On July 4, 2016 we celebrated an event that occurred 240 years ago when citizens united in a common cause, our freedom. On July 4, 2016 south Florida experienced one of the largest algal blooms in recent history. This event is challenging our citizens to unite in another common cause, solving a complex algae crisis.
Farmers love the land and are problem solvers. There is no difference during the algae crisis. Their business is tending to the farm, producing food and fiber while managing nutrients and water in a cost effective and environmentally sound way.
According to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services farmers have implemented BMPs on 2.6 million acres in the Okeechobee Watershed. Additionally, farmers continue to implement new and innovative ways of doing business.
Nearly all dairy farmers operate new state of the art barns designed to capture all farm runoff and recycle water and nutrients back on the farm. Farmers, again, in the EAA this past year achieved a 79 percent reduction in nutrients far exceeding their 25 percent goal.
Farmers and citizens in the Glades have come together in a show of unity concerning the algae crisis. The message is Glades Lives Matter as they reach out to the coastal communities for solidarity. We need to complete restoration projects and help solve the algae crisis while maintaining economic sustainability in coastal and farming communities alike.
We need to stay together in our approach to system wide restoration and solving challenges like this year’s algal crisis. Restoration needs to start in the Orlando headwaters and continue south into to the Everglades and Florida Bay. The effort starts with all of us and south Florida farmers continue to lead the charge.
By Gary Ritter, Assistant Director of Government and Community Affairs