Friday, December 17, 2004

For Immediate Release December 16, 2004
For more information contact
Amy Winters, President
Capitol Strategies, LLC
(608) 235-8443

Madison and Dane County Phosphorus Bans Spur Lawsuit
Group says bans ignore science and the law

Madison….Local retailers and trade associations filed a lawsuit in federal court yesterday against the City of Madison and Dane County seeking to overturn ordinances passed earlier this year that ban the display, sale or use of most lawn fertilizers containing phosphorus.

The group representing local hardware stores and lawn care businesses, farm supply retailers, and the specialty fertilizer industry said the bans, which are scheduled to take effect next month, put area retailers at an unfair disadvantage, are illegal and will do little to clean up area lakes.

Ann Smith, an attorney with Michael Best and Friedrich LLP, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the group, said that the ordinances are preempted by state and federal laws, and violate several provisions of the State and U.S. Constitutions, including the Commerce Clause, the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment free speech guarantee. “These ordinances deliberately ignore constitutional law and state and federal law,” said Smith. “We are confident the Court will agree.”

Ed Knapton, owner of America’s Best Flowers Garden Center in Cottage Grove said the ordinances makes him and other retailers the fertilizer police because they are required to find out where people live, how they plan to use the fertilizer or make them show test results to prove they need it. “Our competitors across the county line don’t have this burden or restriction,” said Knapton adding that he is also unable to display legal products in his store.

According to Amy Winters, President of Capitol Strategies, LLC a government relations firm representing the chemical and specialty fertilizer industry, “state and federal laws prohibit local regulation of weed and feed products in order to avoid confusing, conflicting and unnecessary rules for those who manufacture, sell and use those products. The burden that these ordinances place on local retailers, lawn care providers and homeowners is unacceptable.”

In addition to violating state and federal laws, the group also asserts that the ordinances ignore science. “Fertilized turf is actually better at stopping phosphorus runoff than grass without fertilizer,” Winters said referring to Research at the UW Turfgrass Research Center that shows healthy, dense grass fertilized with phosphorus limits runoff to almost nothing. “The issue is about sound policy and utilizing sound science to achieve it; the Madison and Dane County ordinances do neither and add further insult by blatantly violating state and federal laws.”

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