A clandestine attempt by Florida Legislators to ban rainy season restrictions on fertilizer use threatens to eliminate a key tool for local governments trying to curtail nutrient pollution.

Tucked inside an “implementing bill” — which contains directions to implement the state budget — is a measure that would eliminate local governments’ ability to adopt strict fertilizer control ordinances for the next year.

While this ban on fertilizer bans would expire after that, it may be followed by legislation designed to make it permanent — a move that would only benefit big fertilizer companies.

Nitrogen and phosphorus-rich runoff can have serious impacts for surrounding water quality, and communities throughout Florida have relied upon rainy-season fertilizer restrictions to reduce excess runoff known to feed toxic algae outbreaks.

Budget line item 146 in the implementing bill (SB 2500) gives the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) $174,357,929 of which $250,000 has been dedicated to study the effectiveness of seasonal fertilizer restrictions. 

Environmentalists were quick to criticize legislators for the quiet addition of this language to the implementing bill — a move which guaranteed there would be no votes on the measure. 

Luckily, there is still a chance to convince Gov. DeSantis to line-item veto the funding for the IFAS study, which could derail the measure.

On May 4, Friends of the Everglades joined Sierra Club and many other organizations in signing on to a letter requesting a line item veto from Gov. DeSantis that would remove the preemption language.

As the letter states, “No one, including UF-IFAS, which has spent millions of state (FDEP) dollars studying the same between 2005-2011, has ever determined that avoiding fertilizer application before Florida’s heavy summer downpours is anything but the cheapest, easiest and best way to stop urban stormwater pollution at its source… There is no reason to waste taxpayer dollars to restudy established fact.”

If the preemption language is not removed, it will mean more fertilizer runoff into Florida’s already fragile waters. If Gov. DeSantis is serious about Everglades restoration efforts, he should oppose this back-door policy making, and support a line item veto.