The Gulf Citrus Growers Association hosted a member luncheon last week at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee. Speakers at the event focused on water and nutrient management.
West Gregory, director of the Office of Agricultural Water Policy with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), spoke during the event. He outlined his priorities for the state’s best management practices (BMPs) program, which his office manages.
One of his goals is to improve the perception of the BMPs program, which he says has a two-fold challenge. The program has a problem with the public and with some growers.
“There are a lot of folks in the public that don’t believe agriculture is doing its part (on water quality), but I would argue it is. But there is always room for improvement. I have been getting out there and spreading the word that BMPs are effective and working,” Gregory said. “We need to tell that story.
“And there is a perception from some producers that BMPs are not worth doing. But we are engaging with those folks to show them the BMPs are worth doing, and that they are part of the solution.”
Gregory said another priority of the BMPs program is to increase its enrollment. Currently, about 83% of irrigated land in Florida is enrolled in the program, but only 63% of all farms are enrolled.
That point sparked some conversation with growers who contended that much of the true commercial-scale agriculture in the state is participating in the program, especially in sensitive areas like Southwest Florida. The very small, hobby-type farms might be skewing the overall participation number downward.
Gregory agreed that producers in the Gulf Citrus Growers Association region are well enrolled and doing a great job, but said more work needs to be done to encourage enrollment in North Central Florida and the Panhandle.
He added FDACS is currently working with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to update the state’s BMP manuals. Moving forward, more frequent updates will be made to these instruction books to keep up with current science.
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