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Here's how Nikki Fried plans to fight nutrients in Florida's waterways

Nikki Fried at press conference
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Nikki Fried speaks at the Florida State Fairgrounds. She is joined by State Rep. Michele Rayner, D-St. Petersburg, and State Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Broward County

Her "Clean Water Initiative" would require state officials to adopt "best management practices" for the use of fertilizers and pesticides on farms.

State agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried is unveiling plans that she says will cut the amount of nutrients flowing into the state's waters, fueling algae blooms. State guidelines have not been updated in more than a decade.

Fried, who is also running for governor, is launching her "Clean Water Initiative." It will, for the first time, collect records of how many nutrients are being applied on farms.

It will also include visits to farms by regulators, instead of relying on voluntary self-reporting.

During a visit earlier this week to the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Fried said using this kind of science would help reduce nutrient flows, which aggravates algae blooms and red tide.

"Doing nothing is no longer an option," she said. "We need to take decisive action now. And as stewards of our lands, our farmers — managers in my department — are committed to doing just that."

Fried is also promoting a bill that would require state officials to adopt rules for these "best management practices" and levy fines.

Lawmakers have introduced bills in the House and Senate that would require state officials to adopt best management practices.

State Rep. Michele Rayner of St. Petersburg authoredthe House bill. She appeared earlier this week with Fried at the state fairgrounds.

"We have seen what's happened in Piney Point. We have seen what's happened throughout the state, regarding our water quality," Rayner said, "in that this should be a bill that everybody in the House, everybody in the Senate, should get behind. Because guess what? We all love Florida. Our water is our most important natural resource."

The bill would make these voluntary "best management practices" mandatory for farmers and ranchers.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.