Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Don't Dilute County Fertilizer Ordinance

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Don't Dilute County Fertilizer Ordinance

Article excerpt

Sarasota County's fertilizer ordinance is once again under attack.

Enacted in 2007, the local law intends to keep nitrogen and phosphate pollution from our waterways by requiring only slow- release fertilizers and by banning application from June through September.

The timing of the ban rests on the premise that summer rains leach the nutrients from lawns, often triggering algal blooms such as red tide.

Every year since 2007, the state Legislature, prodded by lawn- related businesses, has debated undercutting the ordinance.

The latest version, a two-page bill that has made it through several House and Senate committees, would exempt commercial operators from the rainy season ban. The move would eviscerate the ordinance as well as similar local laws in neighboring cities and counties.

That would be a shame.

Setting aside the consideration of government intrusion, jurisdiction and all the conspiracy theories that surround any regulation, the principles behind the Sarasota County law make perfect sense not only from an environmental viewpoint, but from a horticultural, business and consumer perspective.

Consider the testimony of Michael "Mike J." Juchnowicz. His company, Gardenmasters of Southwest Florida Inc., has 10,000-plus lawn-care customers from Collier to Manatee counties.

Juchnowicz admits he had to scramble during the first year of Sarasota's new rules. He had to find suppliers with the right type of slow-release fertilizer, and he had to pay more for it.

By the second year, however, things were running smoothly, he says. With his accounts, Juchnowicz sets prices based on the maintenance of vibrant lawns, not on how much fertilizer and pesticide he spreads.

"People are results-oriented," he says. "As long as the grass is healthy and green, you get no complaints."

Meanwhile, his chemical costs dropped as production caught up with the market and national giants such as Scotts developed 50-50 slow release products they didn't have a few years ago.

Plus, because of the summer ban and subsequent education of his customers, Juchnowicz says he now uses about 200 tons less fertilizer each year. …

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