Rep. Jeff Brandes: Striking a balance on fertilizer regulations

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Editor’s note: The following is letter-to-the-editor from Rep. Jeff Brandes. Pinellas County’s fertilizer rules have been met with mixed views, but the county is not the only one with its own regulations. While a uniform, statewide rule to the problem of impaired waterways is a reasonable approach, local control can also play a role in fertilizer regulation.

To address these issues, Florida House Bill 457, with an amendment I offered, is under consideration. The bill earned unanimous, bipartisan support in the House on April 15.

Under current law, every city and county in Florida with impaired waterways is required to either adopt the state’s model fertilizer ordinance or determine its own science-backed local rules. These rules, much like the model ordinance, instruct homeowners when and where fertilizer can be applied to their lawns and gardens. For example, the state model ordinance prohibits residents from applying fertilizer before a heavy rain and requires a 10-foot buffer zone between a fertilized area and any water bodies.

Many local rules follow these recommendations. However, some local regulations began to impede the ability of Florida commerce and distribution of a legal and Florida-licensed product. There were also concerns surrounding the way localities selected additional rules and the science supporting those claims. If one county chooses to ignore science and another chooses to follow it, the waters statewide are not equally protected.

To help solve this commerce-restricting and fact-checking conundrum, HB 457 was introduced to offer a statewide approach. It was met with resistance. Thanks to a recent compromise amendment, this bill now creates a more retail-friendly environment while maintaining local control. Additionally, a grandfather clause allows for the Pinellas County fertilizer rules, and other localities with pre-existing regulations, to remain exactly as they are.

In some cases, critics would argue a statewide solution isn’t the best approach and local control needs to play a role. But we’ve seen that regulatory methods have also wreaked havoc on Florida commerce and created tension between local governments. There must be a common ground, and I believe, with the help of many stakeholders, we’ve reached one.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.