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Published March 26, 2013, 12:18 PM

SD lawmakers uphold fertilizer veto

South Dakota lawmakers ended their session March 25 after failing to override Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s veto of a measure that would have increased a fee imposed to fund the state’s inspection of commercial fertilizer.

By: Chet Brokaw , Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota lawmakers ended their session March 25 after failing to override Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s veto of a measure that would have increased a fee imposed to fund the state’s inspection of commercial fertilizer.

Supporters said the bill was needed to provide extra money for research into when, how much and what kind of fertilizer should be applied to the state’s farmland. Opponents agreed with the governor’s argument that the fee increase was an unneeded tax in disguise.

The Senate voted 22-13 in favor of the bill, falling two votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to override the governor’s veto. Both chambers adjourned at about 12:45 p.m. CDT after taking care of some other minor business.

The bill would have raised an estimated $300,000 a year by doubling the 15-cent-a-ton fertilizer inspection fee, with the money going to finance research into commercial fertilizer and manure at the Agricultural Research Station at South Dakota State University.

But Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, said the fee is supposed to be used only to ensure the quality and safety of fertilizer sold in the state. The fee increase would have acted like a tax because the money would have been collected from one group and then given to another program, he said.

The fertilizer companies that backed the fee increase would have passed on the added cost to farmers who bought their products, he said. The measure’s main sponsor, Sen. Shantel Krebs, R-Renners, said agricultural organizations and farmers supported the fee increase to support research on the use of fertilizer in the state. It would have raised fertilizer costs by only 2 cents to 4 cents an acre, she said.

Supporters of the measure said environmental groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to have the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulate fertilizer use and runoff in the entire Mississippi River drainage area. Independent research is needed to find out what standards fit South Dakota’s soil so the state is not subject to national standards tailored to different kinds of soils, they said.

“Our producers, our growers, need to know what the standards should be,” Krebs said.

Sen. Bill Van Gerpen, R-Tyndall, a farmer, said he sees no reason for state government to duplicate research already being done by the fertilizer industry.

Krebs countered that the research should be done by an independent group attached to a university because research done by fertilizer companies would be seen as biased.

Sen. Mark Johnston, R-Sioux Falls, said he supported the fee increase because research is needed to make sure South Dakota farmers can boost grain production safely.

“With the world’s population growing as fast as it is, we’re going to have to produce more food on fewer acres with less water in an environmentally sustainable way,” Johnston said.

The House on March 25 failed to override the governor’s vetoes of a few lines in some spending bills. The governor did not block any spending, but instead asked the Legislature to use more recent enrollment figures when dividing some money among schools.

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