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Clean Waterways Act in Context for Agricultural Producers

Here is an important regulatory update if you are an agricultural producer.

Attention farmers and ranchers. We want to give you a heads-up about a recent law change associated with the Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services (FDACS) best management practices (BMP) program. On June 30th, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill (SB) 712, “The Clean Waterways Act” sponsored by Sen. Debbie Mayfield (Rep. Indian River/Brevard) and Rep. Bobby Payne (Rep. Palatka).

The Clean Waterways Act passed the 2020 Florida Legislature with bipartisan support. The bill modifies the FDACS BMP Program Implementation Verification requirements and carries a wide range of water quality protection provisions aimed at minimizing the impact of known sources of nutrient pollution. This new legislation will impact growers who have operations within basin management action plan (BMAP) areas, and growers enrolled in the FDACS BMP program and who are implementing BMPs and applying nutrients.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) tests waterbodies throughout the state and has designated many of them to be impaired below state standards. To improve water quality in these systems, FDEP, along with many stakeholders, has established BMAPs statewide that describe the sources of impairment and plans for addressing impairments to meet water quality standards.

To address water quality impairments, FDEP and stakeholders are implementing strategies to reach BMAP nutrient or bacteria reduction goals. As part of these strategies, regulatory agencies are utilizing environmental permitting to meet their goals while other entities, including counties and local governments that contribute non-point sources of pollution to waterbodies, use other methods to accomplish BMAP objectives. Agriculture is using FDACS-adopted BMPs to address water quality goals of the BMAPs.

FDACS agricultural BMPs have been extensively used statewide for about two decades. Farmers and ranchers throughout the state have signed Notices of Intent to Implement BMPs (NOIs) with FDACS Office of Agricultural Water Policy (OAWP) and are presumed to be in compliance with state water quality regulations if they are properly implementing the BMPs identified in the NOI.

The Clean Waterways Act states the following: “In order to attain assurance of implementation of BMPs, at least every 2 years, FDACS shall perform onsite inspections of each agricultural producer that enrolls in a best management practice to ensure that such practice is being properly implemented. Such verification will include a collection and review of the best management practice documentation from the previous 2 years required by rules adopted including, but not limited to, nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer application records, which must be collected and retained by FDACS. FDACS is required to initially prioritize the inspection of agricultural producers located in the basin management action plans for Lake Okeechobee, the Indian River Lagoon, the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary, and Silver Springs.”

If you have any questions or issues about enrolling in the FDACS BMP program, please do not hesitate to call your Extension Agent, who can direct you to the appropriate FDACS representative to assist you. You may also call a UF/IFAS BMP Implementation Team member or FDACS representative for any other questions.