Senate ag bill amended to remove fertilizer prohibition

A Senate agriculture bill was amended Monday to remove a prohibition against local governments adopting stricter fertilizer amendments than an adopted state standard. SB 382 would have established criteria for local governments to meet if they wanted stricter ordinances than the state “model” fertilizer ordinance adopted by the Legislature in 2009.

A late-filed amendment (140990) by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, R-Hollywood, that removed the requirement passed the Senate Health Regulation Committee by a 4-3 vote. Sobel said the bill had required local waterways to be impaired by fertilizer pollution before local governments could act.

Representatives of Sierra Club Florida and the National Parks Conservation Association and Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton said preventing waterways from becoming polluted is cheaper than cleaning them up afterwards. Sierra Club representative Cris Costello said fertilizer contributes to algal blooms and harmful red tide in the Gulf of Mexico. Another Sierra Club representative said the bill would rescind fertilizer ordinances adopted by 42 local governments.

But the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, told the committee that the opponents hadn’t come to him with their concerns and he called the amendment “unfriendly.” After the meeting, Dean said that he didn’t believe there is a connection between algal blooms and fertilizer use. And Dean said he didn’t know whether he would try to get the prohibition amended onto another bill.

“I think they are trying to insert a water quality issue onto an ag bill to circumvent certain things they don’t like,” Dean said of the amendment supporters. The next stop for SB 382 is the Senate General Government Appropriations Committee.

The House version of the bill, HB 1445, includes the prohibition on local fertilizer ordinances.

(Story content provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)