Nine agricultural projects to share $1.5 million to reduce water use, nutrient loading

Large trenching tractor installing sub-irrigation drain tiles in a farm

Pipe is placed in trenches in sub-irrigation drain tile projects.

Pipe is placed in trenches in sub-irrigation drain tile projects.

MAITLAND, Fla., Oct. 10, 2017 — The St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board on Tuesday approved moving forward with contracts for nine agricultural projects, totaling nearly $1.5 million in cost-share funds, that reduce water use by 34 million gallons per year and reduce nutrient loading in the Tri County Agricultural Area (TCAA) of Putnam, St. Johns and Flagler counties.

“The district appreciates TCAA growers’ commitment to protecting our natural resources by reducing water use and nutrient runoff from farming operations,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Farming is a vital part of Florida’s economy and its history. We are pleased for the opportunity to partner with farmers who share our goal of protecting Florida’s natural resources for future generations while also ensuring the sustainability of their operations.”

The board authorized the district’s executive director to execute contracts with the selected growers to share in funds provided by the district, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).

All the selected projects are sub-irrigation drain tile projects, in which irrigation water is delivered underground through perforated pipe to avoid evaporation. These systems use much less water than traditional seepage systems.

Together, the nine projects are estimated to reduce farms’ water use by 34 million gallons per year and reduce total nitrogen loading by 2,853 pounds per year and total phosphorus loading by 791 pounds per year.

Farms selected to receive TCAA Water Management Partnership funds are:

  • Picolata Produce Farm, St. Augustine
  • Two projects at C.P. and Wesley Smith, Hastings
  • First Farms, Elkton
  • Prim Parker Farms, Elkton
  • Scott Parker Farms, Elkton
  • Michael Revel Farms, Hastings
  • Blue Sky Farms, Elkton
  • L&M Farms/Cracker Swamp, East Palatka

Funding for the TCAA Water Management Partnership cost-share program is provided on a year-to-year basis by FDEP, FDACS and the district. Together, the agencies select agricultural projects for cost-share opportunities. A fourth partner, the Natural Resource and Conservation Service, provides federal funds for cost-share opportunities in the TCAA. More than 78 projects have received funding since the partnership was initiated in 2012.

These projects are anticipated to contribute to the improved health of the St. Johns River through on-farm and regional water management projects and practices that reduce the movement of nutrients to the river, improve water conservation and result in more efficient farm management while maintaining the long-term viability of agriculture in the TCAA.