With this blog, EREF Week is almost over. Thank you for continuing to follow our activities and for your encouragement and financial support. We can’t do anything without our friends and industry partners – that’s YOU!
We encourage you to be vigilant about any legislation or local actions which would adversely impact the industry and to let us know about it at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our greatest successes happen when local players get involved by letting their elected officials know how they feel and provide them the evidence they need to understand what we do. So be involved, be engaged and be passionate about this great industry.
For its part, EREF’s goal is to continue to support the green industry and its hardworking people, and to tell the great story about the beautiful and sustainable greenspaces that make Florida the fantastic place it is to work and play.
Have a great weekend!
It is an ongoing concern for our industry that there are increasing calls to eliminate the use of certain products on lawns and landscapes within certain jurisdictions. The most common ones to date related to the call to restrict fertilizers and more recently the use of glyphosate for weed control.
In several locales, local governments have called for restricting glyphosate on the basis that it is alleged as harmful to people (an alleged carcinogen) and to the environment. In all such instances EREF is aware of, the human-health claims point to a study coming out of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the UN’s World Health Organization which declared glyphosate “a probable carcinogen”. Since those initial claims, IARC’s study has been widely debunked and criticized across the board as flawed, even to the extent of IARC researchers ignoring and suppressing data pointing to the safety of glyphosate. Further, the US Environmental Protection Agency, has consistently through several administrations and currently certified glyphosate as “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans” and “found no other meaningful risks to human health when the product is used according to the pesticide label”.
Despite the clear and convincing evidence, activist organizations persist in promoting the false narratives about glyphosate and other chemicals as a means or promoting their own agendas. EREF rejects these misleading tactics of scaring the public when the evidence is clear.
We certainly encourage you to be alert for any such activity about such restrictions in your locale and inform us at email@example.com.
Please follow EREF on Twitter @EREFlorida, on Facebook @EREFlorida, and please support your industry by making a donation on our website at www.EREFlorida.com/support.
Throughout Florida, water managers, local governments and industry leaders are talking about water supply. With the ongoing growth of Florida’s population and the expansion of its urban footprint, water is needed for drinking, industry and irrigation, all without impairing Florida’s critical natural resources, wetlands, springs, rivers and estuaries.
The big question is: Will there be enough water for all these needs? The answer depends on who you are talking to, but there is considerable concern about future water supplies and what can be done now, and in the future, to ensure critical needs are met.
Without delving too far into the weeds, water supplies are being extensively studied, usually on a regional basis, over long future periods up to 50 years. These studies simultaneously look at existing and potential future water supplies and compare them to estimated future uses. It is inevitable that a spotlight falls on landscape irrigation uses, the latter often being referred to as nonessential.
With that said, no one seriously argues that irrigation is more important than ensuring an ample supply of safe drinking water. However, what is arguable are efforts to prematurely legislate restrictions on irrigation before exploring the remarkable benefits of existing best management practices (BMPs) which are by no means fully deployed, and of future BMPs which will improve water conservation and irrigation efficiency. At EREF, we believe you can have your cake and irrigate it too (or something like that).
For many of us in the industry, it is frustrating to see landscape ordinances to limit turf and plants on home sites, to restrict certain types of turf and plants from being used at all, to promote “turf replacement” programs, and other similarly-targeted programs when so many great alternatives exist. Here are just a few for consideration:
- Expansion of conservation technologies like soil-moisture sensors and smart irrigation controllers across the urban spectrum
- Incorporation of smart irrigation design directly into the Florida Building Code – it is almost incomprehensible that it currently is not!
- Systematic replacement of clock and calendar water management with water budgets, thus allowing homeowners and other water consumers to employ a reasonable amount of irrigation water as they see fit (versus some local government or water authority’s notion of what that might be).
- Utilization of soil-quality measures to promote healthy landscapes, including the use of modern soil amendments and additives which dramatically improve water conservation and plant health.
- Incentives for the above items, consistent with the effective incentives offered historically for water-conserving and power-conserving appliances, etc.
- Promoting the principles of Florida Friendly Landscaping properly through extension, education and industry outreach.
Until all of these are fully explored, regulations and restrictions are simply unnecessary. Beyond that, industry is constantly expanding its efforts and developing new turf and plant varieties, increasing the use of suitable native plant materials, and developing ever more practices that taken together make smart irrigation a sustainable part of Florida’s long-term water future.
The origins of EREF date back to some of the very first summertime fertilizer blackouts in Florida. As you know, many local governments believe that eliminating ALL fertilizer applications during the summer will result in improved water quality, particularly if they have impaired or polluted water bodies. However well-meaning these ordinances may be, they do not square with the evidence and are likely more harmful that beneficial.
EREF’s approach to fighting these ordinances has evolved and can be summarized in the following bullets:
- EREF supports the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (FDEP) updated Model Fertilizer Ordinance, as well as the findings in its comprehensive fertilizer study which can be found at this link. https://wfrec.ifas.ufl.edu/turfgrass-science/nutrient-management-research/fdep-funded-study/
- The fertilizer blackout ordinances are not supported by FDEP, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), any of the State’s water management districts, nor any academic/research institutions.
- While exemptions to the summertime blackouts exist in many of the ordinances for certain industry stakeholders, it is false comfort – the blackouts erode public confidence in industry best practices across the board.
- There is ZERO peer-reviewed evidence of adverse impacts resulting from properly-applied urban fertilizer, and considerable peer-reviewed evidence supporting its safe and sustainable application by professionals and BMP-trained homeowners.
- There is ZERO evidence of benefit to any of the jurisdiction who HAVE adopted blackouts. In most cases, other causalities have been clearly identified including septic discharges and others unrelated to urban fertilizer.
In an effort to minimize the adverse impacts of the blackouts and to support the universal goal of protecting water quality in Florida, EREF has taken the following position in recent public hearings:
- EREF believes blackout ordinances can serve two beneficial purposes – to educate the public about the proper application of fertilizer, and to reduce the potential impacts associated with those who do not follow best practices, specifically those who fertilize driveways and sidewalks, and who blow grass clippings into storm drains.
- Exemptions for BMP trained professionals are earned, appropriate and should be immediately extended to licensed lawn-care professionals in many jurisdictions where only golf, sports turf and farming are currently exempted.
- Regardless of exemptions, blackout periods should coincide with dormant/cooler months and not be imposed during the active growing season for plants and turf. Legislating that fertilizer can only be applied outside of the growing season serves to dramatically increase the likelihood of adverse consequences resulting from reduced take up by plant materials in or near dormancy.
This simple approach is an important first step in conforming public policy on managed greenspaces to the clear and convincing evidence. Amending existing ordinances to extend exemptions to licensed lawn-care professionals is a key EREF strategy, along with resisting any expansion of summertime blackouts elsewhere in the state.
EREF’s efforts extend beyond these issues as well. Please follow EREF on Twitter @EREFlorida, on Facebook @EREFlorida, and please support your industry by making a donation on our website at www.EREFlorida.com/support.
EREF has been waging a campaign to protect the turfgrass and green industry from unfair and punitive legislation and regulation for many years. For the last few months leading up to this EREF Week, we have been enhancing EREF’s outreach program to fertilizer manufacturers, distributors, and others. For starters, we are continuing our voluntary Recurring Support Program in which end users can elect to sign up with participating distributors to add a small voluntary contribution to their purchase of fertilizer products. The change is that we are now reaching out for direct financial support as well. Our typical annual budget of about $50,000 is simply not sufficient to do the work needed to adequately advocate for green industry water and nutrient policy and other regulatory issues. The financial response from distributors and producers to date has been very encouraging!
As another critical part of our outreach effort, we have a specific goal for individual stakeholders – LIKE YOU. Our belief is that we needed a simple way for you to help us with this fundraising effort, which we now have.
With this in mind, we are asking you to go to www.EREFlorida.com/support right now and make a donation to EREF using your credit card. EASY!
THANK YOU IN ADVANCE for your support. The talking points below convey the heart of what we are doing on your behalf.
EREF 2018 Support Effort Talking Points
- EREF is advocating on behalf of ALL the green industry stakeholders: turf production/installation, lawn-care, golf, sports turf, landscape and associated industries.
- Much has been accomplished with its small historical annual budget in terms of both ordinance activity and building EREF’s knowledge base and reputation.
- EREF faces ENORMOUS and WELL-FUNDED resistance from local, regional AND national activist organizations, hostile taxpayer-funded local government staffs, and armies of energized volunteers.
- EREF’s existing budget is not enough to combat the millions of dollars in budgets and the vast resources arrayed firmly against our industry. EREF needs additional funding for research, web and social media, collateral material and staff support. The proposed annual budget is still a very modest $116,250.
- Ordinance exemptions for turf production, golf and sports are FALSE COMFORT. The activists and others referred to above are determined to push ALL managed landscapes off the face of Florida.
- Whether it is fertilizer ordinances, water restrictions or turf-variety and/or turf-footprint limitations, these efforts are a direct and relentless assault on your products, your management and stewardship, your market share and your future.
- EREF stands firmly with YOU, its industry partners, to achieve fair and evidence-based policy outcomes for all green industry stakeholders.
Thank you again for all you do for Florida and for your industry!
Mac Carraway, Consulting Executive Director
ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH & EDUCATION FOUNDATION
3500 South Florida Avenue, Suite 7
Lakeland, Florida 33803
Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to attend two different meetings of representatives of the Florida Golf Course Superintendents Association (FGCSA).
The first meeting was with the Board of Directors of FGCSA at their winter board meeting in Amelia Island on September 30th. That visit resulted from a discussion I had with the FGCSA’s Executive Committee about the funding prospects for EREF. Over the last year or so, the EREF board has been looking at various options on how to improve stakeholder involvement and financial support for EREF. We discussed those options with each of our major stakeholders, including the FGCSA, and garnered a lot of good information from them about the workings of their organization and their industry, as well as about the funding options under consideration. As part of that discussion, I was able to provide an update that framed EREF historically, and in terms of what it expects of its future. This was a great example of how even long-time allies can benefit from ongoing communications and personal interaction. The Board was an impressive group and I was very grateful for their warm and professional treatment.
On October 24th, I was invited by Dan Elchert of the FGCSA’s Palm Beach Chapter to go to Jupiter and give a water-policy and advocacy presentation to their joint meeting with the Treasure Coast Chapter. The bad news was that I had to follow a fantastic presentation by Greg Pheneger of Johns Island Club and the FGCSA ‘s Government Affairs director. I got to know Greg through years together at the Florida Turfgrass Association and he is a veteran of numerous efforts to improve relationships and policy outcomes with local governments around the state as they pertain to golf and the larger green industry. His practical and disciplined approach toward involvement and advocacy is THE blueprint for the industry. As much of this stuff as I also do, I learned new and nuanced approaches from Greg’s talk.
During the joint meeting, I provided an overview of the increasingly active efforts of local governments in bringing restrictive “blackout” fertilizer ordinances back to the table (Citrus and Seminole Counties currently) and what EREF and others were doing to address those efforts. In addition, I reminded the group that there are many entry points for unfriendly policy – on water use (permitting and pumpage limitations), on landscape design (restrictive plant lists, limited turf footprints, turf variety limitations), on chemical use (glyphosate restrictions), as well as on nutrient management. For example, how would a Paspalum-only mandate grab you? The conclusion that both Greg and I shared in our presentations is that we have a great story to tell, that many outside of our industries are unaware of the great work we do on environmental and natural resource protection, and that we are going to have to be increasingly active in getting that message out.
Going back to the benefits of ongoing communications, I took some questions after the Palm Beach / Treasure Coast meeting and was advised that EREF’s conditional willingness to support a winter fertilizer ban as being more consistent with recent research was NOT a general position that the FGCSA could agree with. I had to confess that EREF was not making it clear that this was a position relative only to residential turf management coming out of the FDEP / UF-IFAS studies on St. Augustine and Zoysia nutrient leaching, and that it must be accompanied by a professional lawn care exemption. It was healthy for me to be reminded that winter is prime time for our golf allies and that winter nutrient management is critical, is highly managed and protective of the environment, and is their particular specialty. Suffice it to say that EREF’s communications will make this important distinction more clearly going forward. My special thanks to Christy Lyle and Steve Wright for getting me lined up on this!
I will say again that it was great to have these opportunities to spend time with our golf allies and I hope to get some more of them.
Many municipalities in Florida have adopted restrictive fertilizer ordinances that are unsubstantiated by science. It is encouraging that some municipalities are now adopting ordinances that restrict use of fertilizers during winter months rather than during active growth seasons. Both UF/IFAS Extension and Florida’s water management districts offer education regarding ordinances applicable in their service regions in which the ultimate goal is to provide non-biased science based education that supports optimal landscape performance with minimal inputs. There are many facets of a fertilizer education campaign. Campaigns that focus primarily on skipping fertilizer miss the opportunity to educate consumers on applying proper amounts at the right time using proper application methods. Improper application during any period including non-restricted periods can contribute to ecosystem contamination. Summer ban campaigns also fail to educate citizens on the physiological nutritional needs of plants during active growth to remain dense healthy stands which in turn reduce erosion, runoff and leaching.
Although, other nutrient sources such as Iron (helps with Nitrogen metabolism and chlorophyll synthesis hence the temporary greening), Potassium, Magnesium and Manganese can help plants get through periods of stress and times of potential disease pressure, the point is to manage plant growth appropriately to reduce stress that may cause thin and unhealthy stands resulting in increased erosion, runoff and disease.
Although, there is little question that improperly applied lawn and garden fertilizers can potentially contribute to ecosystem contamination, other nutrient sources represent the greatest nitrate contributors to surface and groundwater contamination. These include: waste water treatment plants, livestock/poultry wastes, fossil fuel emissions, septic systems and domestic animal wastes as well as lawn clippings and leaves left or blown into the street and entering storm drains. Citizens should be educated on all possible nutrient source contributors and actions they can take to help reduce all sources.
Over irrigation is also attributed to soil erosion and runoff from landscapes. Many citizens don’t know how much rain has fallen or understand how to adjust irrigation systems to account for rainfall and evapotranspiration. Efforts to encourage citizens to adopt smart irrigation controllers and soil moisture sensors would be a positive measure toward reducing erosion and runoff. Since soils in this region are phosphate available, efforts to reduce erosion will reduce algae blooms which when they die can cause fresh water eutrophication.
To truly help address these issues effectively, citizens need to be educated regarding all potential ecosystem contamination sources and actions that they can take to protect the waters. The best possible outcomes can be achieved by all stakeholder groups working together to promote legitimate science-based management practices and promoting citizen education regarding all nutrient source ecosystem contamination contributors and alternative corrective actions and strategies.
Commercial Hort / IPM / Small Farms Agent
UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County