The Illinois Senate passed HB 5539, which makes substantial changes to the Illinois Fertilizer Act. Having already passed the House, the bill is now headed to Governor Quinn.

This legislation is an initiative of the IFCA, and has the support of every major agricultural organization as well as numerous environmental organizations.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture lended key support as did the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. HB 5539 accomplishes several significant objectives for our industry:

1. It eliminates the Fertilizer Research & Education Council and replaces it with the Nutrient Research & Education Council, which is a new, private entity that will manage nutrient research, education and agricultural water quality efforts. Because the funds for this program will be held and managed by the industry, the funds are not subject to sweeps. The FREC program, which was held within the IDA, has been swept of funds repeatedly since 2004 which undermined the effectiveness of FREC and limited what FREC could accomplish for the industry. NREC will be funded by a designated portion of the tonnage fee. The NREC (made up of ag industry members) will determine the tonnage fee based upon industry needs. These funds will also support the "Keep it for the Crop" 4R Nutrient Stewardship program.

2. It streamlines the licensing requirements for the fertilizer industry. Custom blending licenses will be eliminated and replaced with a single distributor license.

3. It creates an administrative hearing provision in the Fertilizer Act, similar to the Pesticide Act. The industry can now request an administrative hearing regarding any alleged violations of the Fertilizer Act.

4. The funds collected for fertilizer licensing and registration will now go to the IL Dept of Agriculture to support the fertilizer programs. Under the current law, these fees went straight to the state general revenue fund. Given the consistent budget cuts to IDA, having these funds now go to IDA should result in a sustainable regulatory program to ensure fertilizer quality, safety and stewardship.

As we move into the summer, IFCA will communicate with our members the changes in the Fertilizer Act and how you will need to incorporate these changes into your business. The changes are positive, long overdue and will ensure a dynamic program for improved nutrient utilization.

With nutrient regulations and lawsuits threatening our industry, this legislation is critical to ensure a future where science and innovation drive nutrient decisions that will improve crop yields, reduce nutrient losses and enhance water quality. We now have a secure future for the KIC program, for nutrient research, and for educational opportunities, with agriculture demonstrating and documenting the adoption of the 4Rs in Illinois.

If you have questions about this legislative initiative, please contact Jean Payne. IFCA thanks everyone for their support of this important legislation for Illinois agriculture.