It also helps protect your operation from some additional regulations.
Participating growers "receive a presumption of compliance" with the state's water quality requirements, says Bill Bartnick, environmental administrator at the Florida Department of Agriculture in Tallahassee. Those growers don't need to monitor water quality and nutrient discharge limits.
In addition, growers inside a basin management action plan but not enrolled in the BMP program may have to pay for water quality monitoring to demonstrate compliance and take any required remedial action.
Most growers already use at least some of the science-based practices outlined in the guidelines.
"Why not get credit for it?" says Kerry Kates, director of water and natural resources for Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association in Maitland.
Louise King, vice president of the Tropical Fruit Growers of South Florida Inc., signed up her operation, Royal Grove Nursery in Homestead, for the guidelines as soon as they were adopted.
"I wanted to be in compliance and not be blamed for something I didn't do," King says.
"It's an insurance policy," says Jerry Mixon, director of domestic production for Dole Berry Co. "And it's a free or low-cost policy because they're things we were already doing."
Dole acquired the Haines City-based Mixon Family Farm last year.
So far, 19 specialty fruit and nut producers have enrolled in the program, covering just over 3,500 acres. More than 7 million acres altogether fall under all of the state's BMP guidelines, covering crops from citrus to vegetables as well as cattle, container nursery and sod operations.
The specialty fruit and nuts manual is among the latest in a decade-long series that started with Florida's largest agricultural land uses, Bartnick says. Growers collaborate with state regulators and University of Florida researchers to develop each version, which is slated for review and revision every five years.
New bird-hazing section
The manual outlines six main categories of best practices, including nutrient, irrigation and stormwater management.
Integrated pest management also is included, focusing not only on pesticide applications but also on bird-hazing devices such as propane cannons.
That section was added to offer protection against city or county efforts to adopt noise ordinances that might otherwise prohibit using sound devices, Bartnick says.