A set of controversial bills that would have banned local municipalities from enacting stricter rules on fertilizer use than those enacted by the state didn’t pass during the recent legislative session. But another, less restrictive fertilizer measure did.

A provision in House Bill 7215 would make certain that the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has the power to “enforce the state laws and rules relating to … regulation of fertilizer, including its sale, composition, packaging, labeling, wholesale and retail distribution, and formulation, including nutrient content level and release rates.” The amendment was introduced by state Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, who supported the stand-alone fertilizer bills in committee.

The provision stipulates that sales bans cannot be included in future local ordinances and that the state would have control over content and sales regulations. Local municipalities can still exercise the same controls they’ve always had over use regulations, and any current ordinances that are tougher than those of the state — like Pinellas County’s sales ban — would remain exactly the same.

Because Florida waterways are suffering the effects of nutrient runoff (large-scale algal blooms and fish kills), a growing number of city and county governments want to restrict the use of phosphorous-laden fertilizer. Senate Bill 606 and House Bill 457 both aimed to end local restrictions on phosphorous-heavy fertilizer. Many argued that the bills were a way to promote the sale of out-of-state fertilizers, which are cheaply made and therefore full of nutrients.

According to the Space Coast Progressive Alliance, out-of-state fertilizer chose to lobby state legislators rather than to make a product beneficial for Florida lawns:

They even created a Political Action Committee with Florida Fertilizer in their name but their contributors come from 13 states and Canada and include Florida Companies with only P.O. boxes, that are just fronts for the out-of-state companies. These out-of-state fertilizers poison our waters with Phosphorus which trigger toxic algal blooms, red tides, fish kills and manatee and dolphin dieoffs.

According to the Florida Retail Federation, the provision in the recently passed H.B. 7215 will mean that “a patchwork of sales regulations that exist in Florida are brought into a consistent standard while still allowing for local control.”

“With the exclusion of sales prohibitions in future local fertilizer rules, retailers can make the best use of their well-organized distribution channels and businesses will be better positioned to successfully comply with regulatory fertilizer laws on a statewide level,” said Sally West, president of the Florida Retail Federation, in a press release. “This legislation will have a positive effect on many businesses and retailers that serve as the driving force of Florida’s economy. We are hopeful HB 7215 will have the support of Gov. Scott and his business-friendly agenda.”

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