Does “Urban Landscapes” Mean Farms?

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lawn In: Does "Urban Landscapes" Mean Farms? | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River
                                                                                    URBAN LAWN

Appearing in the Suwannee Democrat is an article about the importance of reducing fertilizer on urban lawns.  In the  disheartening article we see that the county commissioners miss the point entirely, as they apparently have no concern for the aquifer, and cannot discern the difference between “urban” and rural.

Not only does the commission have no understanding of the word “urban,” they have no intention of enforcing the law that they don’t understand.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life:  once taken, it cannot be brought back-

Suwannee County begrudgingly approves fertilizer ordinance

LIVE OAK — They didn’t hold their noses while they did it, but the county commissioners begrudgingly, yet unanimously, approved the Florida-Friendly Use of Fertilizer on Urban Landscapes ordinance Tuesday night.

In an additional public hearing on the matter after the board failed to adopt the ordinance at the second hearing in April, county administrator Randy Harris suggested the board hold their noses for symbolic purposes while passing it to let the state legislature know their opinion of the ordinance.

Chairman Ricky Gamble said after the commissioners visited Tallahassee for the Florida Association of Counties’ Legislative Day, at least the local legislators are well aware of what the board thinks about the subject.

The legislature approved the ordinance, which is intended to reduce the risk of nutrient enrichment of surface and ground waters, and has required the counties to follow suit by July 1.

The board, though, was worried about how the ordinance could regulate what farmers do on their farms.

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“We’re primarily an agricultural county and the farmers are the original conservationists,” commissioner Larry Sessions said. “No farmer is going to put another hundred pounds of fertilizer on something if he doesn’t have to because it costs more.

“We all depend on the waterways and the aquifer that we have and the abundance of water that we actually have here in Suwannee County. We all, as farmers, are going to protect that in the best way we can.

“I don’t necessarily agree with having to do something like this but since it’s mandated, we’ll say we did it and move forward.”

County attorney Jimmy Prevatt said that parts of the ordinance were confusing, but that farms, as defined in the Right to Farm Act, are all exempted from the regulations within the ordinance.

Prevatt added that the county has no intentions of enforcing the ordinance.

“There is really nothing exciting or different about this,” Prevatt said. “Other than we’re required to do it.”

Still, commissioner Ronnie Richardson voiced his concerns about the broad language of the ordinance. He said as worded if the state eventually required the ordinance to be enforced, it would place the burden on the counties.

“I just want to reiterate that I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the county to adopt ordinances that are not going to be enforced,” he said.

Despite those concerns, the board still went ahead and passed the minimum required by the state, with Gamble even adding that he would like to see the word “use” changed to “mis-use” in the portion of the resolution that is worded “Whereas the Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners has determined that the use of fertilizers on lands within the county creates a risk to contributing to adverse effects on surface and/or groundwater.”

Responding to a question from Richardson, Prevatt added that by approving the minimum required, more hearings would be required in the future before it could be enforced in order to amend the ordinance with fines and other levels of enforcement.

“By having the minimum there … we’re setting a precedent by saying this is what we want to see and how we want to see it done.”

— Ricky Gamble

“Whether we approve it or not, future boards could come in and adopt it upon two public hearings and put whatever they want in place,” Gamble said. “But by having the minimum there, we’re doing something we have to, but we’re setting a precedent by saying this is what we want to see and how we want to see it done.”

As soon as it was passed, Harris wasted no time in suggesting the first use of the new ordinance.

“I would beg Mr. Prevatt’s assistance in now trying to put a stop to the human fertilizer that’s coming from Valdosta down the Suwannee River,” he said. “Since we now have an ordinance in place, I’d like to see that.

“Because I’m sure they are overdosing us on that.”

1 Comment

  1. I guess, from their sentiments, that Valdosta fertilizer is a lot worse than Suwannee County fertilizer. Once again, no one is trying to put the farmers out of business. All we want is honest discussion about the effects of fertilizer on our water. And, in fact, since it’s conceivable that excessive urban fertilizer use is eventually going to put even more pressure on the use for agriculture, I would think the farmer commissioners would relish this ordinance.

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