In the last session of the Florida legislature, a crafty legislator slipped in a provision, suspending for one year the state’s ban on the use of residential fertilizer during the rainy season. Scientists says this ban is necessary to reduce algae bloom. Who benefits from a one year suspension of fertilizer on home lawns? The fertilizer industry. Who suffers? The lakes, rivers, gulfs, and oceans. Environmentalists are hoping DeSantis will veto the bill.

The Miami Herald reports:

Environmental groups and local governments are battling state legislators over the fate of the fertilizer in Floridians’ lawns. The outcome could sway the health of Florida’s beaches and waterways, which have been plagued by fish kills and algae blooms.

Now, it’s up to Gov. Ron DeSantis to decide the winner. More than 100 local governments in Florida ban homeowners and businesses from fertilizing their lawns during the rainy season, when summer storms tend to wash that fertilizer into canals and out to sea.

Scientists and environmental advocates say the extra nutrients in fertilizer runoff can smother sea grass, fuel algae blooms and wreak havoc on the environment.

Miami-Dade County passed a rainy season fertilizer ban three years ago, after an August 2020 fish kill that left the corpses of more than 27,000 fish and other sea creatures bobbing in Biscayne Bay.

Several South Florida city governments, including Miami Beach, Key Biscayne and Fort Lauderdale, have also imposed fertilizer bans. But at the end of this year’s state legislative session, lawmakers slipped a provision into a budget bill that would block local governments from creating new fertilizer bans or modifying existing bans for one year, starting July 1. Existing bans would remain in place.

Local governments say fertilizer bans are one of the most cost-effective tools they have to limit nutrient runoff pollution and prevent fish kills and algae blooms, which scientists expect to become more common as climate change raises ocean temperatures and makes heavy rain storms more frequent.

“It’s a death by a thousand cuts,” said Lisa Spadafina, who heads Miami-Dade County’s Division of Environmental Resources Management. “You have runoff creating a problem. You have an increase in temperature. You have an increase in storm events. … We’re trying to address all of these things in the pieces that we can.”

A fish kill on Biscayne Bay in August 2020 helped propel new fertilizer restrictions that Miami-Dade County commissioners passed on April 20, 2021. The rules ban most applications of fertilizer during the rainy season in Miami-Dade, between mid-May and October. Farms, nurseries and golf courses are exempt from the rules.

A coalition of 55 environmental groups, businesses and local governments wrote a letter urging DeSantis to use his veto authority to strike that provision from the budget bill, along with $250,000 in funding for a study by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences on the effectiveness of fertilizer bans. “Governor, rainy season urban fertilizer management has been a non-partisan, common sense, science-based approach to protecting Florida’s environment and economy since 2007,” they wrote in a May 11 letter signed by the Friends of the Everglades, Sierra Club Florida and the chair of the Alachua County commission, among others.

“This was passed without public engagement at the 11th hour in a sort of sneak attack,” said Rachel Silverstein, who heads the environmental watchdog Miami Waterkeeper. “Really the only beneficiary of it is [the fertilizer] industry and not the community and not our waterways.” DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request for comment.

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