The Governor and Cabinet today approved the preservation of 3,846 acres of environmentally sensitive ranch lands in Polk, Hardee, Martin and St. Lucie counties through cost-effective conservation easements, which prevent future development of the land and allow agriculture operations to continue to contribute to Florida’s economy. The purchases are a part of the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which partners with Florida’s farmers and ranchers to preserve active agricultural operations and their immense economic and environmental benefits.
“Florida’s population is projected to reach nearly 34 million by 2070, and this growth will put additional pressure to develop more and more of our world-renowned natural spaces,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “Partnering with Florida’s farmers and ranchers through conservation easements is a cost-effective way to preserve these invaluable pieces of our rural economy and environment for future generations.”
Today’s partnerships increase the total land preserved by the program to 31,495 acres over 35 conservation easements. Since 2011, the current Governor and Cabinet have approved the acquisition of 28 projects totaling 27,910 acres, a more than 770 percent increase in acres preserved by the program. Additional details on today’s purchases can be found here.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services created the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program in 2001 to protect working agricultural lands threatened by other uses, such as development.
The goals of the program include:
- Protecting valuable agricultural lands;
- Creating conservation easements that ensure sustainable agricultural practices;
- Preventing conversion to non-agricultural land uses in the rural base of Florida; and
- Helping to protect natural resources in conjunction with these agricultural operations.
Florida agriculture has an overall economic impact estimated at more than $120 billion annually, making it the state’s second largest industry. The agriculture industry supports more than 2 million jobs in Florida.
More information on the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program is available here.
For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.