Twenty-nine North Florida farmers were honored guests at the 8th annual CARES supper and celebration held at Dwight Stansel’s farm and nursery in Live Oak, Fla. on July 1. Farmers being honored represented five counties in North Florida--Jefferson, Lafayette, Suwannee, Hamilton and Madison. An estimated 800 attendees gathered to recognize the positive efforts being made to protect and conserve water in North Florida.
CARES (County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship) is a program developed by the Suwannee River Partnership and Florida Farm Bureau to promote sound environmental and agricultural practices that help save water, prevent pollution and conserve energy.
Rep. Debbie Boyd hosted the event and guest speakers included Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Gale A. Buchanan, Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick, Larry Arrington, dean and director for Cooperative Extension, U.F. Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Carlos Suarez, state conservationist, Natural Resource Conservation Service.
The CARES program encourages farmers to implement best management practices (BMPs) on their farms and operations. BMPs are practical, economically feasible actions that agricultural producers can take to reduce the amount of fertilizers, animal waste and other pollutants from entering the area’s water resources. These practices benefit both the environment and the farmer.
Since the program’s inception in 1999, the Partnership has managed to achieve exceptionally high participation rates. Currently, 90 percent of dairies, 99 percent of poultry farms and 70 percent of row crop farms are participating in the program and helping protect the environment.
Over the nine year period, more than 330 farmers have made investments in infrastructure and practices designed to benefit the environment. These farmers have committed to protect the area’s water resources and have voluntarily agreed to install and manage BMPs on their farms.
The Suwannee River Partnership is a group of 63 local, state and federal agencies and other participating members dedicated to improving water quality and strengthening agriculture in North Florida.
For more information about CARES or the Suwannee River Partnership, visit www.suwannee.org.