TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried held a series of events across Florida announcing the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services(FDACS) Office of Agricultural Water Policy Clean Water Initiative, updating and strengthening the Department’s water policies to better protect the state’s natural resources. At stops in Fort Myers, Sarasota, Tampa, St. Pete, and Stuart, Commissioner Fried met with scientists, environmental advocates, and local elected officials to roll out the new initiative and to discuss the many issues facing Florida’s waterways from coast to coast, including red tide, blue-green algae blooms, record manatee deaths, and the Piney Point phosphogypsum spill.
“From starting at zero when I came into office to where we are with the announcement of our Clean Water Initiative this week, we have come a long way to make these landmark changes, and I want to thank my team for working on this for the past two and a half years to get us to the point we are now,” Commissioner Fried said. “We are rewriting the rules when it comes to agricultural water policy in the state, taking landmark action to increase accountability, transparency, and coordination. Our work is not done, but I am proud that we are standing up and taking concrete action to promote clean water in our state when no other Department has.”
As part of its Clean Water Initiative, the FDACS Office of Agricultural Water Policy (OAWP) is:
- Updating Florida’s Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) with the latest research, data, and technologies available;
- Prioritizing high-value projects within the Cost-Share program to get the greatest bang for the buck as our farmers continue to employ more efficient nutrient and water usage practices as stewards of the land;
- Supporting multi-faceted practices such as cover crops and no till drills that provide significant climate mitigation and carbon sequestration benefits;
- Conducting in-person site visits in cooperation with our agricultural stakeholders rather than relying on voluntary self-reporting when it comes to compliance;
- Working with producers on corrective action plans and referring cases of non-compliance to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for enforcement;
- Collecting and aggregating detailed records of the nutrients being applied by agricultural producers on the production landscape; and
- Increasing transparency and coordination with the public, stakeholders, the agriculture industry, and our agency partners through enhanced education and training outreach, including in-person and online resources.
The FDACS Office of Agricultural Water Policy works with agricultural producers, industry groups, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the university system, and the Florida water management districts to develop and implement Agricultural best management practices (BMPs) addressing both water quality and water conservation. BMPs are practical, cost-effective actions that agricultural producers can take to conserve water and reduce the amount of pesticides, fertilizers, animal waste, and other pollutants entering our water resources. The updated manuals will be individually released as each one is completed.