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CONTACT: Teresa Monson, 904-730-6258,


PALATKA – Seven farms in northeast Florida's Tri-County Agricultural Area (TCAA) will share $639,220 in state funds to implement projects that will contribute to improving the health of the St. Johns River.

The St. Johns River Water Management District's Governing Board on Aug. 12 approved entering into cost-share agreements under the TCAA Water Management Partnership (WMP) that will fund best management practices and projects to control runoff from farms and reduce pollutant loads to the St. Johns River.

The projects are anticipated to begin by Sept. 30 and will contribute to the improved health of the river through on-farm and regional water management projects and practices that reduce the movement of nutrients to the river, improve water conservation, and result in more efficient farm management while maintaining the long-term viability of agriculture in the TCAA.

The selected projects include two enhanced seepage irrigation (subsurface drip irrigation), one high tunnel growing shelter with drip irrigation and stormwater harvesting, and four fertilizer banders.

"Water management practices, such as enhanced seepage irrigation and subsurface drip irrigation, retain nutrients in the field by reducing the amount of water running off of the field during times of irrigation. They also have the added benefit of conserving water by reducing the amount of water applied to the field," said Derek Busby, leader of the District's Middle and Lower St. Johns River Water Quality Improvement Initiative. "Fertilizer banding helps to improve nutrient uptake efficiency for the crop by applying fertilizer directly to the planted row. This practice has shown to decrease phosphorus fertilizer rates by 30 percent."

Project recipients to receive funding under the Partnership program are:

  • Picolata Farms for enhanced seepage irrigation on 40 acres. Cost-share funding: $75,000.
  • John Mitchell Farms for fertilizer banding equipment and tractor global positioning system (GPS). Cost-share funding: $76,850.
  • Yu An Farms for fertilizer banding equipment. Cost-share funding: $75,000.
  • Sykes Farm for high tunnel with drip irrigation, fertilizer banding and rainwater harvesting. Cost-share funding: $264,750.
  • William Revels Farm for fertilizer tender and GPS unit for existing bander. Cost-share funding: $19,200.
  • Mike Revels Farm for fertilizer bander with tender. Cost-share funding: $57,800.
  • First Farms for enhanced seepage irrigation on 50 acres. Cost-share funding: $70,620.

The growers will contribute a combined $441,000 in matching funds.

"The health of the St. Johns River is important to the citizens of the Tri-County Agricultural Area," said Deputy Secretary of Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration Drew Bartlett of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). "I commend these farms and those that preceded them for stepping up with innovative changes to protect this critical river from excess nutrient pollution."

The TCAA-WMP accepts applications twice each year to accommodate grower planting and harvesting seasons. The agreements are reviewed by the Partnership Technical Support Team and approved by the Partnership Project Selection Committee, which consists of representatives from the District, DEP and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The TCAA-WMP was formed in 2011 to assist growers in Putnam, St. Johns and Flagler counties with projects to help meet agricultural load reductions to the lower St. Johns River. The 2008 Basin Management Action Plan adopted by DEP identified projects to reduce pollutant loadings to the St. Johns River, including farm field projects in the TCAA.