Politics of Water Addressed at Expo

Josh McGillCitrus Expo, Nutrition, Water

Citrus growers have been watching developments with water regulation closely in recent years. The 2022 Florida legislative session addressed some issues that had developed with the state’s best management practices (BMPs) program. Ernie Barnett, president of the Florida Land Council, gave Citrus & Specialty Crop Expo attendees a recap of the BMPs changes and provided a big-picture perspective of the politics of water in the state.

Barnett’s talk was part of the well-attended general session at the recent Citrus & Specialty Crop Expo.

During the legislative session, Sen. Ben Albritton (R-26) recognized problems with the current citrus BMPs program, including the fact that nutrient recommendations are decades old and based on research performed on healthy trees, not those infected with HLB. 

“Sen. Albritton oversaw the passage of SB 1000,” Barnett noted. “What the bill does is allows you as a producer to get a certified crop adviser to look at your situation and develop nutrient recommendations based on your soil types and what your trees need. The certified crop adviser can recommend an alternative nutrient rate based on that individual grove’s needs. Once that is done, it becomes your BMP fertilizer rate.”

Barnett noted the legislation also funds and directs the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to develop new nutrient recommendations for citrus that consider the effects of HLB on fertilizer requirements.

He argued any regulations imposed on citrus growers and other farmers must be economically viable. He added growers have done a lot to improve water quality on their farms and document that success.

“If we overregulate our agricultural interest, then the land will have to be sold and converted into more highly intensive uses (like development). So instead of growing oranges, we will be growing red tile roofs,” he said. “We need to make wise investments at the state level to fund proper BMP research for nutrient, sediment and water management.”

He concluded that SB 1000 was a good step in that direction and should be a model for future agricultural investment.

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