Farmland Loss in Florida

Ernie NeffAcreage

Photo courtesy of Southwest Florida Water Management District

A recent report by the American Farmland Trust (AFT) describes Florida as “one of the top 12 most threatened states in the nation due to the loss of farmland to poorly planned real estate development.” The report is called Farms Under Threat: The State of the States. See the AFT website, where state-by-state reports can be accessed.

Between 2001 and 2016, 298,400 acres of Florida agricultural land were developed or compromised, the report states. AFT says nearly 2 million acres of Florida’s agricultural land is considered best suited for growing food and crops. The hot spots for development were around Jacksonville, Orlando, Pensacola, Tallahassee and Tampa, according to AFT.

In addition to urban sprawl, Florida’s agricultural land is threatened by low-density residential (LDR) land use, the report adds. It says roughly 46 percent of the land developed or compromised in Florida fell into this category. “In Florida, LDR is 11 times more likely to be converted to urban and highly developed land use than other agricultural land,” the report states.

AFT says LDR land use compromises opportunities for farming and ranching, making it difficult for farmers to get into their fields or travel between fields. New residents not used to living next to agricultural operations often complain about farm equipment on roads or odors related to farming, the report adds.

Billy Van Pelt II, AFT senior director of external relations, says Florida has taken many steps to protect agricultural land. “Florida has established policies to permanently protect farmland through the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, its Greenbelt Law reduces property taxes on agricultural land, localities are required to manage growth through comprehensive planning, and it has a state leasing program for agricultural lands,” he says. “These are important steps forward, but so much more needs to be done.”  

AFT describes Florida as an agricultural state with $7.4 billion in annual revenues from farms and 8,417,200 acres of agricultural land. Roughly 79,000 farmers and 130,400 farm workers are directly involved in the state’s agricultural economy, it adds.

Learn about citrus grove sales in Florida during 2019.

Source: American Farmland Trust

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