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In the last half century, Florida has gone through some serious growing pains. The state has had an explosive period of growth and its population has risen from 5 million residents in 1960 to 19 million in 2010. Finding enough land to accommodate new residents has been challenging in a state with sensitive wildlife habitats, prized scenic areas, and a strong agricultural history. Agriculture is the state’s largest land use and its second largest industry. Nevertheless, as cities have expanded developers have begun to outbid Florida’s farmers for the use of their land.
Fortunately, Florida saw this problem coming and in 1985 passed a Growth Management Act that required cities and towns to undertake comprehensive land use planning efforts. The resulting plans reserved certain areas for open space and agriculture. But is preparing a plan enough to stop the inexorable expansion of cities? Stephen Lloyd (MCP ’11) aimed to find out.
Stephen’s thesis looked at land in southern Florida that has changed from an agricultural use to non-agricultural use over the last two decades, and found that the land use plans required by the Growth Management Act were indeed useful in preserving farmland. Agricultural areas that were inside areas designated as future farmland were significantly less likely to be converted to non-agricultural uses.
However, Stephen also noticed that this affect was weaker in coastal counties than in inland areas where farmland was not as valuable. To protect coastal farmlands, he concludes, cities will have to do more than adopt land use plans. They will need to implement additional protections for agricultural land.
To learn more about Stephen’s conclusions and his methods of identifying at-risk farmland, read his thesis here.