And put guys like this out of business?
From Paul Tukey at SafeLawns.org we hear about some unintended consequences that somebody needs to look into. First, New York banned
pesticides around school playing fields and playgrounds. So far, so good. Then, in mid-July the legislators also banned phosphorus from lawn fertilizers, in a way that could force us all to buy synthetic fertilizers from now on. Here's Tukey's thorough report on the situation.
Or here's the gist of the problem: the ban treats all fertilizers the same – synethetic or organic – and bans any fertilizer containing more than 0.67 percent phosphorus.
“Manufacturers of synthetic chemical fertilizers can simply pull the
phosphorus out of their products in the laboratory,” says one organics manufacturer. “With organic fertilizers, we
cannot do that, whether the product comes from manure or composted food waste or
sewage sludge. We worked and were successful in bringing language into the Wisconsin phosphorus ban
law to exempt organic fertilizers made with manure or sewage sludge from the
lawn fertilizer application law.”
"This New York ban is silly as it is written,” said a rep of one
organic company who asked not to be identified just yet. “If this
holds, then New York has essentially legislated the organic industry
out of the lawn fertilizer business.”
Then Tukey reveals a juicy side note to the story:
The cynics suggest that the chemical fertilizer industry in New York may be lobbying for the harsh ban, knowing how severely that it would restrict organic
products. A company like Scotts Miracle Gro has a product offering 25-0-12 for
lawns, meaning no phosphorus.
I say: Never understatement the ability of Scotts Miracle-Gro to succeed at business.
Tukey interviewed several organics providers for his piece but missed Mark Highland at Organic Mechanics Soil, so here's what Mark (pictured above) has to say about all this:
I am all for healthy watersheds, reducing
runoff, and healthy landscapes. Having a threshold limit isnt necessarily a bad
thing, but I don't think outright banning of particular elements in fertilizers
is the best solution. Since it is impossible to remove the phosphorus naturally
present in animal byproducts, banning phosphorus from lawn fertilizers will
result in most organic lawn fertilizers being pulled from garden center shelves.
Politicians must recognize the difference between chemical and
organic fertilizer sources, and either exempt fertilizers made from organic
sources or allow a threshold limit of at least 3%.
Other naturally occurring sources of
phosphorus include soil erosion from housing developments and runoff
from impervious surfaces and poor agricultural practices…why are these issues
not addressed in the phosphorus ban?
So, we see what happens when well-intentioned legislators get it wrong – maybe because they don't ask for input from, you know, the little guy. Like Mark here, who'd I'd prefer be allowed to stay in business, along with Bradford Organics and all the other good suppliers of organics that we depend on.
Photo of Mark from a Patti Moreno video about Mark's products.