Mosaic in Face Off

Mosaic Faces Off With Environmental Groups Over Florida Mine

“What happens in this particular case may determine how much, and in what way, they continue to mine this entire area,” Huber said.

Mosaic Corp. (MOS) is facing off with environmental groups in Florida so it can maintain output of a key fertilizer component.
The fertilizer maker has secured water permits necessary to expand its mining operations in central Florida. Yet Mosaic, the world’s largest producer of phosphates, is fighting an injunction issued by a federal judge last summer after the Sierra Club and local environmental groups accused the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the issuer of the permits, of violating clean-water requirements.
At stake when the two sides return to court next month is about a third of Mosaic’s phosphate production. The Plymouth, Minn. company is experiencing growing demand for fertilizer made from the raw material as farmers try to keep pace with booming global food needs. Phosphate along with nitrogen and potassium, or potash, have drawn increased attention from governments and investors illustrated last year by a $38.6 billion bid byBHP Billiton (BHP) for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (POT), a rival of Mosaic.
Mosaic plans to expand its mine in South Fort Meade, Fla. by 11,000 acres as production from the existing acreage dwindles. Investors expect the mine to keep operating, with earnings projections by stock analysts not factoring in the costs of production losses, said Horst Hueniken, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus in Toronto.
“The collective wisdom of investors is this place is not shutting down,” he said.
Hueniken estimated the mine’s closure could add up to $690 million in annual costs for Mosaic based on current market prices for phosphate, which the company likely would have to buy to replace the lost capacity. Phosphate currently sells for about $150 a ton.
In a recent interview, Mosaic Chief Executive Jim Prokopanko expressed confidence the company would prevail, saying the injunction has a “slim to nil” chance of being upheld on appeal. The company expects to prevail on the overall lawsuit as well.
At issue in the case is whether the Army Corps issued a permit for the mine expansion too hastily and violated the Clean Water Act. The Sierra Club and local environmental groups sued to stop the expansion, saying it could contaminate drinking-water supplies and fisheries in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, which is connected to the site through a network of swamps and streams.
The Mosaic mine is about 80 miles southwest of Orlando nearly smack in the center of the state. Phosphate deposits have long been mined in Florida, and the state accounts for about 25% of world production.
Sierra Club attorney Eric Huber dismissed Prokopanko’s confidence on the appeal as “puffery.” On average, only 10% of trial-judge rulings are overturned in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, where Mosaic’s appeal is being heard, the Sierra Club said.
“What happens in this particular case may determine how much, and in what way, they continue to mine this entire area,” Huber said.
Prokopanko said the Army Corps spent three years examining the company’s permit request, and that work shouldn’t be stopped by a single judge who looked at the case for a couple of days.
“This country would come to a screeching, roaring halt” if such decisions were allowed to stand, he said.
The federal appeals court will hear Mosaic’s appeal of the injunction April 4. A ruling isn’t expected for at least a month and could take four to six months.
For now, Mosaic can continue a 200-acre expansion of the mine, which will be depleted in May. After that, Prokopanko said the company could mine a 1,000-acre area for about 18 months while the case is heard, if need be. Mining the area will come at a higher costs, but will avoid wetlands on which the court case focuses.
CF Industries Holdings Inc. (CF) also mines phosphate in Florida. Chief Executive Stephen Wilson in July said the case was “a troublesome situation,” but noted CF has fully permitted mines that will last through the next decade.
-By Ian Berry, Dow Jones Newswires; 312-750-4072 ;

Florida Mine Battle Looms

Mosaic’s ‘Phos-Fate’: Florida Mine Battle Looms
By Scott Eden – 03/10/11 – 5:50 PM EST
Tickers in this article: CF VALE POT MOS
(Updated with response from Mosaic on the contested permit for the expansion of its Four Corners phosphate mine.)
NEW YORK (TheStreet) — The future of the Florida phosphate industry could hang in the balance early next month when a federal appeals court in Atlanta convenes to hear a set of arguments that pits two ancient adversaries — environmentalists vs. big business.
At the center of the dispute sits Mosaic(:MOS). Based in Plymouth, Minn. — 1,400 miles from its operations in the Sunshine State — the global fertilizer giant takes more phosphate out of Florida’s rich peninsular loam than any other company by far, accounting for about half of the nutrient produced in the U.S. in recent years. (Potash (:POT), a distant No. 2, accounts for about 25%, though most of that comes from North Carolina, not Florida. CF Industries(:CF) is third, with 11% of U.S. production).

The phosphate industry in Florida has long been controversial. Since modern dragline excavation techniques, capable of eating acres each day, came into use in the 1940s, it has strip-mined hundred of square miles of watershed in the center of the state, mostly from a region dubbed the Bone Valley by locals — excavations that have, on occasion, dried up rivers, critics and scientists claim. Its tailings have been poured into enormous, semi-toxic settling pools that have been known to spring leaks. The processing of phosphate rock into fertilizer produces radioactive gypsum, a byproduct that now covers about 3,400 acres, rendering it unusable.
But phosphate rock also happens to be the source of one of the world’s most important and effective plant nutrients — a substance that has taken on new relevance, rising to the level of national security, at a time of burgeoning fears over global food shortages. (Indeed, the element phosphorus is one of the fundamental building blocks of life).
For decades, the controversy in Florida remained little more than loud talk by local environmentalists who clashed in vain with Fortune 500 corporations. (The industry mined without any regulation at all until 1975.) But just within the last six months, all that seems to have changed. A series of lawsuits over mining permits has threatened to imperil Mosaic’s financial health.
In July last year, several local environmental and community groups, including a Florida chapter of the Sierra Club, sued to block Mosaic’s plan to expand its South Fort Meade mine. The company already has exhausted the rest of the plot. To lose the expansion then, would mean to lose between 4 million and 6 million metric tons per year of phosphate-rock production, or 32% of the company’s total output in its fiscal 2010.
Mosaic applied for permits to dig the nearly 11,000 acres of the South Fort Meade extension as far back as 2003. It took eight years to line most of them up, and by June 2010 it had received the last, from the Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for granting mining permits for areas delimited as wetlands.
For many years local environmentalists had urged the Corps to conduct an areawide impact study — one that would examine the effects of phosphate mining on the whole region, from the central Bone Valley all the way to the coast, where the waters of the valley empty via the Peace River and its tributaries into an enormous estuary called Charlotte Harbor, just north of Fort Meyers. A large-scale study of this kind hadn’t been done since 1978.
Environmentalists fear that the strip-mining has shredded the wetlands system that feeds those rivers — and, thus, the harbor.
“That’s our economic magnet down here,” says Jim Cooper, a retired Air Force pilot and the head of a local environmental group called Protect Our Watersheds. “They’ve never truly looked at the impacts on the downstream counties.”
When the Corps granted the permit without, once again, calling for a study, the group sued the Corps. According to the complaint, the environmentalists want the permit revoked until an areawide impact study yields its findings.
In July, a federal District Court in Jacksonville ruled partly in favor of the plaintiffs — enough of a victory that the court also issued a preliminary injunction that blocked Mosaic from proceeding with the South Fort Meade extension while it considered the environmentalists’ case. Within days, Mosaic appealed the injunction with the 11th Circuit court in Atlanta. The appellate will hear oral arguments from both sides in a one-day proceeding, scheduled for the week of April 4.
There has been at least some room for compromise. A settlement reached in October — after the Atlanta court forced the parties to sit down in mediation — allowed Mosaic to mine 200 acres of South Fort Meade, enough for about four months worth of mining, or 900,000 metric tons of phosphate rock. In return, the company agreed to leave a 40-acre piece of wetlands untouched. Mosaic is close to finishing those 200 acres.
As it turns out, as well, Col. Alfred Pantano of the Jacksonville district of the Army Corps of Engineers ordered a new areawide study this past summer. It’s expected to take a year and a half to complete.
Mosaic has long defended itself as you would expect a multibillion-dollar company to defend itself: with vigor and with a platoon of lawyers. In 2008, Manatee County in Florida denied the company a permit to mine on 2,000 acres — an extension to Mosaic’s other big mine in Bone Valley, called Four Corners. The county worried that the new operations would damage the community’s primary source of drinking water. Mosaic sued Manatee County for $618 million. (That was the difference, the company said, between the value of the tract as a mineable and un-mineable piece of Bone Valley land.) Manatee County’s board of commissioners soon reversed its position.
Mosaic’s official public stance when it comes to South Fort Meade is that this will all break in its favor. “We will be mining at South Fort Meade, and we’ll be at or close to full capacity there once we work through these legal issues,” Mosaic’s finance chief, Larry Stranghoener, told TheStreet in an interview. “That’s our expectation.”
Meanwhile, however, the company has pursued backup plans. Last year, it spent $385 million to buy a 35% stake in a new Peruvian phosphate mine majority owned by Vale(NYSE:VALE). Mosaic is slated to receive only 1.5 million metric tons of phosphate rock from Peru this year — not nearly enough to make up for the potential loss of South Fort Meade’s 4 million to 6 million tons.
To meet customer demand for its phosphorus fertilizers, Mosaic would boost production at one of its other mines, such as Four Corners, which sits adjacent to the Fort Meade tract. Most likely, though, it would need to shop overseas, in Morocco, which has come to rival Florida as the most phosphate-rich patch in the world, and buying from third-party miners on the other side of an ocean is far more expensive than simply digging it out of the Bone Valley. Mosaic’s profit margins would be squeezed.
“It’s critically important to us,” Stranghoener said. “It’s our largest and lowest cost rock mine. It produces about 35% of the rock we need. If we don’t have access to rock from that mine — which is not an outcome we expect — it would have a significant impact on our operations. And we’ve been making that very clear to people.
“I would also say, though, that we have a lot of ways to ensure that we’ve got the rock we need to continue to produce phosphate product,” he went on. “So I don’t want to minimize it. It’s a big deal. But we’re confident in the outcome of the underlying legal case and that we’ll move forward.”
Some on Wall Street say that investors already have discounted Mosaic shares to account for the total loss of South Fort Meade. Edlain Rodriguez, a stock analyst for Gleacher & Co. in New York, says he’s already removed the mine from his earnings estimates for Mosaic.
“You kind of assume the status quo, that they’re not going to produce much from that mine. And if this thing goes away, it goes away,” he said.
Depending on phosphate prices, he says, a fully functioning South Fort Meade extension would be worth 30 cents to 50 cents a share each year in net income. That would add about $5 to the company’s share price, he estimated.
Others have a somewhat more jaundiced view. Chris Damas, a trader and analyst at BCMI Research in Toronto, who specializes in natural-resource and agricultural stocks, believes Mosaic’s phosphate business in Florida has turned “toxic” because of the permitting problems as well as potential environmental liabilities.
Mosaic discusses these issues in the lengthy “legal proceedings” sections of its regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company says it takes its “evironmental stewardship responsibilities very seriously.” According to Stranghoener, “Once we’re done mining, we restore the land to a better condition than what it was before we started mining. And we spend a great deal of money to do that.”
More than just the fate of South Fort Meade hangs in the balance in Atlanta. The same Sierra Club-led group has sued the Army Corp of Engineers over its earlier granting of a permit for the expansion of Mosaic’s Four Corners mine, which produced 5.6 million metric tons of phosphate rock in fiscal 2010, or 42% of the company’s output that year. It’s the same place that Mosaic forced Manatee County to back away from, through its $618 million lawsuit.
Though Mosaic has continued to mine there without interruption, the Sierra Club litigation is still pending. The court, in essence, has twinned the two cases — South Fort Meade and Four Corners, which together make up 76% of the company’s annual estimated phosphate capacity — and has told everyone to sit tight, pending the appellate court decision in Atlanta. Whether Mosaic can mine in Florida at all may come down to the outcome of the hearings in April.
Until that decision is made, Mosaic investors will have Florida on their minds.
A Mosaic spokesman, however, offered this clarification: Even if the permit for the Four Corners expansion (called the Altman tract) were revoked, it wouldn’t reduce the company’s phosphate output at the mine. Mosaic would simply move the dragline at Altman to another, nearby phosphate reserve that is fully permitted and ready to go, of which the company has several.
— Reported by Scott Eden in New York
>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Scott Eden.
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Tickers in this article: CF VALE POT MOS

Strip-mining Florida to fertilize the nation

(click link to view image)

Phosphorus Lake: A Snapshot of Fertilizer Fallout
Strip-mining Florida to fertilize the nation
By Mark Fischetti | November 8, 2010 | 8

Image: J. Henry Fair
Phosphorus mining has a beneficial side and a disturbing side. It gives us ammo nium phosphate, a key ingredient in the fertilizer used to grow abundant food. It also produces massive amounts of waste, depicted here.
The phosphorus comes from calcium phosphate rock that is strip-mined across several U.S. states and pulverized. Producers add sulfuric acid to form phosphoric acid, which is later converted to ammonium phosphate. Every ton of phosphoric acid generated creates five tons of a soil-like by-product, phosphogypsum. The white or gray substance emits radon gas and is therefore used in only a few applications, such as peanut farming. Most of the phosphogypsum is bulldozed for permanent storage into giant stacks that can reach 200 feet high and cover 400 acres or more. A gypstack contains one billion to three billion gallons of wastewater that gradually diffuses out, creating small lakes that shimmer blue or green as light bounces off bottom sediment. The water’s pH is between 1 and 2, corrosively acidic. The photograph shows the corner of one such stack in Florida and the lake beside it.

Phosphorus and Plastic Pollute World’s Oceans

UNEP: Phosphorus and Plastic Pollute World’s Oceans
NAIROBI, Kenya, February 17, 2011 (ENS) – Enormous amounts of the fertilizer phosphorus are discharged into oceans due to inefficiencies in farming and a failure to recycle wastewater, the United Nations Environment Programme warns in its 2011 Year Book released today.
An emerging concern over plastics pollution of the oceans is identified in the Year Book as “persistent, bio-accumulating and toxic substances” associated with plastic marine waste.
Research indicates that tiny pieces of plastic are adsorbing and concentrating from the seawater and sediments chemicals from polychlorinated biphenols, PCBs, to the pesticide DDT.
“Many of these pollutants, including PCBs, cause chronic effects such as endocrine disruption, mutagenicity and carcinogenicity,” states the 2011 Year Book.
UNEP released the Year Book 2011 ahead of the annual gathering of the world’s environment ministers that opens on Monday in Nairobi.
Experts cited in the book say that both phosphorus discharge and new concerns over plastics underline the need for better management of the world’s wastes and improved patterns of consumption and production.
“The phosphorus and marine plastics stories bring into sharp focus the urgent need to bridge scientific gaps but also to catalyze a global transition to a resource-efficient Green Economy in order to realize sustainable development and address poverty,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
“Whether it is phosphorus, plastics or any one of the myriad of challenges facing the modern world, there are clearly inordinate opportunities to generate new kinds of employment and new kinds of more efficient industries,” Steiner said.
Demand for phosphorus has soared during the 20th century, and the Year Book 2011 highlighted the nutrient in part because of the heated debate over whether or not finite reserves of phosphate rock will soon run out.
An estimated 35 countries produce phosphate rock. The top 10 countries with the highest reserves are: Algeria, China, Israel, Jordan, Russia, South Africa, Syria and the United States.
New phosphate mines have been commissioned in countries such as Australia, Peru and Saudi Arabia and countries and companies are looking further afield, even to the seabed off the coast of Namibia.
The Year Book recommends a global phosphorus assessment to more precisely map phosphorus flows in the environment and predict levels of economically viable reserves.
“While there are commercially exploitable amounts of phosphate rock in several countries, those with no domestic reserves could be particularly vulnerable in the case of global shortfalls,” the Year Book notes.
There is an enormous opportunity to recover phosphorus by recyling wastewater, the Year Book advises. Up to 70 percent of this water is laden with nutrients and fertilizers such as phosphorus, which currently is discharged untreated into rivers and coastal areas.
Heavy doses of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen increase the risk of harmful algal blooms, which can prompt the closure of fisheries and swimming areas.
Other measures to reduce discharges include cutting erosion and the loss of topsoil where large quantities of phosphorus are associated with soil particles and excess fertilizers are stored after application.
The Year Book advises that further research is needed on the way phosphorus travels through the environment to maximize its use in agriculture and livestock production and cut waste, while reducing environmental impacts on rivers and oceans.

EPA Conference – Phosphate Mining and the Environment

State of the Science on Phosphate Mining and the Environment:

March 28-29, 2011

State of the Science on Phosphate Mining and the Environment

Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Charlotte County Event & Conference Center

75 Taylor St, Punta Gorda, FL

Monday-Tuesday, March 28-29, 2011 This State of the Science Conference aims to present current and detailed scientific information about the environmental effects and reclamation of phosphate mining in Florida, with an emphasis on revealing data gaps, information needs, and conclusions from existing studies or research. Presentations will focus on scientific, economic, and technical issues.

Manasota-88 files concerns to FDEP on local phosphate mine

Manasota-88 files concerns to FDEP on local phosphate mine
MANATEE — A local environmental protection organization has filed a six-page letter to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection outlining its concerns with Mosaic’s Wingate mine.
The letter filed by Manasota-88 to the FDEP is in response to Mosaic’s request to obtain extended mining rights at the Manatee County mine that is currently in operation.
Among the concerns of Manasota-88 listed in the letter include how extend mining will affect area surface waters, crops and air quality.
Last week, Mosaic filed a permit application with the FDEP to add 765 acres to the Wingate Mine in Duette. Mosaic plans to start mining 597 acres of that 765-acre parcel in several years as company officials project the 3,028-acre mining tract will be mined out in a few years.

Read more:

EPA Sets Stage For Massive Cleanup Of Homes On Radioactive Mine Sites

Superfund Report – 02/07/2011
EPA Sets Stage For Massive Cleanup Of Homes On Radioactive Mine Sites
Posted: February 4, 2011
EPA has begun aerial surveys of former phosphate mines in central Florida where it fears tens of thousands people may be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation – a key step that could put the agency on the path toward conducting a potentially precedent-setting cleanup of the area.
The surveys – which have been on hold for years as EPA disputed cleanup standards with state and industry officials – could also lay the groundwork for citizen lawsuits that could potentially force mining companies to clean up the area if the agency does not act on its own, a lawyer following the issue says.
At issue are approximately 10 square miles of former phosphate mining lands near Lakeland, FL, where EPA has taken no cleanup action despite having concerns since the late 1970s that the indoor air of homes built on the lands is contaminated with cancer-causing levels of radiation. A fight between EPA, state and industry officials over the appropriate cleanup standard for the sites, along with the potentially overwhelming cost of conducting such a massive cleanup – as much as $11 billion by some estimates – have been among the reasons for the delay (Superfund Report, Sept. 3).
EPA has long considered aerial surveys to be the next step to addressing its concerns about residential exposure because they would enable the agency to better characterize how much of the land in question is contaminated and to what extent. State and federal officials drafted documents in preparation for such surveys in 2006, but the work was delayed as a result of the dispute over cleanup standards, a former EPA official previously told Inside EPA.
According to documents Inside EPA recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), planning to conduct an aerial survey of a limited number of sites was again underway in 2008, but the plans were never executed. But a January 2010 Inside EPA article that for the first time made EPA’s concerns about the area public “prompted renewed interest in the sites,” according to a February 2010 request from EPA Region IV staff to have a meeting about the issue with then-Acting Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg. Among the interest the article generated were requests from officials at EPA headquarters and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) – then chairman of the House Environment Subcommittee – for briefings on the issue from the Region IV staff.
Following these requests, internal discussions regarding aerial surveys resumed, the FOIA documents show, and according to a source with direct knowledge of the surveys, federal contractors completed some survey work on behalf of EPA in January 2011. The source declined to discuss the survey results, however, and it is unclear exactly what EPA’s next steps will be.
EPA officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Surveying the area, however, is an important step that could provide EPA with key information that the agency would need in order to conduct a cleanup of the site, the lawyer following the issue says. Without comprehensive survey data, EPA has been unable to determine exactly how bad the problem is, how widespread it is, and exactly how many homes might have to be cleaned up, the lawyer notes.
If EPA does not initiate a cleanup, the data it collects in such surveys could be be used by residents to launch lawsuits against the companies that mined the area, the lawyer says. If successful, such suits could force the companies to conduct cleanup work on their own or to pay damages to the affected residents, the lawyer adds.
One case in which two central Florida residents sought to hold phosphate mining companies liable for radioactive contamination on their property recently settled for an undisclosed amount, although the case dealt primarily with drinking water contamination rather than indoor air contamination.
In the suit, which had been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Charlie and Kimberly Gates alleged the Mosaic Company, W.R. Grace & Co., Seminole Fertilizer Corporation and Cargill Fertilizer Inc. were responsible for polluting their private drinking water well at their former home in Bartow, FL, and ultimately causing Charlie Gates to contract leukemia. Relevant documents are available on
If EPA does pursue cleanup of the area, the cleanup standards it chooses could set a precedent for future phosphate mine cleanups in Florida and other states, and for sites contaminated with radioactive materials generally. The traditional EPA cleanup standard under Superfund dictates that concentrations of radium-226 – the radioactive substance left behind on former phosphate mine lands – should not exceed 5 picocuries per gram (pCi/g) of soil. But state and industry officials consider the 5 pCi/g standard “overly conservative” and argue no cleanup is necessary unless people are receiving a dose of more than 500 millirems of radiation per year (mrem/year).
If EPA were to accept 500 mrem as a protective standard for the Florida sites, it would set a negative and far-reaching precedent for future radioactive cleanups around the country, environmentalists have said. “EPA has for years said 100 millirem is way outside the [Superfund] risk range,” one activist said previously. “This would be EPA living in a different universe.”
Industry has in the past expressed its contrary view in statements to Inside EPA and closed-door meetings with EPA officials, and according to the recent FOIA documents, such meetings resumed during the past year. One such meeting took place on April 15, 2010, the documents show. According to a letter Mosaic officials sent to EPA in advance of the meeting, the company hoped “to gain an understanding of EPA’s current viewpoint on the issue of radiation on mined lands and whether [the agency’s] focus is on public health or something else.”
Mosaic also sought “to engage in a discussion of what EPA believes is the likely path to set standards, gather data, manage risks, and communicate regarding the radiation issue,” the letter says. “Mosaic, as the largest phosphate mining company in Florida, is interested in what actions the industry can take to engage proactively with EPA, other state and federal agencies, and the residents of Florida toward appropriate next steps.”
The FOIA documents also show that some Region IV officials had concerns about Mosaic’s plans to build a resort on some former phosphate mines near Fort Meade, FL, and suggested to their colleagues that the area be checked out before construction begins.
A spokesman for Mosaic says the April meeting featured “the same topic of discussion” as prior meetings on the issue and that there has “been very little conversation beyond the discussion of an appropriate standard.” – Douglas P. Guarino
© 2000-2011. Inside Washington Publishers

Legislature to Consider Neutering Counties’ Fertilizer Rules

Sarasota Herald Tribune
ERIC ERNST: Bill would take teeth from local fertilizing rules

By Eric Ernst
Published: Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 5, 2011 at 9:19 p.m.

Contrary to popular belief, or perhaps wishful thinking, a legislative bill in Tallahassee would negate the most important parts of fertilizer rules in Sarasota and Charlotte counties.
Interpretations may vary, but that’s the view of Cris Costello, regional representative of the Sierra Club in Sarasota. She should know. The Sierra Club spearheaded efforts to pass the local laws several years ago to curb the flow of phosphorous and other nutrients into bays and the Gulf of Mexico.
The bill sponsored by two Panhandle representatives would prohibit counties and cities from enacting their own rules. Instead, they would have to adhere to what’s being called “model” statewide legislation, which of course would be weaker and in no meaningful way interfere with business as usual.
The local ordinances prohibit applications during the summer when fertilizer-laden stormwater runoff is most likely to trigger algal blooms such as red tide. They also regulate fertilizer content, setting mandatory levels of slow-release chemicals that are more likely to be absorbed by plants rather than wash into the water.
It makes sense to approach the problem of red tide this way, although if reputable scientific research uncovers flaws in the logic, local jurisdictions can certainly respond with adjustments.
The bill, probably to placate opposition, purports to exempt jurisdictions such as Sarasota and Charlotte that have new rules in place. That assurance is little more than a sham, Costello says.
“The grandfather date applies only to standards not relating to fertilizer content, application timing, application placement and sale,” she wrote in an e-mail.
That means the only parts left of the Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee ordinances would be the standards relating to the management of grass clippings and vegetative material.
“All of the protective standards — rainy season application bans, fertilizer-free buffers, required 50 percent slow release nitrogen — would be eliminated.”
Apparently, having standards that fit the area in which the fertilizer is actually being used is inconvenient to manufacturers and retailers.
They want a one-size-fits-all approach to something that’s not a one-size problem. One of the most compelling reasons to tailor the rules locally is that the drainage patterns and water flows, not to mention the climate, differ from one part of the state to another.
If some businesses can’t adjust to that, too bad for them.
Plenty of smaller, more nimble ventures are ready to take up the slack, as some already have in Sarasota County.
If people want to buy fertilizer, no matter what the formula, companies will respond to produce it and sell it.
And if people use a little less, that’s OK, too, for environmental reasons.
Trying to legislate from Tallahassee, and putting oversight in the hands of the state Department of Agriculture, usurps local control, undermines protection of natural resources and just makes it a lot easier to subvert the process.
It’s probably pure coincidence, but the Lakeland Ledger published an interesting story on Jan 25. Mosaic Co., the phosphate/fertilizer giant, just paid $10,000 for a chocolate hazelnut cake entered by Abigail Putnam in the Polk County Youth Fair Auction. The amount was 10 times larger than any ever received for a cake.
Abigail is the 9-year-old daughter of Adam Putnam, Florida agriculture commissioner.
Eric Ernst’s column runs Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Contact him at or (941) 486-3073.

Mosaic pays $10,000 for Youth Fair Chocolate Cake (Adam Putnam’s Daughter Baked It)

$10,000 at auction
Mosaic Pays Big for Young Putnam’s Cake

By Jeremy Maready
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 10:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 10:38 p.m.

LAKELAND | The 9-year-old daughter of Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam bakes one delicious chocolate hazelnut cake.
The Mosaic Co., a fertilizer company and one of the county’s largest employers, paid a record $10,000 for Abigail Putnam’s cake at the Polk County Youth Fair Auction on Tuesday.
It was the most ever paid for a cake at the annual fair, said Youth Fair Coordinator Janice Jackson. The second-highest bid was $600. She said a cake sold for $1,000 at a past auction, although $200 to $500 is typical.
Mosaic officials said Tuesday they are examining the decision to pay such a high price, and Adam Putnam described the situation as “awkward,” particularly for his daughter.
Mosaic, a large contributor to the annual agriculture fair, typically buys many things from the students who sell livestock and baked goods at the fair.
“They are a huge supporter of the kids and the fair,” said Nicole Walker, Polk County Extension director and 4-H agent.
But Tuesday’s purchase was unprecedented.
“Ten thousand dollars is way out of the normal ballpark,” Walker said.
Shortly after the auction, Abigail Putnam went to Jackson’s office and donated $9,000 of her winnings to the Youth Fair.
“Even my 9-year-old knows a cake isn’t worth $10,000,” Adam Putnam said Tuesday. “I am proud of my daughter and proud of her cake. She feels good about her decision and is excited about it. It’s going to help a lot of kids.”
A Mosaic spokesman, Russell Schweiss, said, “The $10,000 is definitely outside of the normal range.”
“We are investigating the issue and considering what actions are appropriate,” Schweiss said.
Schweiss said an employee whom he didn’t name was given a lump sum to bid on items at the auction. On Tuesday, the company spent $17,000 on pigs. The meat from the pigs, and other livestock the company purchases, will be given to charity.
Putnam said he tasted one of his daughter’s practice cakes and “it was good.”
She is active in 4-H, “just like I was,” Putnam said. “It teaches (the students) a lot of lessons.”
And for this instance, it taught his daughter a lesson in giving back.
But it was an awkward situation to be put in, Adam Putnam said. “The one that it’s most awkward for is Abbie.”
[ Jeremy Maready can be reached at or 863-802-7592.

The Florida Phosphate Committee of Continuous Existence

I stumbled across this website in my online research. It has numerous photographs of our new governor in the header at the top of the page….

The Florida Phosphate Committee of Continuous Existence

In late November 1979, the Florida Phosphate Committee of Continuous Existence (FPCCE) was organized to encourage phosphate industry participation in government and key political issues. Additionally, the FPCCE would provide a source for contributing campaign funds to political candidates in the State of Florida.
In 1983, the FPCCE extended its membership base to include Associate Memberships; i.e. companies providing supplies and services to the phosphate industry. Associate Memberships enhance the FPCCE’s impact in Tallahassee by providing “Strength in Numbers.”
Today, the committee has three phosphate Member Companies and 68 Associate Member companies with the commitment to contributing over $500,000 in this election cycle.
Working closely with their lobbyists in Tallahassee from the three phosphate Member Companies, the FPCCE strives to promote stronger relationships between the phosphate industry and our elected government officials.
We thank you for your support and participation for a united industry effort!
If you are interested in becoming an Associate Member Company, please email FPCCE

The Florida Phosphate Committee of Continuous Existence
invites you to an old fashioned
Bar-B-Q Dinner and Social
Come on down & get the scoop on issues facing our industry!

Where: The Lakeland Center
701 West Lime Street, Lakeland FL 33815
Date: Thursday, October 20, 2011
Time: 5pm until 9pm
Admission: $150 per person
Deadline: October 17, 2011
Florida Phosphate Committee of Continuous Existence (FPCCE)
P.O. Box 1384
Mulberry, FL 33860