Water Issues: Ag Has Allies

Ernie NeffCitrus Expo, Water

water issues
A panel of experts spoke about water issues during Expo’s general session.

“I think that the ag industry has a number of allies within the regulatory arena,” says Rich Budell, who moderated a panel of Florida regulators at Citrus Expo. Budell, now a consultant, spent 31 years working on water issues with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

The panelists were Chris Pettit, director of agricultural water policy at FDACS; Thomas Frick, director of environmental assessment and restoration at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP); and Drew Bartlett, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD).

In an interview summing up the panel’s discussions, Budell specifically names FDACS, FDEP and SFWMD as allies of agriculture. He says many Floridians come from other places and don’t appreciate agriculture. “But I do think … the governmental entities … they understand the value of well-managed land,” he says. “They know how well land in private ownership is managed” by agriculture.

Budell discusses best management practices (BMPs) that agriculture and other industries follow. “As long as landowners are implementing the appropriate BMPs, they are presumed to be compliant with water quality standards,” he says.

Budell also discusses the SFWMD’s Dispersed Water Management Program, which pays landowners for providing environmental services by storing water on their land. He says the landowners are compensated annually for the average volume held on their property.

“It think it’s a great opportunity for landowners who have that flexibility; it’s not for everybody,” Budell says. “It’s a predictable source of money, it diversifies your income across your farm, and it has this wonderful environmental benefit. You’re storing water. You’re creating habitat. You’re creating local groundwater recharge.”

The former regulator concludes by saying Florida can’t continue to grow at the pace it has grown for generations “without environmental impact … We need to pay more for our water, value it more,” he says.

Hear more from Budell:

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large