issue," he said. "We need to come up with a 'not too technical' approach to the argument."

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December 7, 2019, 3:49 am PDT

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