South Florida Farmers Achieve Record Year in Water Quality Success

Farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), south of Lake Okeechobee, achieved a record-setting 79 percent phosphorus reduction in the water leaving the farming region -- more than three times less phosphorus than the state requirement.

The South Florida Water Management District, the agency tasked with Everglades restoration, announced today that the EAA's on-farm Best Management Practices (BMPs), developed by university scientists in collaboration with farmers, are a resounding success. The District praised EAA farmers for being proactive and often implementing more BMPs than what is required.

"We're proud of farmers' accomplishments cleaning water, with an average phosphorus reduction of 55 percent over the last 16 years," said Barbara Miedema, vice president of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative. "When the BMP program was first envisioned in 1991, no one imagined it would be this effective over the long term. It's an example of the kind of success that can be achieved in partnership with scientists and farmers, who roll up their sleeves to get the job done."

"Along with being stable economic drivers and job providers for our state and county, farmers have a long track record of supporting and implementing Everglades restoration," said Gaston Cantens, vice president of Florida Crystals Corporation. "Today's record-breaking results are another example of the proven success of our sustainable practices and demonstrate the significant role our farms continue to play in protecting and preserving the Everglades ecosystem, as the design was intended."

Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative and Florida Crystals Corporation are two Palm Beach County-based sugar producers and owners of American Sugar Refining, whose global production capacity is 7 million tons of refined sugar annually.

In addition to improving water quality using high-tech sustainable practices, more than $200 million has been paid by farmers for the construction of Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) to further clean water. Built on 60,000 acres of former farmland, the STAs have reduced phosphorus to the Everglades Protection Area by an additional 1,470 metric tons. That's in addition to the 2,400 metric tons of phosphorus removed by farmers.

Florida Agriculture Fast Facts:

    * Supports 766,000 jobs
    * Generates $100 billion annual economic impact in Florida
    * Responsible for $3 billion in tax revenue for local and state government
    * Florida Sugar Industry provides 7,000 direct jobs & 23,500 indirect jobs
    * Florida Sugar Industry generates $2 billion economic impact

SOURCE Florida Crystals

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