The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) applauded a judgment issued Feb. 18 restricting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to impose numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) in the state of Florida. The decision, handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle found that biological harm, not just an increase of nutrients above background concentrations, must be the basis for EPA’s numeric nutrient standards.

Specifically, the court determined that EPA’s final stream criteria for the State of Florida, as well as certain aspects of the downstream protection values (DPV) for Florida lakes, are both arbitrary and capricious and thus are invalid. The judgment was in response to litigation challenging EPA’s efforts in Florida filed by TFI and other stakeholders in the agriculture community.

A significant and potentially precedent setting part of the Court’s ruling found that the EPA did not demonstrate that increases in nutrients result in a harmful increase in flora or fauna in streams. This decision was the cornerstone of TFI’s legal case, and sets a potentially significant precedent because it may impact Federal water quality regulations elsewhere in the United States.

“Nutrients occur naturally, and in balanced concentrations they contribute to healthy ecosystems,” said TFI President Ford West. TFI is extremely pleased with the outcome of this litigation and the overall efforts a unified industry and agriculture community. While we rarely seek the assistance of the court, we strongly believed that the potential harm EPA’s NNC posed to Florida’s phosphate industry and Florida agriculture along with the precedent setting nature of the EPA rule merited a legal challenge. EPA should now return to Florida the authority to protect its own water resources."

Crowell & Moring provided legal representation to TFI in the court challenge to EPA’s NNC rule.

The fertilizer industry supports sustainable nutrient use based on 4R stewardship (use of the right fertilizer source at the right rate, the right time and in the right place). Through 4R nutrient stewardship, farmers are implementing best management practices (BMPs) that optimize the efficiency of fertilizer use by matching nutrient supply with crop requirements and to minimize nutrient losses. Further information on this science-based system is available at www.nutrientstewardship.org.