BMPs help protect the environment, your farm from added rules

12/10/2012 04:18:00 PM
Renee Stern

It's a particular concern for the state's burgeoning blueberry industry, Mixon says.

"We have a lot of small growers," he says. The IPM provision "gave them a way to say to their neighbors 'I'm sorry you're angry [about the noise], but I'm following the BMPs and I'm in compliance.'"

mangoVicky BoydGreater focus on water management

But the overall focus on water quality also appeals to growers. "All of us want good quality water," Mixon says. "This shows everyone you're trying to be a good neighbor."

"We have so much water here and we want to keep our rivers, lakes, streams and springs clean and healthy," Kates says. "This is a way for agriculture to do our part."

Mixon farms in two locations with different challenges for nutrient and irrigation management, one sited near a wetland, the other on higher ground. But he hasn't found the guidelines restrictive.

"Most, if not all of the practices, make good farming sense," he says. He changed very little in his operation to comply.

Getting in the record-keeping habit

Documenting their existing efforts is likely the biggest change most growers will face, King says.

But, she and Mixon point out, growers already are in the record-keeping habit to meet food safety requirements.

"We're trying to making it as unintrusive as possible," says Brian Boman, professor of agricultural and biological engineering at the University of Florida's Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.

The required records also help growers track decisions and results, such as the timing and amount of irrigation or fertilizer.

"It should make them better farmers," Boman says.

"Why would you want to put more fertilizer on than you need to and see it get washed away?" King says.

The guidelines strive for flexibility to account for differences among individual operations.

"What might be a challenge for someone in Levy County is different for someone in Miami-Dade," Boman says.

The overall goal is to encourage adoption of alternative methods that "might be more economical or no more costly and at the same time better for the environment," he says.

Boman runs implementation teams that offer growers one-on-one assessments and advice on the guidelines.

Growers also can turn to the state's mobile irrigation labs for a free diagnostic tune-up, Bartnick says.

Recent editions of the guidelines, including the set for specialty fruit and nuts, show a greater emphasis on water management and conservation, Kates says.

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