By PAUL POWER JR. '
Tribune Staff Writer
PLANT CITY A coalition of
farm groups said Friday they will
protest new water restrictions by
caravanning to Brooksville, taking.
their complaints to Monday's meet-
ing of water managers.
"We want the water manage-
ment district to see the growers who
will be negatively impacted by their
proposed rules," said Stephanie
Beddingfield, a spokeswoman for
the Florida Strawberry Growers As-
sociation, whose 'family grows citrus'
In Polk County.
The caravan Is the latest strate-
gy adopted by Florida Citrus Mutu,
al, the Florida Fruit & Vegetable As-
sociation and other trade groups
irked by proposed water-conserving
measures considered by the South-
west Florida Water Managemeyt
Earlier this month, the groups
filed a formal challenge to what is
known as the proposed Southern
Water Use Caution Area rule, coni
tending that the water managers'
proposals will unnecessarily hurt
their businesses by reducing their;
ability to irrigate crops.
Water managers say that new,
comprehensive rules are necessary
to protect and restore underground
water levels that have allowed salt
water to creep inland.
Farm groups said they have in-
vested heavily over the last few
years to adopt new irrigation prac-
tices that use less water. Water
managers say that more improve-
ments are needed at some farms,
and that all water users, not just
farmers, will need to adapt to offset
the impact of growth in the region.
Shannon Ross, spokeswoman for
Florida Citrus Mutual, an associa-
tion representing 12,000 fruit grow-
ers, said the group regrets that the
issue of how to best protect water
supplies has become increasing con-'
tentious and confrontational in re-
Even so, the farm groups said
they were appealing to their mem-
bers to drive to Brooksville.
In Plant City, Beddingfield said
that might be difficult, since farm-
ers are now working in their straw-
berry fields, a crop that is usually a,
$100 million business in and around
eastern Hillsborough County.