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Fertilizer foes should show their evidence

Advisers on fertilizer ban get industry cash | Oct. 24, story

Fertilizer foes, show us evidence

Have you ever seen the Sierra Club, et al., actually bring published, peer-reviewed scientific studies to the table to be viewed by the public or city and county officials to weigh the evidence for regulating fertilizer use? They will tell you they have it, but we have yet to see it.

The implication that industry is "buying" the testimony of these land grant researchers is indeed fighting words as Dr. George Hochmuth says in this story. It is because of the research conducted by University of Florida faculty that the green industries have made improvements to operations over the years. You don't see environmental groups making turf research donations to land grant institutions. So it's easy to say industry is in cahoots, when all we find out is what is happening on the turf and in the soil so we can do it better and safer. But that's dull and boring and isn't controversial.

The fact is, when you properly apply fertilizer at the researched rate, and water it in properly, there is essentially no runoff or leaching effect. That's been proven over several decades all across the nation. There's no doubt if someone scatters fertilizer prills in a gutter, leading to a storm drain leading directly to a river or bay, that those nutrients get into the water. But that's not the bulk of any fertilizer application. It's not good, but it's not a huge problem either.

Consider the daily input from the water treatment plant pipelines and from old, leaky septic tank systems. And then there's animal waste. Waterfowl phosphorous deposits are a huge source of nutrients daily and especially during migration season. But those things are either expensive to fix or uncontrollable (natural sources).

So the use of fertilizer becomes the target and banning the sale and use of the product becomes the solution, because it doesn't cost the government or taxpayer anything obvious. The cost lies in those unintended consequences of seasonal overfertilization around the blackout periods and the thinning and weakening of turf cover, which can allow soil to erode and carry nutrients like phosphorous into our water bodies.

Show us the science that proves the activists' claims. That's all we ask, and then let the court of public opinion decide whom to believe.

I've been in the golf turf management business for more than 30 years. It has been through UF research and education that industry has improved its products' technology, the application processes of those products and the overall reduction of inputs to maintain our lawns, parks, sports fields, cemeteries, golf courses and the environment in general. And if we donated funds to find out how we can do it better, what in the world is wrong with that?

Joel D. Jackson, executive director, Florida Golf Course Superintendents Association, Orlando

Ban is important

On the same day that the mayor of St. Petersburg was helping Tampa Bay businesses go green, Pinellas County commissioners were finally taking up the novel concept of not pouring chemicals directly into our waterways. The water that piles up on your lawn when Mother Nature drops a few inches on any given summer afternoon is part of our water system. Pour in some fertilizer, and it will drain to the bay or some other body of water that has become more and more brackish over the years.

The Pinellas commissioners are considering a summertime ban on fertilizers. Such a move would be an important step toward restoring Florida's coastline ecosystem. The research is clearer and more horrifying than industry experts would have us believe. These chemicals drain directly into our freshwater systems.

I'd rather see slightly browner lawns than red-hued waters and fish corpses washed up on beaches that have been deserted due to the stench of algae blooms and death. As an environmental attorney who works with public interest groups on water quality issues, I know that I'm not alone.

Who really needs this commercial fertilizer anyway? What happened to composting? This old practice creates more fertilizer than you could need and will keep our land and waterways cleaner and our landfills emptier. All of this saves money for the homeowner and the taxpayers.

It's interesting, but not surprising, that the industry wants us to swallow the proposition that the homeowner, not the industrial discharge, is the problem. One of the biggest problems in environmental politics is that legislators target the small-time polluter to direct attention away from the abusers that pay the campaign bills. We must tackle this issue on all fronts.

Ralph Schofield, executive director, Florida Waters Environmental Advocacy Inc., Tampa

AARP's dual role draws fire from GOP | Oct. 27, story

AARP plays an evenhanded role

The article concerning AARP's support of health care reform proves to me that AARP is truly a nonpartisan organization. As a volunteer, I remember a few years ago when members were tearing up their membership cards and the Democrats were accusing us of supporting the GOP and making money by supporting Medicare Part D, prescription drug coverage. Now the GOP is accusing us of the same thing — only this time it's for supporting Democrats and their health care reform efforts.

What AARP really does is support proposals from Democrats or Republicans that will help seniors and future generations have the health coverage and other services they need when they retire. No one should be denied insurance because of their health or age. We support safe, legal importation of lower-priced prescription drugs from other countries and efforts toward closing the doughnut hole in Part D. We support the proposals that protect a person's right to select their own doctor and to decide which treatments are best. We also take the position that tax dollars should not be used to subsidize insurance companies.

It is no secret that AARP makes money by endorsing many products. Anyone who is an AARP volunteer or member knows that our dues cannot possibly cover this nationwide organization, their lobbying efforts on our behalf, the informative magazine they publish and the support that is available through our state offices.

Yes, we support proposals by both Democrats and Republicans. After all, isn't that what being nonpartisan is all about?

Lois Herron, AARP volunteer, St. Petersburg

AARP's dual role draws fire from GOP | Oct. 27, story

AARP's real role

Do you join AAA to have them lobby the Legislature on highway speed limits on your behalf? Of course not. You join to have someone charge your battery when the car won't start in the morning.

Do you join AARP to have them lobby legislators on health care policy on your behalf? Of course not. You join to get a discount on hotels, rental cars and other perks.

Nobody believes that AAA represents the 200 million drivers in America on issues relating to highway safety. Sure, they represent an interested source of information, which legislators may find useful, but they are not the voice of American motorists, and would never claim to be.

Yet somehow AARP has managed to promote itself into the voice of American seniors and in that role it swings its weight around in the halls of Congress.

Nonsense. AARP is a marketing organization. It represents nobody but its own self-selected group of policy advocates, and the sooner our legislators wake up to that, the better for our senior citizens — and for our country.

Barry Augenbraun, St. Petersburg

Obvious conflict

I just received the 2010 changes for my AARP Medicare Complete, which is covered by United Healthcare. I was shocked at the amount of these obscene increases that United Healthcare is imposing beginning Jan. 1. Increases in my co-pay run from 20 percent to 30 percent.

This is outrageous and is another example of health care costs gone wild. Obviously the industry is positioning itself for the upcoming reforms by establishing a new and higher rate baseline.

I noted that the article from the Washington Post (AARP's dual role draws fire from GOP, Oct. 27) looked at AARP's dual role in supporting reform while at the same time collecting millions in royalties from the same health care companies affected by such reform. Absolutely remarkable timing!

It is an obvious conflict of interest and certainly not in the best interest of the AARP membership. I am thoroughly disappointed at the AARP organization and most so with its leadership. How can they prostitute the good name of our organization by selling it in such a way to the highest bidder? Isn't anyone at AARP monitoring what the licensees are doing?

Ron Matte, Land O'Lakes

National health reform can work for Florida | Oct. 22, commentary

Moral imperative

The recent comments in your paper by Sue Brody, president and CEO of Bayfront Health System, are an appropriate and very welcome response to the confusion surrounding our country's very much needed health care reform. This need is both a generic one as well as a specific one. It is generic in that everyone must be covered for health care regardless of race, color, religion, creed or income. It is specific in that the survival requirements of each involved large group — hospitals, physicians, nurses and insurers — must be attended to if we are to be successful.

I am a retired cardiologist who practiced in St. Petersburg and worked closely for many years with the Bayfront Health System and with Sue Brody. Over those years she has proven herself to be dedicated completely to patient care for everyone, yet carefully attentive to reducing the frightening (and now seemingly uncontrollable) rise in costs of that care.

Sue's words last week seem to emphasize with clarity how health care reform proposed at the national level will indeed provide for increased coverage of those people who desperately need it right here at our Bayfront Health System, and at the same time provide relief from the dramatically increasing expenses long associated with it.

I am very grateful that her words seem so rightly to emphasize the moral imperative we all have to deliver health care to everyone, and also how the proposed reforms as they deliver that care for us here at the local level can result in a real and urgently needed cost reduction. But we are properly cautioned to pay close attention to details and how they specifically impact us. Thank you, Sue.

Victor W. Hurst III, St. Petersburg

Fear tactics | Oct. 29, letter

Keep Advantage

Apparently the letter writer does not have a Medicare Advantage plan, or she would be upset that the health care plans in Washington want to take away $500 billion from Medicare with much of it coming from Advantage plans. Also, just recently it was shown that the health care insurance companies have a profit margin of less than 2.5 percent so I wouldn't say they are making such great profits.

I just received my 2010 "Medicare & You," the official government handbook, and on page 50 it states, "Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private companies approved by Medicare and must follow rules set by Medicare." I love my Advantage plan and don't want to see a government takeover of my health care. That is what scares me.

Everyone on Medicare needs to read their handbook and find out about the merits of an Advantage plan. Those of us with Advantage plans need to let Congress know just how much we like our plans.

Robin Wilkinson, Clearwater

SPCA Tampa Bay

Time to evolve

The "no-kill" movement is sweeping our country. And now I strongly believe that we, the citizens of Pinellas County, are ready for the SPCA Tampa Bay to evolve to becoming a no-kill shelter.

Please understand: No-kill does not mean no euthanization. Some animals brought to the SPCA Tampa Bay and to other shelters in our area need to be euthanized. They are in a great deal of discomfort or pain that can't be alleviated; or they are too dangerous and no amount of training will fix them; or their repair or cure will cost thousands of dollars, which very few shelters can afford. No-kill means that animals that can be brought to reasonable health and behavior are not killed but that every effort is made to find them a home.

According to Nathan Winograd in his book Redemption, a true no-kill shelter needs the following: a high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter program; use of rescue groups when possible; comprehensive foster care and adoption programs; strategies to help people keep their pets at home rather than having to give them up; medical and behavior rehabilitation; and a program for vaccinating and neutering feral cats, marking them and then releasing them. Most of all, this evolution requires that the leadership and the staff and volunteers are firmly committed to the goal of becoming a no-kill shelter.

Although the SPCA Tampa Bay has begun some efforts to reduce the number of animals being killed unnecessarily, there are many steps yet to be taken. The board appears to be doing what they need to do. Now what is needed is new leadership committed to completing the process. Then we will have an SPCA that we are all proud of, where nothing is hidden, where everything possible is being done to save the animals brought there. We, as individuals, need to support this transformation in any way we can.

Paula Hays, Gulfport

Utility spends $5M in attempt to raise rates | Oct. 23, story

How nice of them

How nice of Florida Power & Light to only bill their customers $3.6 million of the $5 million it spent to try to raise their rates. What a sweetheart deal: You pay to wine and dine them while they attempt to raise your rates and they give you a discount! Does it get any better than this?

I'm not an FPL customer, but I would bet that Progress Energy is reading this with drool dripping down their chin. The PSC, which is supposed to be our watchdog, has proven to be little more than a lapdog for the industry.

When will our government put some serious controls on the electric industries? Probably as soon as they stop filling the politicians' pockets with cash — which means never.

The unemployment rate in Florida is one of the highest in the nation, yet the companies we rely on for our basic needs want to charge us more. This is morally disgusting. I'm tempted to compare them to health insurers but that is another story.

Don Mott, Largo

Fertilizer foes should show their evidence 10/30/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 30, 2009 6:29pm]
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