Florida Tour Highlights Cattle as Environmental Solution
Earlier this week, NCBA staff and the Florida Cattlemen’s Association spent three days in South Florida with staff of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discussing the importance of cattle ranching as a solution to modern environmental challenges. Over 5.4 million acres of Florida land are used for pasture and rangeland; that’s 15.6% of the state’s total land area. Cattle producers compete with unprecedented urban sprawl with 1,000 people moving into the state per day. Lake Okeechobee in Southern Florida is impaired with high levels of phosphorus, which can lead to algal blooms.
Thankfully, cattle are a net exporter of phosphorus in the Lake Okeechobee watershed – taking up phosphorus and other nutrients through grazing before leaving the state to go to feedyards in the middle of the country. Florida ranchers implement wetland restoration projects and water farms to further reduce nutrient loads that enter the Lake. Producers work with scientists, both privately and through University of Florida Extension, to establish data-driven practices that will provide long-term benefits for their operations and the surrounding watershed.
The joint tour between the cattle industry and EPA is the latest effort by NCBA to build a collaborative dialogue with federal regulators. By getting EPA staff out of the office and into the field, they learn about cattle ranchers and what our industry does every day to improve water quality and protect the environment.