The Florida Department of Environmental Protection forecasts that between now and 2030, demand for drinking water in our state will increase by nearly 30 percent.
Farm families are doing their part to conserve this vital resource. According to field monitoring data verified by state officials, farmers and ranchers conserve more than 12 billion gallons of freshwater each year by careful management.
Many of these agriculturists have spent thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to build closed systems which completely recycle water on their farms. Others have developed marshlands that remove nutrients before they enter the surrounding environment.
Ninety percent of all farmers who substantially reduce their water use do so without any public financial assistance, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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The South Florida Water Management District has reported that farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area eliminated 70 percent of the phosphorous in waters leaving their properties in one year.
Meanwhile, farmers grow abundant food on shrinking acreage. According to Texas A&M University researchers, farms now produce more than 156 percent more food on 26 percent less acreage than they did in the 1940s.
Farm families maintain freshwater recharge areas, wildlife habitat and greenspace as part of their daily work — at no cost to the taxpayer.
But farmers cannot restore whole ecosystems that have been changed and manipulated for more than a century to accommodate new residents in Florida.
We must all share the cost of achieving comprehensive water conservation without risking a loss of our food productivity.
As we pursue conservation policies, I hope we will not lose sight of the fact that agriculture is a life-sustaining resource.
John L. Hoblick, president of Florida Farm Bureau Federation, DeLeon Springs