A program designed to maintain Florida’s agricultural land base

FLORIDA IS A SPECIAL PLACE, and I think that most of us who have lived here for any decent length of time will agree with that. And because Florida is special, it’s no surprise that voters and state leaders have established special programs to keep certain lands off limits to development.

Two of the better-known land programs are Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever, which focus on protecting the natural environment and providing nature-based recreational opportunities. There’s also the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which was created in 2001 when the Florida Legislature passed the Rural Family Lands Protection Act.

The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program differs from Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever in a very important way: It’s designed to maintain the agricultural land base in Florida through the use of voluntary ag conservation easements.

The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program has the attention of Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. He’s urging Florida’s agricultural land owners to participate in the program and apply for it by May 30.

Since its inception, the program has acquired perpetual easements on 8,765 acres of Florida ranches and farms to protect rural and working agricultural lands threatened by residential and commercial development. Program goals 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.
• Helping to protect natural resources in conjunction with these agricultural operations.

Details about the program are available online. Go to www.freshfromflorida.com and type Rural and Family Lands Protection Program in the Search box.

CREDIT

column by DON HARDEN

BIO: Donald Harden, the Relationship Manager for AgAmerica Lending, grew up in the cattle and citrus business, managing a family ranch of several thousand cattle and horses. He has more than 30 years of experience in the real estate business, and more than 20 years specializing in agricultural sales. Don has owned and operated farm and ranch supply stores, machinery auction companies, and farms. He has served as a director and on the board of the Cattlemen’s Association, as the manufacturer’s representative for ag equipment companies, and as a beef cattle specialist for a national feed company. Don has traveled across the U.S. as a sales rep, conducting seminars and fostering long-lasting business relationships. Don enjoys his work at AgAmerica, as he has never met a stranger.