CLEWISTON -- Over the past year, Florida sugarcane farmers once again made significant strides in their clean water efforts, achieving a 59 percent reduction in phosphorus in the water flowing south. This remarkable result brings farmers’ average annual reduction to 55 percent – more than double the 25 percent reduction in the Everglades Forever Act.
“This past year was challenging for Florida farmers given the demands created by the global pandemic; however, farmers always rise to the challenge, especially when it comes to caring for our water resources,” said Judy Sanchez, Senior Director for Corporate Communications and Public Affairs for U.S. Sugar. “This achievement underscores the fact that over the past 25 years, Florida sugarcane and vegetable farmers growing food in the Everglades Agricultural Area have been reliable partners in the state and federal government’s ongoing efforts to restore South Florida’s ecosystem.”
In a letter sent to landowners in the EAA, South Florida Water Management District lead engineer with the Everglades and Estuaries Protection Bureau Youchao Wang announced this year’s reduction was another success. “In Water Year (WY) 2021, the EAA Basin achieved a TP load reduction of 59% compared to the base period,” according to Wang.
To date, farmers in the EAA have removed 4,280 metric tons of phosphorus in the water flowing south from their farms. In the past year, water quality monitors registered phosphorus levels from Lake Okeechobee to EAA farms at 165 ppb while phosphorus in EAA runoff was much cleaner at 116 ppb.
“While many folks may use ‘clean water’ as a bumper sticker or fundraising slogan, Florida sugarcane and vegetable farmers have a 25-year record of success that demonstrates our commitment to cleaning every drop of water before it leaves our farms,” Sanchez added. “Farmers in the EAA are a great example of how clean water and growing fresh, locally-grown food go hand in hand.”
“Sugarcane farmers’ efforts to date in reducing phosphorus is an American success story,” said Keith Wedgworth, President of the Western Palm Beach Farm Bureau. “Our Best Management Practices are world-class and best of all, we are cleaning the water while growing fresh produce nearly 180 million Americans depend on in the winter months every year.”
Science-based Best Management Practices play a critical role in enabling farmers to reduce phosphorus in water flowing south from their farms. The BMPs were developed working with the University of Florida-IFAS and include soil and water cleansing techniques such as using GPS to level fields, canal and ditch cleaning, banded application of plant nutrition, and growing weeds on field ditches to trap wind and waterbourne soil sediment.
Florida Sugarcane Farmers provide $3.2 billion per year to Florida’s economy, employing 12,500 Floridians. On many farms, rice, spices and fresh vegetables are grown in rotation with sugarcane. For more information, please follow Florida Sugarcane Farmers on Twitter and like us on Facebook.