Believe it or not, something similar to the size of a grain of sand is becoming worrisome to many in the state of Florida.

That thing is fertilizer, and the State of Florida is cracking down on landscaping businesses that use the mix.

According to a Florida State statute that will go into affect on January 1, 2014, all commercial fertilizer applicators must have a license from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

This is due in part to encourage safer practices when applying fertilizer.

“This law was put into place because of water quality issues that are due to non-point source pollution, like fertilizer and pesticide run off,” said Blake Thaxton, Agent I, Commercial Horticulture at the county extension office.

Thaxton said that’s why the county extension office has stepped up to not only alert landscapers of the new statute, but also get them prepared before the 2014 deadline.

“As you know water quality is a huge issue in this state, and even more so the further south you go,” Thaxton said. “(The law) requires that all landscape companies applying fertilizer “for hire” are required to pass this class and obtain a license.”

Thaxton said that all commercial landscapers, even “one man shows” have to obtain this license from the state by the 2014 deadline.

“Any business owner who applies fertilizer will have to have this license by 2014,” Thaxton said.

That does not include homeowners who fertilize their own yard.

Before obtaining the license, landscapers will first have to take a class and obtain a certificate from the local extension office. That certificate will then be utilized to take the exam to get certified to apply fertilizer.

“The Green Industry-Best Management Practices course is not actually the license, but you have to pass the course in order to get the certificate to apply for the license,” Thaxton said.

The GI-BMT course is $20, and is an 8-hour course. Thaxton said the extension office plans on hosting the classes throughout the year.

Thaxton said that larger landscaping companies that have many people who apply fertilizer would have to have every person that applies the chemical, take this course, not just one person.

“Everyone who is actively applying fertilizer has to take the course,” Thaxton said. “This has really been an initiative for a while now.”

Many non-commercial Green Industry applicators or other workers are encouraged to participate in the training by local ordinances or voluntarily participate in the program to get a better understanding of what fertilizer does to the groundwater.

“It’s all having to do with nutrients getting into groundwater and waterways,” Thaxton said. “There’s a concern, especially further south because of the population in south Florida.”

In addition to the Santa Rosa County extension office hosting the training course, other extension offices like the one in Crestview and Cantonment will be holding the training.

“Crestview has one on October 25 and Cantonment has there’s on November 9,” Thaxton said.

For more information on the course, call the county extension office at 623-3868.