Florida Preserves Nearly 4,000 Acres of Economically, Environmentally Sensitive Working Land

Randall Weiseman Cattle, Florida, Forestry, General, Industry News Release

From the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:

fdacs-sealTALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Governor and Cabinet today unanimously approved the preservation of nearly 4,000 acres of sensitive agricultural lands in Hardee, DeSoto, Dixie and Indian River counties, while allowing the land and 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 through cost-effective conservation easements.

Today’s partnerships increase the total land preserved by the program to 22,314 acres over 28 conservation easements. Since 2011, 21 projects totaling 18,729 acres have been acquired by the current Governor and Cabinet, a more than 500 percent increase in acres preserved. The perpetual conservation easements will preserve 384 acres of Fussell Farms in Hardee County, 834 acres of the Candy Bar Ranch in DeSoto County, 1,966 acres of the Land Family Ranch in Dixie County, and 752 acres of the Ox Creek Ranch in Indian River County.

“Partnering with Florida’s farmers and ranchers through conservation easements is the most cost-effective way to preserve these invaluable pieces of our rural economy and environment for future generations,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “With the unanimous approval of these conservation easements today, the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program now preserves more than 22,000 acres of Florida’s working agricultural lands.”

Fussell Farms is a cattle operation in northeast Hardee County and the easement is adjacent to Old Town Creek Watershed Florida Forever Project and in close proximity to the Lake Wales Ridge-Avon Park Florida Forever Project, as well as other private conservation lands.

Candy Bar Ranch is a cattle operation in western Desoto County and the easement is within the Myakka Ranchlands Florida Forever Project, which encompasses and is adjacent to multiple city, county, state and privately-managed conservation lands. It is also located in close proximity to the Peace River State Forest. Due to its extensive connectivity to other conservation lands, as well as the property’s mostly-natural condition, the Florida Natural Areas Inventory “FNAI” has ranked it high for natural resource benefits.

The Land Family Ranch is a silviculture and commercial Florida Cracker Cattle operation in Dixie County that provides connectivity to a number of public and private conservation areas and this project likely influences two 2nd magnitude springs – Rock Sink Spring and Guaranto Spring – located near the Suwannee River. According to the SRWMD, preserving the headwaters of the recharge areas would reduce potential water quality and quantity impacts to the springs and complement the SRWMD’s efforts to increase recharge east of Mallory Swamp.

Ox Creek Ranch is a cattle operation in Indian River County that is located less than a mile west of the large marshes and lakes at the southern extent of the upper St. Johns River. It is also surrounded by multiple large tracts of conservation lands.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services created the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program in 2001 and has acquired 28 perpetual easements totaling 22,314 acres. The easements protect working agricultural lands threatened by other uses, such as residential and commercial 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.