Carl Little, a peanut, watermelon and vegetable farmer in Seffner was looking for a way to reduce his production costs and help the environment.
Little contacted staff members who manage the Facilitating Agricultural Resource Management Systems (FARMS) cost-share program and learned about Best Management Practices (BMPs) he could use on his 60-acre property.
His goal was to convert his traveling-gun crop irrigation method to a towable, center-pivot irrigation system on 32 acres of peanut production.
The FARMS Program was developed by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to implement BMP projects that benefit water quality, reduce Upper Floridan aquifer withdrawals and/or conserve, restore or augment the SWFWMD region’s water resources and ecology.
SWFWMD wanted to reduce Little’s groundwater withdrawals. Their initial estimated water savings from this project totaled 12,180 gallons per day (gpd) or a 20 percent reduction in usage. The actual savings was an average of 32,500 gpd, which equaled a 53 percent reduction in water use.
The cost of this project was $27,806. The FARMS program and the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission contributed 64 percent of that total ($17,903) in cost share funding.
Implementing these BMPs can save farmers more money than just using monitoring wells. A recent cost analysis from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)states that the cost for a 160-acre field monitored for groundwater with one surface water input and one surface water output would be $77,400 the first year and $43,900 the second year.
“Input costs are at an all-time high and farmers and ranchers must do everything they can to lower expenses,” said Scot Eubanks, Florida Farm Bureau CARES Coordinator. “BMPs are a proven way to keep costs down while maintaining high yields.”
(Information courtesy of Jessica Stempien, FDACS Office of Agricultural Water Policy and FDEP)