What Are Agricultural Best Management Practices?

For the purposes of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Best Management Practices (BMP) program, a BMP is defined by law as a means, a practice or combination of practices determined by the coordinating agencies, based on research, field testing and expert review, to be the most effective and practicable on-location means, including economic and technological considerations, for improving water quality in agricultural and urban discharges. According to Section 373.4595(2)(a), Florida Statutes, BMPs for agricultural discharges must reflect a balance between water quality improvements and agricultural productivity.

Categories of practices include:

  • Nutrient management to determine nutrient needs and sources and manage nutrient applications (including manure) to minimize impacts to water resources. 
  • Irrigation management to address the method and scheduling of irrigation to reduce water and nutrient losses to the environment. 
  • Water resource protection using buffers, setbacks and swales to reduce or prevent the transport of sediments and nutrients from production areas to waterbodies. 

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Agricultural Water Policy (FDACS OAWP) develops and adopts BMPs by rule for different types of agricultural commodities. Florida law provides for agricultural producers to reduce their impacts to water quality through the implementation of applicable BMPs adopted by FDACS. 

Who Should Implement BMPs?

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) develops total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for waterbodies that have been found to be impaired. The TMDL is a determination of the maximum amount of a pollutant (such as a nutrient) that a waterbody can receive and still meet the water quality standards that protect human health and aquatic life. To implement a TMDL, FDEP establishes basin management action plans (BMAPs), which identify all known contributors of the pollutant within a BMAP and assigns load reductions for the pollutant. A BMAP also identifies strategies to address the pollutant reductions required to achieve the TMDL. “Nonpoint source” contributors (ones where you cannot point at an actual discharge point), like agriculture, are responsible for implementing rule-adopted BMPs to help achieve water quality standards within BMAPs. Therefore, any agricultural producers within a BMAP area must enroll in the FDACS BMP program and properly implement applicable BMPs or conduct water quality monitoring prescribed by FDEP or the water management district to show that they’re meeting state water quality standards.