Mike Roberts

Stewards of the Land & Water

You see a lot of praise for the hard work Florida farmers and ranchers do to provide the food and fibers we use as a nation and their economic contribution to the state. According to the 2022 Census of Agriculture, there were 44,703 ag operations farming 9.7 million acres and producing $10.2 billion in agricultural products in Florida. USDA’s NASS listed Florida farmers and ranchers as raising 1.5 million head of cattle, and Florida ag producers led the nation in the value of production of Valencia oranges and grapefruit, fresh market tomatoes, sugarcane, bell peppers, and watermelons, just to name a few. 

While Florida farmers and ranchers deserve all the praise they receive for production, there is an area where they receive less praise than they are due: the protection, restoration, and conservation of Florida’s water, soil, and air. A recent letter from Florida Ag Coalition Chairman Jim Spratt made an excellent point in a recent letter: “There is a saying: ‘If you take care of the land, it will take care of you.’ These are the words by which Florida’s farmers live.” 

Stewardship and Advocacy

There are a multitude of ways that Florida ag producers are good stewards of the land, water, and air. One of the major programs is Best Management Practices (BMPs). The BMP program was developed through a partnership between FDACS, UF, and the Florida EPA to establish practices that improve water quality in agriculture and urban discharges. Practices used as part of Florida’s BMPs include cover crops, rotational grazing, precision irrigation and fertilization, and more. Over 4.6 million acres are under the care of a BMP program!

The 4Rs of Nutrient Management are examples of a practice that can be used as part of an official BMP or alone. The 4Rs are the right rateright sourceright placement, and right timing for fertilizer applications with the aim of providing adequate nutrition and minimizing the of loss of nutrients. Four different Florida growers and their nutrient advisors have been honored as 4R Advocates in the past, including Beck Brothers Citrus, Inc., and Griffin Fertilizer FL Crop Advisor Rob Watson!

A BMP success story can be found in South Florida’s Everglades Agricultural Area. The EAA is a program where sugarcane and vegetable farmers have used BMPs to exceed minimal annual requirements concerning phosphorus runoff reduction by more than double and to prevent over 3,000 metric tons of phosphorus from entering the Everglades. An impressive 95% of the waters of the Florida Everglades currently pass the strict standards for phosphorus levels of 10 parts per billion, which is better than bottled water you buy at the store.

That’s just a small slice of the commitment those in Florida ag make to the water, soil, and air of our great state!

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