The Commissioner of Agriculture can take legal action against individuals or companies using and/or selling fertilizers containing levels of nitrogen and phosphorus over the state limit.
Keep Poison Out of Our Water
187 out of 261 Florida beaches were deemed ‘unswimmable’ for at least one day due to this pollution.
Eliminate Red Tide
Enforce our State Laws
As a state almost completely surrounded by water, a vital portion of our state’s economy and livelihood relies on both our saltwater and freshwater sources being healthy, free from pollutants, and conserved for future use.
Across Florida, we have seen increasingly harmful algal blooms and eutrophication of bodies of water - specifically in Tampa, where the problem of Red Tide has been exacerbated by a fertilizer plant in Manatee County dumping over 200 million gallons of fertilizer-filled water into the bay. These algal bloom events have the potential to kill millions of marine life, release toxins harmful to humans into the air, impact the economic state of Florida, and many other adverse impacts on public health and wellbeing.
The cause of algal blooms and eutrophication has much to do with levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizers running off into bodies of water. To ensure the health of Florida’s precious waters, the Commissioner of Agriculture can take legal action against individuals or companies using and/or selling fertilizers containing levels of nitrogen and phosphorus over the state limit.
Most fertilizer enters bodies of water through dumping or natural agricultural runoff. Fertilizer contains nitrogen and/or phosphorus, which aids immensely in plant growth - so much so, that it is almost necessary for agriculture in Florida. However, when these toxins reach bodies of water, they become nuisances. They increase the rates of harmful algae growth, which end up sitting on top of the water, blocking sunlight from entering, and completely throwing off the entire ecosystem underwater. The algae also release harmful toxins in the air and water, eventually killing large numbers of marine life, all causing public health concerns.
As much as this sounds like an environmental, wildlife problem, it affects humans just as adversely as marine life. In 2019, a study was conducted that found 187 out of 261 Florida beaches were deemed ‘unswimmable’ for at least one day due to this pollution. Fertilizers, while not the sole problem in this complex equation, carry contents that play a very substantial role in catalyzing algal growth and we must lessen their detrimental environmental impact.
It is incredibly vital to the health and wellbeing of marine and human life around the coast that levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizer are properly regulated. There must be accountability for violators of these vital restrictions.
So, What Can We Do?!
By chapter 576, section 111 of the Florida statutes, the Commissioner of Agriculture has the power to issue “a stop-sale, stop-use, removal, or hold order, until (fertilizer) compliance has been met…” This section allows the Commissioner to issue violators - individuals and companies alike - an outright halt of the sale and use of the fertilizer in violation of Florida standards.
By chapter 576, section 122 of the Florida statutes, the Commissioner of Agriculture has the power to seize any out-of-compliance fertilizers, bring violator(s) to court, and the fertilizer must either be brought to standards or disposed of all together. This section allows the Commissioner to pursue the individuals responsible for agricultural, aquacultural, and environmental damage across the state, ensuring a more sustainable, clean future is on the horizon.
Past Commissioners of Agriculture have been successful at drawing bipartisan support for this issue, getting Governor DeSantis to put millions into the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s fight against Red Tide and Biscayne Bay clean-up projects. However, there is still much work to be done.
Opposition groups mention that phosphorus and nitrogen in fertilizer are necessary for Florida’s agriculture to continue thriving - which is why there is a limit, and not an outright ban. It is well understood that phosphorus and nitrogen-infused fertilizers are quite necessary for Florida, a historically agriculturally-driven state, but must be carefully used in conscious ways. There are many moving parts to this problem; however, it cannot be denied that phosphorus and nitrogen levels must have a limit, as they are proven to nourish the algal blooms that wreak more and more havoc across the state as time goes on. The department will also work closely with producers in order to ensure that our farmers are not damaged by this regulation.