Board approves ranking of agricultural projects to share in $1.56 million for water conservation, nutrient reduction

Thirteen agricultural projects will share in $1.56 million from the St. Johns River Water Management District to improve water conservation and reduce nutrient loading to area waterways. Projects approved by the district’s Governing Board on Tuesday are estimated to collectively conserve 2.37 million gallons of water each day and reduce total nitrogen by 38,222 pounds per year and total phosphorus by 5,483 pounds per year.

Locally, Mercer Botanicals of Zellwood were among the 13 recipients.

According to its website, Mercer Botanicals was formed by Wayne and Chris Mercer in 1989 with 3 acres of falling down greenhouses. Today it has grown to nearly 1 million square feet of modern growing facilities with a 20,000 square foot warehouse with multiple loading bays designed to accommodate all customer vehicles from personnel vans to 53′ semis.

“This cost-share program assists farmers and growers with implementing projects that conserve water and result in nutrient load reductions,” said District Executive Director Ann Shortelle. “Since the program began in July 2015, we have funded 85 partnership projects that support sustainable farming practices and protect the environment while also increasing farms’ production and quality.”

Per the project ranking approved by the board at Tuesday’s meeting, the following projects will receive funds this cycle:

  1. Lake Jem Farms Inc., Lake County, precision fertilizer application and irrigation conversion
  2. Cherrylake Inc., Lake County, precision fertilizer application
  3. Hooper’s Landscape and Nursery, Lake County, irrigation retrofit and soil moisture sensors
  4. Sun Ag LLC, Indian River County, conversion to surface water
  5. Hammond Groves/Sebastian River Farms, Indian River County, tailwater recovery and reuse
  6. Triple J Farms, Brevard County, GPS controlled land forming technology
  7. West River Groves, Indian River County, polypropylene ground cover and weather station
  8. Orange Bend Harvesting Inc., Lake County, precision fertilizer application
  9. May and Whitaker Family Partnership Ltd., Lake County, precision fertilizer application
  10. London Farm and Cattle LLC, Marion County, bio-carbon application
  11. Wild Goose Farms LLC/Sevorg Trading Co., Marion County, precision fertilizer application
  12. Mercer Botanicals Inc., Orange County, irrigation retrofit
  13. Twenty Twenty Groves, Indian River County, irrigation retrofit and pump automation

The district received 22 applications for projects seeking funds through the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 Districtwide Ag Cost-share Program for projects in the 15 counties outside the Tri-County Agricultural Area (portions of Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties), which has its own separate funding program for agricultural projects.

The types of projects eligible for funding include irrigation system retrofits, soil moisture, and climate sensor telemetry, rainwater harvesting, sub-irrigation drain tile and more. The program is entirely voluntary and includes a requirement that funding recipients modify their consumptive use permits to memorialize the actual water reductions resulting from the district’s monetary contribution.

For information about district cost-share programs, visit www.sjrwmd.com/localgovernments/funding/.

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