Protecting and conserving through best management practices


Why four million acres of Florida farm and ranch lands are already enrolled

Agriculture has been in the spotlight for many years for environmental problems. It seems we always have to defend our way of life to prevent government intrusion and/or taxation. Most of this is greatly due to people that do not understand agriculture moving into this great state and becoming vocal at political levels.

Agriculturalists know that we are the best stewards of the land and we try to do what is best for the environment, but for most folks that is not enough. Commissioner Putnam has stated that “water policy is the most important long-range issue facing not only agriculture but all of Florida.” This is a good reason that you may want to consider enrolling in Water Quality and Quantity Best Management Practices (BMPs) through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

The Florida Legislature authorized FDACS to develop commodity specific BMPs along with industry representatives to address agricultural water policy issues. BMPs are an important tool for Florida agriculturalists to ensure their lands remain environmentally friendly.

BMPs are practical, cost effective actions that demonstrate to regulatory agencies the agriculture industry’s part in protecting water resources. Although BMPs are designed primarily to protect water quality, they also have conservation benefits. BMPs are a set of practices used to reduce the amount of soil, nutrients, pesticides, and microbial contaminates entering surface and groundwater while maintaining or improving the productivity of agricultural land. Some examples of BMPs are soil and/or leaf test to determine when you fertilize, maintaining vegetation on road banks, maintain water control structures, irrigating at appropriate times when evaporation is low, or storing fertilizers and pesticides in a manner that protects them from wind and rainfall. These are just a few practices that help improve water quality and conserve water.

Enrolling in BMPs can really be an asset to your operation. Furthermore, according to state law implementing applicable BMPs that address pollution issues gives you a presumption of compliance for those water quality standards addressed by the BMPs. With your enrollment in FDACS-adopted BMPs, you will be considered to be in compliance by state law. Enrollment may make you eligible for cost share in applicable areas to implement BMPs. In Hillsborough, the FDACS has a program called MiniFARMS to assist growers 100 acres or less of existing farm land to implement things such as soil moisture sensors, automation, filtration, soil/leaf testing, conversion to low volume irrigation, and weather stations. There is also cost share available for cow/calf operations for solar water pumps, aggregate, etc. and is not limited to 100 acres or less.

Florida farmers and ranchers have already enrolled over four million acres of their own lands into FDACS BMPs. That means you will not be alone. It is a great opportunity to give Florida’s agriculture another leg to stand on when it comes to defending our lands and quality of life. The Office of Agricultural Water Policy is here to offer help and assistance for agriculture producers. Join the thousands that have already enrolled and let’s keep agriculture in the positive spotlight.

CREDIT

article by JESSICA STEMPIEN,
Florida Department of Agriculture, Office of Agriculture Water Policy.
For more information, email jessicalea.stempien@freshfromflorida.com, call (813) 985-7481 x2125 or (813) 546-1121 or.