THE ISSUE: New coalition seeks standardized fertilizer ordinances.
OUR OPINION: Set minimum, not maximum statewide standards.
A new coalition describing itself as being made up of scientists and academics, local businesses, green industry professionals and community leaders is seeking to get the state Legislature to set uniform statewide fertilizer regulations.
We have, for years, urged statewide standards on fertilizer use, so it is encouraging that the issue is receiving focus going into this year’s legislative session. But at the same time, we have a wait-and-see attitude on this specific effort, which appears to be driven largely by companies in or affiliated with the turfgrass industry.
The fact that this group seems supported by companies and individuals involved in the turfgrass industry is not necessarily a negative, because responsible turfgrass management programs include responsible fertilizer use.
Certainly, the group’s assertion that conflicting fertilizer ordinances, some of which are not based on science, rings true. After all, some fertilizer ordinances seem more driven by public opinion and politics than by science. We can also understand the challenge of differing regulations to individuals and companies who apply fertilizer in multiple jurisdictions.
At the same time, we are cautious about state preemption of local ordinances, particularly when the state ordinance restricts the ability of local jurisdictions to enact more stringent standards than the state.
In 2011, the Legislature passed a bill that restricts the ability of local governments to regulate firearms. The state Legislature has also preempted local ordinances on tobacco products, employment benefits, banning Styrofoam and use of plastic bags in grocery stores.
So far, 16 preemption bills have been filed in the state Legislature on issues such as occupational licensing, setting standards for regulating vacation rentals and regulation of home-based businesses.
Given this political climate, where the state Legislature sometimes passes legislation that limits the ability of local governments to actually govern on selected issues, we temper our endorsement of state standards on fertilizer use with the caution that these standards should set minimum levels of regulation, not maximum. State fertilizer ordinances should not limit the ability of local governments to set more restrictive ordinances as necessary to deal with local conditions.