This report from Charlie Shinn, Asst Director, Gov’t and Community Affairs, Florida Farm Bureau Federation:
South Florida Growers Brace for Water Restrictions
Water restrictions will be a certainty by late January or early February without ample rainfall in the District. The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board will meet in Clewiston next week and the amount of available water in South Florida through May will be a hot topic on the agenda. Models at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center are pointing toward very dry conditions for March – May. The summer rains typically start by the second week of June.
The water restrictions will be one more blow to an already difficult season due to several freezes in December that have resulted in damaged crops. Fields of corn, squash and beans as far south as Homestead had to be replanted after cold temperatures and heavy frost damaged crops beyond recovery. Sugarcane and citrus were damaged and efforts are currently underway to harvest as much of the damaged crop as possible.
Adequate water is vital to the proper growth and development of agricultural crops. Decreased water stunts growth, reduces production and in severe cases results in total crop failure.
Water Shortage Grower Meeting in Belle Glade on January 14
At a special meeting for growers in the Lake Okeechobee Service Area, SFWMD district staff will brief attendees on actions the District is planning to take to address the impending water shortage issues. The meeting will be held at the Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade on Friday, January 14 at 10 a.m. This will be an important opportunity to remind District leadership that adequate water supply is essential to the livelihood of agriculture and south Florida’s economy.
Governor Scott Needs to Appoint Governing Board Members
South Florida Water Management District currently has two vacant Governing Board seats and two additional seats will expire on March 1st. Scott’s appointments will undoubtedly direct the future path of the agency.
Newly elected State Representative Pat Rooney vacated the Palm Beach seat last summer to focus on his campaign. Shannon Estenoz stepped off the board in December to accept a position with the U.S. Department of the Interior leaving a vacant Broward seat.
Board Chairman Eric Buermann (Miami-Dade County) and board member Charles Dauray (Lee, Collier, Hendry and Charlotte counties) both have terms that will expire on March 1st. Mr. Dauray has announced that he will see reappointment by Governor Scott.
Florida Farm Bureau Federation looks forward to a balanced approach by the Governor to make sure that all interests are represented equitably on the Governing Board.
Upper East Coast Water Supply Plan Supports Ag Comeback
Recent years have been extremely difficult for the Indian River citrus industry due to several exotic diseases. Acreage that was once abundant in grapefruit and oranges is now fallow in Martin, St. Lucie, Palm Beach and Okeechobee Counties. Farmers are hopeful for a cure so they can replant and this is being reflected in the current planning efforts for the Upper East Coast Water Supply Plan.
The water supply plans are required by Florida Statute to provide a 20-year planning period to assist water resource and supply development. The plans also address minimum flows and levels for particular water bodies and provide recovery and prevention strategies.
The planning horizon under development is 2010 – 2030. Two previous plans were developed for the Upper East Coast in 1998 and 2004. The goal is to update the plans every five years.
As resistant rootstocks are developed for citrus to combat the disease pressure, replanting will take place. It is imperative that planning is in place to provide water to the future crop of citrus. A concern to agriculturalists is the vast growth being planned in public water supply. The water volume is tied to growth projections developed several years ago which need to be updated to reflect the current economic climate.
Over 90% of the growers in this region have developed Best Management Practices (BMPs) which focus on efficient use and management of water resources. They see the need to be conservative with water and deserve the opportunity to make a positive economic impact to the region in the future.
Monthly Reports Available on Florida Farm Bureau Federation’s Website
This report is also available on Florida Farm Bureau Federation’s website (http://www.floridafarmbureau.org/). Click on ‘Issues and Public Policy’ on the left side of the home page, then click on the ‘Water and Natural Resources’ subheading.
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