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State senator’s fertilizer bill passes through committee

A local lawmaker’s bill to establish best management practices for use of fertilizer to lawns and turf has been approved by the state Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.

Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, the bill’s chief sponsor, said he feels confident the legislation will eventually pass.

The update of Pennsylvania’s 1956 Fertilizer Act has been long overdue, he said.

“The updates I am proposing, in consultation with industry and state agencies, will unquestionably reduce the environmental impact of fertilizer applied to lawn and turf areas, while ensuring the land will be able to receive adequate nutrients,” Yaw said. “Homeowners investing in lawn care services have no way to know if the employees applying fertilizer to their yards are properly trained, and the Department of Agriculture has no authority to investigate irresponsible or illegal applications. This bill will change that.”

Yaw said the bill will certainly help in the fight to maintain clean water in the state as nutrient run-off from agricultural lands into waterways continues to be an issue.

The bill has the support, he noted, of several organizations, including Trout Unlimited, Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and the Scotts Miracle Gro Company.

Similar legislation has been passed in the surrounding states of New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.

“The focus of it is to help with clean water in Pennsylvania,” he said.

Municipalities throughout the state are being mandated to reduce pollution runoff as part of Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts.

The legislation will establish best management practices for the use of fertilizer; create a certification program for commercial and public applicators of fertilizer; promote homeowner and private agricultural fertilizer education through public outreach; enhance required labeling of all fertilizer products;

provide for the exemption of local laws and regulations; re-establish enhanced reporting requirements and provide a broad-based increase of fees, while repealing the separate classification for small package fees for inspections.

The certification process and other components of the bill, Yaw noted, will make it easier for best practices of fertilizer application to be regulated.

“The bill seeks to level the playing field so everyone, not just farmers, can decrease nutrient run-off and be part of the solution for cleaner Pennsylvania waters,” Yaw added.

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