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What does the Clean Waterways Act mean for Florida’s agricultural producers?

What is the Clean Waterways Act?

On June 30, the Clean Waterways Act, Senate Bill (SB) 712, was signed into law. The intention of this act is to aid in water conservation and protect water quality in Florida. This act will lead to some changes in the use of best management practices (BMPs) on farms.

What are Ag BMPs?

Agricultural best management practices, or Ag BMPs, are cost-effective production practices that can conserve water. Ag BMPS also reduce nutrient or other contamination to our water resources by non-point source pollution.

Non-point source pollution occurs when water from irrigation or rainfall moves across the ground to new locations like lakes, rivers, or springs. The moving water can bring along with it pollutants. However, it is not always clear where the pollutants are from.

Effectively, Ag BMPs help with both water quality and water conservation. They can also increase efficiency, and improve yields on farms, thus helping the environment and the producer!

What is the FDACS BMP Program?

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) develops rules for Ag BMPs in different types of commodities. For example, BMPs exist for citrus, nurseries, vegetable crops and many more. These Ag BMPs are based on scientific research. This includes research performed by the University of Florida throughout the state.

A Florida producer can enroll in the BMP program and work with a FDACS representative to develop a BMP plan for their farm. In some cases, enrollment in the BMP program is required to receive water use permits for agricultural production.

What does this mean for producers?

The Clean Waterways Act requires FDACS to perform onsite inspections of agricultural producers enrolled in Ag BMPs every 2 years. This will ensure that producers are properly implementing BMP practices on their farm.

This inspection will include review of BMP use and nitrogen, phosphorous, and other fertilizer applications. We will learn more about the details of these inspections in the coming months.

The act will first prioritize areas in Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) areas. The legislation specifically lists Lake Okeechobee, Indian River Lagoon, Caloosahatchee River and Estuary, and Silver Springs in this priority area.

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