The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) announced Thursday farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) kept their successful streak alive, achieving another year of water-quality improvement -- this one fairly dramatic.
At its monthly Governing Board Meeting, District staff announced a 70 percent reduction in phosphorous for Water Year 2017. That's nearly three times the 25 percent reduction goal set by the State. It continues a trend in which farmers have reduced phosphorous levels by an average of 56 percent annually over the past 23 years.
Vice Chairman Jim Moran said, "In Water Year 2017, the EAA basin achieved a phosphorous-load reduction of 70 percent. This success is proof positive of the hard work that the farming community is doing to ensure we deliver clean water to the Everglades. I want to publically acknowledge and applaud the work of our farmers on their success as good citizens in protecting the environment."
John S. Hundley, president of EAA Farmers, Inc. responded. “EAA farmers are part of the important water-quality-treatment train that has delivered clean water to the Everglades for more than two decades," he said.
"We are thrilled to hear the tremendous 70 percent reduction accomplishment in the last water year. We are a community of farmers that love the land and environment, so this means a great deal to us all.”
EAA farmers, south of Lake Okeechobee, point out they farm sustainably using "innovative and high-tech farming solutions known as Best Management Practices (BMPs), which were developed with University of Florida scientists."
The BMP program, overseen by the SFWMD and Florida Department of Environmental Protection, has helped ensure 100 percent of water in Everglades National Park and more than 90 percent of water in the approximately 2.4 million acres of the rest of the Everglades Protection Area is meeting the stringent 10 parts per billion standard for phosphorous.
“For more than 22 years, Florida’s sugarcane farmers have worked hard implementing on-farm soil and water management techniques that are directly responsible for the reductions in phosphorus we have seen year-after-year" said Carl Perry, owner of Perry Farms in Moore Haven. ...
"No matter the challenges we face -- whether it’s historically high levels of rainfall, drought, or even hurricanes -- farmers have more than met the stringent water quality standards required under the 1994 Everglades Forever Act. ...
"Our efforts are making a big difference in cleaner water for the Everglades,” Perry added.