Like other manufactured goods, states regulate fertilizer quality. Several federal regulations cover fertilizer manufacturing and transportation and their potential impact on the environment and security. Every state in the country, as well as Puerto Rico, has its own fertilizer regulatory program, usually administered by the state department of agriculture.
While fertilizer quality is primarily regulated at the state level, several federal laws also pertain to its manufacture, distribution and use. Some laws, such as the Community Right-to-Know acts, establish the industry's reporting responsibilities. Others, such as emission standards for air and water quality and Resource Conservation and Recovery acts, promote environmental stewardship.
State regulation is concerned with consumer protection, labeling, the protection of human health and the environment and proper fertilizer handling and application. Fertilizers are regulated at the state level because soil conditions vary dramatically from state to state across the country. For example, the rocky, thin soils of New England are vastly different from the deep, rich, black soils of the Midwest Corn Belt. Different levels of fertilizer nutrients in the soil, diverse crops (potatoes versus corn, for instance) and divergent weather and cropping patterns require state-specific regulation.
State Fertilizer Regulators
The Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO) is the national organization of fertilizer control officials from each state, Puerto Rico and Canada responsible for administering fertilizer law and regulation.
The AAPFCO ensures adequate fertilizer labeling by establishing standard definitions for each fertilizer type. State control officials then test the nutrient content of fertilizers to ensure the mixture is consistent with these standards. This process protects consumers by making sure that the label on the fertilizer they purchase is consistent with its nutrient content. AAPFCO regulations also address the presence of naturally occurring metals in some fertilizers.