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HomeBusiness & CommunityFertilizer ordinance updates prompt concerns from industry professionals

Fertilizer ordinance updates prompt concerns from industry professionals

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Citizens’ comments at the June 27, 2023, regular Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting prompted a discussion of the future of a recently approved fertilizer ordinance.

Subsequent to the approval of a State budget bill, no changes can be made to a recently approved fertilizer ordinance for the next year. After July 1, 2023, local governments are not able to revise any ordinances in place pertaining to fertilizer bans for one year. The most recent ordinance was approved at the May 23, 2023 BOCC meeting.

The $250,000 budget bill is for the University of Florida (UF) to conduct a study to determine if fertilizer bans are effective. Commissioner Brian Hawkins, who has worked in the pest control industry, was integral in explaining how the process works.

“(The budget bill) designed for the Governor to actually do this statewide because this has all been coming up through different municipalities. What they’re doing is using (UF) to come up with what works for the state. I think what you’re going to see is that it’s going to be broken up by region rather than it be one-size-fits-all. I have absolutely no problem coming back once the governor has that completed and us adopting the Governor’s ordinance because I think it’s going to be more favorable than this one.” Commissioners welcome discussions for changes to the ordinance in the future.

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Wiley McIlrath, the owner of BugX Exterminators, said he was concerned that he did not receive appropriate notice of the changes before the BOCC voted to approve on May 23rd. “I’m sure legally, you posted everything you needed to post … but none of that got to us or anyone else in my industry as a commercial lawn applicator.“

Commissioner Brian Hawkins disagrees that the Lawn Applicator industry was not properly notified. “I notified the (Florida Pest Management Association) probably a week prior to the meeting, personally. I reached out to the Government Affairs person that handles that.” Hawkins said that correspondence was exchanged and “basically, nobody mobilized” before the final hearing.

McIlrath also added how the new ordinance affects his practice of maintaining lawns. “What you have passed is something that does not allow us to put down fertilizer from June to September. That’s the growing season. That’s the very season the grass will take up all the nutrients… So now what we’re left with is fertilization times that are too narrow, at a time where the grass is not going to take up the nutrients.”

Following McIlrath’s comments, his son, Stuart McIlrath, requested the BOCC to amend the dates of the ordinance’s restrictions by shifting 15 dates from the fall to the spring. “One of the most difficult objectives in our industry is transitioning from winter to spring. It is less important for me to apply nitrogen in the fall months because it’s going to freeze around December 25th. So if we could take 15 days out of December and apply it to March 1st through May 30th … that would be a little more helpful as an industry.”

Commissioner Brian Hawkins reportedly was involved in reaching out to the necessary agencies and mentioned the Florida Pest Management Association. “I was very disappointed in Florida Pest Management Association,” Hawkins said, “That’s their job; they have an entire department that governs Government Affairs, and when rules and change like this comes about, I think what happens is, when it comes to a county ordinance, it’s kind of through the cracks if it’s not statewide (legislation).”

Hawkins concluded by saying, “I have fought tooth and nail for this industry… understanding what you do on a daily basis and the stewards of the environment you are.”

Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil is a reporter for the Hernando Sun as well as a business technology developer, specializing in website development, content management systems, and data analysis.
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