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Program Offers Funding To Farmers For Water Conservation

St. Johns Water Management District is offering up to $700,000 to local farmers to fund agricultural projects in hopes of preserving the Silver Springs watershed.

The district worked with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to create the agricultural cost-share program, which provides funding for projects and equipment that decrease fertilizer runoff and use water more efficiently.

Suzanne Archer, the technical program coordinator, said it helps the farmers too.

"We're putting out less fertilizer, so less nutrients might run off," she said. "But from the farmer perspective, there's a lot of incentive for them to do these projects as well. Any time you're not pumping as much water, they're conserving either electricity or diesel."

Roy Brown, owner of Brown's Farm in Hawthorne, received funding from the program last year. He was one of six applicants who received a portion of about $700,000.

Brown said the program paid for a new variable speed pump and pivot irrigation system for his farm.

"It helped me produce a better crop, so it's not throwing too much water out at one time," Brown said. "And my neighbors love it because it's quieter."

Brown can apply for updates through the program again this year, but Archer said only one farmer has applied so far.

Applications close Sept. 14.

Zach is a reporter for WUFT News and can be reached by emailing news@wuft.org or calling 352-392-6397.