Your Questions Answered
Florida’s climate makes it ideal for growing a wide variety of crops, which makes the state’s agricultural industry one of the strongest in the country. The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) believes working with the agricultural community to conserve water through our Facilitating Agricultural Resource Management Systems or FARMS program is essential to help ensure future water supplies. FARMS manager Chris Zajac explains more about this innovative program.
Q: What is FARMS?
A: Facilitating Agricultural Resource Management Systems or FARMS for short, is an agricultural cost-share reimbursement program that reduces groundwater withdrawals from the Upper Floridan aquifer through conservation and alternative water supply best management practices (BMPs). The program is designed to serve as an incentive to the agricultural community to promote water quantity, water quality and natural systems to conserve groundwater use and promote resource sustainability. The program is a public/private partnership developed by the District and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) in 2003.
Q: What is a best management practice or BMP and what does that look like for FARMS?
A: Best management practices (BMPs) are methods that have been determined to be the most effective and practical means for improving water conservation and quality in agricultural discharges. Examples of commonly used BMPs for FARMS include, surface water pump stations, water control structures, automatic irrigation controls, soil moisture sensors and weather stations.
Q: What are some of the benefits to the water resources through the FARMS program?
A: Implementing agricultural BMPs provide many water resource benefits, including reduction of groundwater withdrawals from the Upper Floridian aquifer, improvement of ground and/or surface water quality impacted by withdrawals of groundwater; and improved natural-system functions within wetlands and watersheds.
Q: How much water has been offset through the FARMS program?
A: From the inception of the FARMS program in 2003 through 2018, the total projected groundwater offset from the more than 200 approved FARMS projects is 28.5 million gallons of water per day at an overall average cost-benefit of $2.33 per thousand gallons of water offset.
Q: As a member of the agricultural community, how do you qualify for FARMS funding?
A: If you are a member of the agricultural community, you can apply for FARMS funding. To qualify for funding, projects must be located in the District and include one or more of the following BMP strategies: utilize an alternative water supply or technology to reduce groundwater use, and/or improve irrigation water quality and watershed ecology by reducing reliance on poorer quality groundwater. The FARMS program may reimburse a grower up to 50% of the total project costs. Some projects may qualify for up to 75% reimbursement of total project costs based on the water resource benefits and the project location.
Q: How can I learn more about the FARMS program?
A: To learn more about the FARMS program you can visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/FARMS or contact the District at (813) 985-7481 ext. 4413.
Southwest Florida Water Management District