A Match Made in Florida

If there’s one point I consistently try to hammer home, it’s the importance of working together. That’s why a new project out of the University of Florida has particularly piqued my interest. 

The Southeast Grazing Exchange aims to “play matchmaker” between ranchers with livestock and landowners with grazing space. 

The program is free to users and seeks participants with all livestock and field types in not only Florida, but also Alabama and Georgia. According to project leader Jose Dubeux, a forage agronomy professor at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center, the pairing is a “win-win” for both parties and the environment, as well.

The pairing of livestock and crop producers can reduce nitrate leaching, keep nutrients in place for the next cash crop, reduce wildfire fuel, and improve water quality.

While the benefits of cover cropping have long been established, they are often cost-prohibitive for many growers. The program, which is funded by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, would help to make cover crops possible for more farms. In addition, growers can benefit from the opportunity to remain profitable all year-round. 

Dubeux says he’s been experimenting with similar partnerships on a smaller scale in Jackson County in the panhandle. In that instance, one farmer reported a significant savings on fertilizer thanks to the cattle.

While the program certainly isn’t the first of its kind — similar programs have been established in South Dakota and California — it could be a sign of a beautiful symbiotic relationship budding here in the state. The agriculture industry sure could use a boost like that here in Florida right now.

This article is sponsored by Labor Solutions, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of Central Florida Ag News or of its advertisers.

BIO: Baxter Troutman is founder and chief executive officer of Labor Solutions, a staffing company with offices in Bartow, Winter Haven, Lake Wales, Arcadia, and Plant City. You also can visit his Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch online at www.DH-LR.com. A cattle rancher and citrus grower who served in the Florida House of Representatives, Troutman understands the challenges and concerns of today’s farmer.

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