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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: February 11, 2015 04:21 PM
From: Senator Richard L. Alloway, II
To: All Senate members
Subject: Lawn Fertilizer Legislation
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation amending Title 3 (Agriculture) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in fertilizer, further providing for labels and labeling and for disposition of funds; and providing for fertilizer for use on turf.

The health of Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers is of critical importance to our economic future and quality of life. Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution grants all Pennsylvanians the right to clean water and places our natural resources in trust for the benefit of all. Unfortunately, thousands of miles of streams in the Commonwealth are impaired due to excess levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. Excess levels of these nutrients are also significant contributors to the impairment of the Chesapeake Bay, whose watershed covers 50 percent of our state.

For decades, Pennsylvania’s farmers have led the way to implement erosion and sedimentation controls, nutrient management plans and other best management practices on farms. More recently, wastewater treatment plants have begun to implement upgrades to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus emissions. Both sectors should be commended for their successful efforts. Unfortunately, as these sectors continue to implement nutrient reductions, the loads from urban and suburban stormwater continue to grow. In the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, acres of turf now outnumber acres of corn.

I intend to introduce this legislation to reduce the environmental impact of fertilizer applied to turf areas, such as lawns, golf courses and athletic fields, while ensuring that all turf areas within the Commonwealth will be able to receive adequate nutrients so that adverse turf health will not result as an unintended consequence.

In addition to setting clear standards for the application of fertilizer to turf, the bill will also require all professional fertilizer applicators to be certified in proper application techniques and best management practices. This legislation is specifically focused on the lawn care industry and will not apply to agricultural production.

Content and Labeling Restrictions

  • Fertilizer sold at retail, and intended for use on turf shall:
    • Contain no more than 0.7 lbs of readily-available N and no more than 0.9 lbs of total N per 1,000 square feet of application. At least 20% of the N shall be enhanced-efficiency N.
    • Contain no P, except when specifically labeled for:
      • Providing nutrients as determined by a soil test
      • Establishing vegetation
      • Re-establishing or repairing turf
    • Products may contain P if they are “natural organic” fertilizer, “organic base” fertilizer, fertilizer derived from a municipal waste by-product, or if the P is in an enhanced-efficiency form.
  • No fertilizer product may be labeled for the purpose of melting snow or ice.
  • Labels must contain the following statement:
"Do not apply near water, storm drains or drainage ditches. Do not apply if heavy rain is expected. Apply this product only to your lawn and sweep any product that lands on the driveway, sidewalk, or street, back onto your lawn."

Use Restrictions:

  • No fertilizer application to frozen or snow-covered ground or impervious surfaces.
  • No Do-It-Yourself (DIY) application of lawn fertilizer before March 1 or after November 15. Professional applicators may apply after November 15 and before March 1 at the reduced rate of 0.5 lbs/1000 square feet or less, subject to the frozen/snow-covered ground prohibition.
  • No application within 5 feet of the top of bank of a perennial or intermittent stream
    • Fertilizer may be applied up to the top of bank of a perennial or intermittent stream if using a drop spreader, rotary spreader with deflector, targeted spray liquid or other targeted application technology.
  • Lawn fertilizer with phosphorous cannot be used unless the fertilizer is applied to new lawns, to repair or reestablish a lawn or if needed pursuant to a soil test.
    • Exception: “natural organic” or “organic base” products containing phosphorus, fertilizer derived from a municipal waste by-product or enhanced efficiency phosphorus products. Each application may not exceed 0.25 lbs P/1,000 square feet with an annual maximum of 0.5 lbs P/1,000 square feet. These products may never be applied where soils test at 200ppm P based on a Mehlich-3 test, or equivalent.
  • N application limited to 0.7 lbs readily available N/1,000 square feet and 0.9 lbs total N/1,000 square N, except slow release requirement does not apply to professional applicators.
  • “Enhanced efficiency” nitrogen can be applied by consumers or professional applicators at a rate not to exceed 2.5 lbs N/1,000 square feet per application with a 0.7 lbs N/1000 square feet monthly release rate.
Certification of Professional Applicators

  • Professional applicators must be certified or be acting under the supervision of a certified professional fertilizer applicator who is present or immediately accessible.
    • PDA must recognize a third party’s training program if it meets all the criteria established for the PDA program.
    • PDA must, to the maximum extent practicable, align fertilizer certification requirements with the education and training opportunities for commercial applicators of pesticides
    • PDA may require continuing education and training of professional applicators.
    • The certification fee may not exceed $50; the re-certification fee may not exceed $25.
    • Certifications remain valid for three years, unless revoked for a violation of the chapter.
  • PDA must keep a list of certified professional fertilizer applicators and publish list on its website.

  • Civil penalties may be assessed of not more than $2,500 per violation of the content and labeling provisions, and $50 per person per violation of the remaining provisions.
  • A professional applicator’s certification may be revoked for a violation.
  • PDA is not required to report or institute penalties for de minimis violations.
Disposition of Funds

  • Monies received from certification fees and penalties assessed by PDA shall be paid into the Agronomic Regulatory Account established under existing section 6725 of Title 3. Certification fees assessed by a third party providing the certification program may be kept by the third party.

  • The bill establishes a statewide standard for turf fertilizer regulation and pre-empts any conflicting local ordinances.
The fertilizer and landscape industries have been consulted during the drafting of this version, and the bill will address many of their concerns while also serving to protect water quality. Similar legislation has already been enacted in Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey, and the industry has expressed a strong desire for consistency across the region and state.

Introduced as SB563