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Daily News Archive
From May 30, 2006                                                                                                        

Sarasota considers regulation of fertilizers, Could impact weed and feed products
(Beyond Pesticides, May 30, 2006) Sarasota Florida may be the next county in the nation to restrict homeowner fertilizer use, and in defacto reduce pesticide usage. The County Commissioners made it clear Wednesday that county residents should prepare for new restrictions governing fertilizer use due to concerns of another red tide outbreak and major fish kills in the Gulf.

Fertilizer runoff from the lush, green lawns of the massive new developments sprouting up along Interstate 75 overloads the waterways with nitrogen and phosphate, which promote the growth of harmful algae blooms and other non-beneficial plants, reported the Sarasota Herald.

Commissioners voted unanimously to set an example and require the county maintenance department and contractors to use "fertilizers with maximum slow-release characteristics." County staff also was ordered to draft an ordinance to prohibit applying quick-release fertilizer on lawns and landscapes of private property owners during the rainy season. Environmental groups who were at the meeting explained that many of the quick releasing fertilizers are contained in the typical “weed and feed” products that also contain pesticides.

The Commissioners are considering at least two options that they expect will be debated over the next year. One would prevent residents from using "quick-release" fertilizers in the rainy summer season. Those fertilizers tend to help plants grow fast but are also known for burning turf if used improperly. The other law would create a setback where fertilizer couldn't be used too close to a waterway. The commissioners didn't settle on a specific size for the setback.

Whatever regulations Sarasota County adopts to reduce nutrient-loaded runoff significantly, the county experts told the commissioners that the municipalities, school board and neighboring counties will have to have similar legislation.

Cynthia Heil, senior research scientist with Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, spoke on the role excessive nutrients in the Gulf of Mexico plays in red tide blooms.
Heil said because red tide develops eight to 40 miles away from the shore, the nitrogen and phosphates in the Gulf from fertilizer runoff do not cause red tide."But for the maintenance stage of red tide," she said, "land-derived nutrients are a contributor." There is scientific evidence that nutrient-loaded runoff degrades the quality of Florida waterways, she said. (Sarasota Herald)

As fertilizer restriction laws spread across the country, industry lobby groups such as Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE) will be out in full force meeting to block any such action. RISE, an affiliate of CropLife America, a trade association representing the manufacturers of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals, is on a massive lobby to defend the continued use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. In January 2005, Allen James, President of RISE, made the following statement in RISE's 2005 Outlook, "We are watching the entire United States, but particularly the border states of New York, Connecticut, Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Washington for any activity relative to banning pesticides, especially for outdoor lawn care and parks.…”.

“These fertilizer bans are an opportunity to educate the public on the human, wildlife and environmental impacts of using weed and feed products on landscapes and to promote organic land care techniques” says Eileen Gunn, Project Director for the National Coalition for Pesticide-Free Lawns.”