2011 ACM Annual Report

Fertilizer, Soil or Plant Additive and Lime

Program HighlightsThe Fertilizer, Soil or Plant Additive and Lime (Fertilizer) program is responsible for enforcing the laws and rules under §94.64, §94.65, §94.66, Wis. Stats., and ch. ATCP 40 and 41, Wis. Adm. Code. This program regulates agricultural, household, commercial lawn care, athletic turf fertilizer, soil or plant additives and agricultural lime. The primary goals of the program are to protect consumers against unfair and deceptive practices in the sale of these products; to protect businesses against unfair and deceptive methods of competition; and to prevent certain hazards to persons, property, and the environment. Manufacturers, labelers and distributers of these products are required to be licensed and product labeling must be approved and/or permitted before being distributed into the state. The label review and permitting process ensures that products sold in the state are efficacious, useful, and not misleading. The department inspects fertilizer blending facilities and collects and analyzes samples to ensure that the products meet their label guarantees.

Program Activities

The fertilizer, lime and soil and plant additive tonnages identified in the following paragraphs and listed in the tables below represent the tons of product sold in the year prior to the reporting year.

Fertilizer truck at a bulk storage facility
waiting to be loaded.
The fertilizer licensing year is August 15th until August 14th of the following year. In 2011, as Chart 1 indicates, 741 facilities were licensed to distribute fertilizer in Wisconsin, compared to the 715 licensed in 2010. The program also permitted 323 new products for distribution as non-agricultural or special agricultural use fertilizers and an additional 291 were determined to be exempt from requiring a permit. The fertilizer tonnage reported for 2010-2011 was approximately 1.3 million tons, a slight decrease from the 1.39 million tons reported for the 2009-2010 period.

Chart 2 indicates that license numbers for the liming industry have remained steady in 2011, with 103 licensees compared to 105 in 2010. The licensing period for liming materials runs from January 1st until December 31st of the same year; tonnage reports are not due until February 1st of the following year. The number of tons increased to 1.19 million tons in 2011 (reported in 2012) from 950,000 tons in 2010 (reported in 2011), which was a decrease from the 1 million tons reported in 2009 (reported in 2010). Lime products do not require a permit for distribution.

The soil or plant additive licensing year is from April 1st until March 30th of the following year. Chart 3 shows that the number of companies licensed to distribute soil or plant additives 2011 was 135, slightly down from 145 in 2010. Ninety-three new products were permitted for distribution as soil or plant additives in 2011. The total tons of soil or plant additives during the 2010 reporting period was 73,182 tons, a significant increase from the 48,122 tons in 2009. The increase in tonnage reported is a direct result of the large increase in permits issued beginning in 2008. Soil or plant additive tonnage for 2011 sales will be available in July 2012.

In 2011, the department’s laboratory staff analyzed 278 fertilizer samples from blending facilities, which included liquid, dry bulk and bagged fertilizer. Approximately 70% of all samples collected and analyzed met their required guaranteed nutrient content and economic value; this is unchanged from 2010. Liquid fertilizer compliance rates improved in 2011, with 37.8% not meeting guarantees, compared to 46.6% of liquid fertilizer samples which did not meet the label guarantee in 2010. Dry bulk fertilizer that was mislabeled in 2011 was 26% which is an increase from the 24.7% in 2010. Mislabeled bag fertilizer also increased to 46% in 2011 from 38.3% in 2010.

Unloading dry fertilizer over a
mixing/loading pad.
The department is concerned with the high fertilizer sample failure rate over multiple years, indicating the industry is not meeting label guarantees and consumers may not be receiving the product they purchased. Department staff made several site visits to fertilizer blending facilities and increased sampling at 26 sites of concern to evaluate ongoing problems. See “Compliance Actions” for additional steps that were taken by the department in 2011 and 2012, and “Direction for the Coming Year” for new program activities on the horizon for 2013.

During 2011, program staff continued to provide information about the law restricting the use, sale, and display of turf fertilizer labeled as containing phosphorus or available phosphate to help minimize the run-off of phosphorus, which can lead to algae blooms in the state’s lakes, rivers and streams. Outreach activities included updating the department’s webpages, writing articles for the Green Industry newsletter and participating in the Wisconsin Turfgrass Association field day. In 2011, only one alleged violation was brought to the department’s attention. Granular fertilizer had been left on an impervious surface; department staff contacted the company and the fertilizer was removed from the pavement.

Compliance Actions

Based on historical data, 26 fertilizer blending facilities were assigned increased compliance sampling in 2011. Staff conducted compliance conferences with three blending facilities that had on-going blending deficiencies. Department staff outlined labeling requirements and measures that these companies should take to ensure properly labeled fertilizer products. Two of the facilities signed Assurance of Compliance agreements with the department for 2012. All three facilities must show marked improvement in sampling results in 2012 or they will be faced with additional enforcement actions by the department. The overall high mislabeling rate in the fertilizer industry is a priority concern for the ACM Bureau. Increased surveillance and enforcement will occur in 2012 to reverse this trend.

Direction for the Coming Year

For 2012, as a result of an increase in facilities not meeting fertilizer guarantees, the fertilizer program is focusing on increased sampling at fertilizer blending facilities (100 additional samples have been assigned) and implementing assurance of compliance agreements with three blending facilities with ongoing compliance problems. All facilities are sampled by program staff on a routine basis. The additional sampling will be conducted at facilities that had multiple samples not meeting guarantees in 2011. The program will initiate additional enforcement measures at facilities that do not show improvement, such as administrative orders, penalties or both. The program is also updating its website and other outreach materials in an effort to provide additional information to fertilizer and SPA licensees and blending facilities. Finally, the department is developing a fertilizer inspection program to complement the fertilizer sampling program; the inspection program will begin in 2013. The intent of the inspection program is to identify poor manufacturing practices and help facilities implement practices to ensure fertilizer is blended properly and customers are receiving the product they purchase.

For more information you may email the department.