The Citrus County Fertilizer Ordinance Story
On October 25th, Citrus County passed their updated fertilizer ordinance after months of consideration and public input. EREF was active in communicating with Citrus County staff as well as with stakeholders and the scientific community on how to seek out a result that would work for all parties.
I am very glad to say that the Citrus County ordinance is perhaps the best outcome in the fertilizer ordinance saga to date. While still imperfect from a green industry standpoint, it is an acceptable blueprint for collaboration and for productive outcomes – for the environment, for the citizens of Citrus County and Florida, and for the green industry. The ordinance includes a fertilizer blackout period from November – March of each year. While this is one month more than other recent “winter” blackouts in Hernando and Alachua counties, it is accompanied by exemptions for farms, golf / sports turf AND licensed lawn care providers. Beyond that, the commission unanimously endorsed a plan to come back right away with an amendment to add a pathway for citizens to receive an exemption after having successfully completed appropriate BMP training, similar to the workings of the ordinance in Orange County.
This outcome is a testimony to the cumulative efforts from various sources as follows:
- County staff, specifically Ms. B.J. Jarvis, Director of Citrus County Extension, who was persistent in facilitating the flow of information between the county commission and a wide variety of interested parties.
- FDEP and FDACS, who focused the county commission on the need for the ordinance to be consistent with the latest research.
- Testimony from Dr. Laurie Trenholm, UF/IFAS, who appeared at the October 25th meeting at the invitation of the county commission.
- Industry testimony and documentation support from EREF, Todd Josko (TruGreen) and Matt Choy (Scott’s Miracle-Gro), all of whom demonstrated the commitment of the industry to addressing nutrient management.
Without these efforts, the ordinance would have probably remained bogged down in old, outdated summer blackout language and the initial draft ordinance which included a proposed blackout of eight months. That early draft illustrates some of the pitfalls of local fertilizer ordinance development in Florida. Local control, so cherished by Florida’s cities and counties, places an incredible burden on those same local governments who are often under-staffed and under-funded to tackle a complex regulatory matter of this nature. Further, local governments are highly vulnerable to emotionally charged appeals that, while understandable for those living with impaired water bodies, endanger the implementation of truly effective policy outcomes. Finally, notwithstanding the appeal of local control, the statewide result is a patchwork of different ordinances in neighboring communities which make compliance difficult and costly for those operating in multiple jurisdictions.
In the end, credit and thanks go to the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners for their even-handed and patient management of this ordinance.