Crop Alternative Program

Agricultural Partnership  |  Water Quality Improvement  |  Water Conservation

The St. Johns County Crop Alternative Program (CAP) is an innovative approach to improving water quality that is achieved through partnerships between landowners and the County. The primary CAP goal is to reduce nutrient loading to the Lower St. Johns River while conserving aquifer water resources and providing other environmental benefits such as creating wildlife habitat, increasing green space, and generating recreational opportunities.

St. Johns County seeks to enter into contractual agreements (the CAP Agreement) with willing and eligible landowners to convert a portion of their land from row crop or sod to silviculture for a period of 20 years. The CAP will provide funding to willing and eligible landowners to convert a portion of their existing croplands into pine plantations.The landowners are only required to practice silviculture, and any forestry products produced are owned by the landowner.

Public Meeting

  • Tuesday, November 22, from 5:30 pm to 6:30pm
    St Johns County Main Branch Library, 1960 N. Ponce de Leon Blvd. St. Augustine, FL 32084

Frequently Asked Questions

General

What is the CAP?
The CAP is voluntary program. St. Johns County hopes to partner with landowners to convert portions of their land, from row crop or sod to silviculture. The landowner is reimbursed for conversion costs and will receive a yearly stipend in exchange for placing a silvicultural easement over the property while enrolled in the program. The County will receive TMDL nutrient reduction credits. This is the first program of its kind in Florida. Although voluntary, an agreement will be binding for a 20-year term once signed.

What do you mean by Silviculture?
The CAP agreement defines the allowable practices on the land – pine trees with no fertilization or irrigation. For more general information on silviculture techniques, see the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) website and the Silviculture Best Management Practices Manual at: http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Florida-Forest-Service/Our-Forests/Best-Management-Practices-BMP.

How does this benefit the County?
The County is required by FDEP to reduce the amount of nutrients that make their way in the Lower St. Johns River Basin. Row crop or sod has significantly greater potential to export nutrients in stormwater runoff than silvicultural lands. Converting from row crop or sod to trees reduces the nutrients exported to the river. The County will receive nutrient-reduction credits from FDEP cost-effectively through this program. This helps the County reach its Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirements and save tax dollars.

How does this benefit the landowner?
Landowners receive several benefits. The County reimburses the cost of converting the property to silviculture. This includes preparing the land and the initial planting of the trees. Once the trees are established, the landowner will receive a yearly stipend: $150 per acre of land in the program. The County will pay the stipend to the landowner for 20 years. The landowner will retain all assets related to the silvicultural production.

Can the terms of the sample CAP agreement be modified?
The CAP agreement terms are related to the County's agreements with SJRWMD and FDEP and therefore cannot be changed. A sample agreement is included in the booklet.

What happens during those 20 years?
The landowner agrees to give the County a silviculture easement on a portion of their property. The landowner is responsible for maintaining the area as silviculture following the BMPs for silviculture.

What happens after 20 years?
The contract is completed. The landowner will retain all assets related to the silvicultural production. The County may provide an option to continue the program.

What happens if trees are harvested before the 20-year term is finished?
The agreement is for a 20-year term. The landowner may implement varying harvest cycles. Any costs incurred for replanting or other activities will be the landowner's responsibility. As long as the area meets the terms of the CAP agreement, you are still in the program. Conversion to another land use may be a violation of the agreement. Please review the terms and conditions of the CAP agreement.

What if I change to another land use before the 20-year term of the easement is finished?
Changing the land use, for whatever reason, will be considered leaving the program. If you leave the program early, there are penalties. Depending on how much of the 20-year term is remaining, you would have to pay the County back a portion of the conversion costs.

Payment

As a Landowner, how do I get paid?
There are two categories of payments: Land Conversion Expenses and Annual Maintenance Stipend.
For the Land Conversion Expenses, the County will reimburse landowners for expenses associated with converting the row-crop area to silviculture. The landowner must submit an invoice with supporting documentation for the work performed and the associated costs.

For the Annual Maintenance Stipend, the landowner will submit an invoice to the County by October 1 each year. Include your CAP number on the invoice. The County will perform periodic site visits, expected to be once per year, to confirm the silviculture is still in place.

Joining the Program

Can anyone apply?
Any landowner can apply. You must own the land and meet minimum qualifications.

What are the minimum requirements to join the program?
There are a few. You must own the land. The minimum area eligible is 10 acres, and the area must be contiguous. The land must be in St. Johns County, and must be within the LSJB (see Figure 1). The area you want to convert must have been used to grow row crop or sod within the last 5 years. The conversion to silviculture cannot increase the stormwater runoff.

How do I sign up for the Program?
Fill out the one-page application and attach a map showing the area you want to convert to silviculture. There is no fee. Pertinent dates are provided in the Program Timeline. You can email completed applications to the CAP Coordinator at cropalternativeprogram@sjcfl.us with the subject CAP Application, or you can mail a hardcopy to the address below.

I own multiple properties; can I fill out one application?
Each area requires a separate application. If you are proposing to enroll two properties in the CAP, you need to send in two applications. If you own a large piece of property and want to convert two or three separate areas within the property, each area would need a separate application.

Can I get help with the application?
St. Johns County Public Works staff is available to assist with the application process. Please contact the County's CAP Coordinator with any questions:

CAP Coordinator
St. Johns County Public Works
Engineering Department
cropalternativeprogram@sjcfl.us
Office: (904) 209-0110

I've sent in my application, now what?
St. Johns County staff will check the applications for minimum requirements and rank them. The County will let you know if you were, or were not, selected.

I've been selected, now what?
St. Johns County personnel will contact you about signing a notice of intent to participate in the CAP and to coordinate generation of a legal description (if necessary). The legal description will be incorporated into the easement agreement.

Filling Out the Application

Applicant Information

Full Name: Please provide first name, middle initial, and last name of the contact person applying to the CAP.

Mailing Address: The County will send official CAP correspondence to this address.

Phone: The County will contact the applicant using this number if needed.

Email: The County will send official CAP correspondence to this email address.

CAP Application

Property Information for Area to be Converted

Address: Please provide the address for the property or portion of property that you would like to enroll in the CAP. This is the property that is proposed for conversion to silviculture. If there is no mailing address for the site, please provide the parcel identification number or provide a location description. For example: on Sesame Street, 0.5 mile north of Blueberry Lane.

Brief Description of Property: Provide a brief description of the area proposed for enrollment in the CAP. For example: 34 acres on the north side of Sesame Street, 0.5 mile north of Blueberry Lane.

Map: Please attach a map outlining the property parcel and area that you are proposing for enrollment in the CAP. This does not need to be a legal description. County staff can provide assistance if needed. Applications cannot be processed without a map.

Number of Acres: Provide the number of acres proposed for enrollment in the CAP. The minimum is
10-acres and the maximum is 100-acres.

Date Property is Available for Conversion: Provide the date the property is available for conversion to silviculture.

Waterbody the Property Discharges To: Only properties that discharge into the LSJR basin are eligible. This is also used to rank the applications. If the waterbody is listed as impaired or potentially impaired by the FDEP, more points are awarded (see Figure 1). For more information about FDEP's impaired waterbody list, please see: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/tmdl.

What if I still have questions?

This is a new program for the County. Feel free to contact the County's CAP Coordinator with any questions:

CAP Coordinator
St. Johns County Public Works
Engineering Department
cropalternativeprogram@sjcfl.us
Office: (904) 209-0110



 

 

 

 

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