As a native Floridian I have seen a lot of change. Growing up in north Lakeland, I was surrounded by beautiful citrus groves that eventually gave way to cold weather or development. The citrus industry has now moved south of Interstate 4, and with the exception of the ridge along Highway 27, has moved south of Highway 60.
The southern migration generally was initiated in the 1980’s with several freeze events that killed a majority of the groves in the northern regions. Developers love citrus groves, as there are rarely wetlands issues associated with the sandy soils that enable groves to thrive. As the population of our state has increased, many former grove sites have been developed into all types of uses.
During the expansion of the last couple of years, many citrus properties were purchased by investors and national developers with the intent to develop. Not much consideration was given to the value of the ongoing citrus production operation and many times the groves were abandoned. This was a very unfortunate mistake.
The short-sighted view said that the citrus properties would be developed in the short term and there was no need to continue to properly manage the groves. However, the time-consuming processes of development pushed many of these projects beyond the immediate demand resulting in losses in more than one way.
In addition to giving up the agricultural exemption for property taxes, several crop years of fruit were forfeited during a time of historically high fruit prices. The demand for developed properties has waned and generally, the values are now closely tied to the value of the agricultural operation. Consequentially, the value of all of the planning, permitting, and engineering for properties purchased for development, may now be zero. Recent losses associated with a short-term outlook emphasize the need to properly manage land.
Ranch properties throughout the state were also subject to heavy demand for development. As most people drive past large acreage tracts, they do not recognize the complexity of the required management. Cattle operations, sod and row crop farming, wetlands issues, water use and permitting, maintaining the agricultural exemption for property taxes are just a few of the issues landowners face. Operators are also required to comply with a variety of government regulations relating to any chemicals that may be used.
A prudent manager will be aware of income opportunities presented by conservation easements. Whether the easement is given in favor of a public or private entity, qualifying properties can generate significant one-time income.
There are additional income-producing opportunities, such as leases for recreation, hunting, farming, sod farming, citrus, timber, cattle operations, and more. Natural and conservation lands need strong supervision and property taxes can be reduced through proper agricultural use. Property security can lessen potential liability to the owner(s) and upkeep of the land’s appearance adds value. Professional land management will provide a strong plan for the property’s future that can improve value over time
The case for a professional land manager can be made easily. An inexperienced land owner does not know what he does not know and that lack of knowledge can be expensive. A commercial building must be properly managed in order to return the required yield to the investor. In the same way, land must be managed properly.
In your search for a good land management firm, it is important to find a team of professionals who are knowledgeable in all types of land. From small orange groves to ranches that number in the tens of thousands of acres, your land manager’s background and hands-on experience are important components to ensure that your needs as an owner are understood. Don’t let yourself or your client lose precious income by taking the short-term view. Manage for the future!
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