Protecting the Florida Orange from Urban Expansion

Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg

Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg

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.

Posted on February 12, 2013, in land management and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I would be interested in know what is meant by a “protection” of agriculture in a growth management plan. I work with many agricultural interests throughout the State of Florida. Almost universally, I have found that gowth management plan attempts to “preserve” agriculture lead to the law of unintended consequences by devaluing agricultural lands of struggling farmers causing a need for them to explore alternative uses (low density residential or sell to the State). Government can be helpful by expanding options for AG to remain in AG (like the SFWMD Payment for Environmental Services Program), but more often than not, the gowth management plan option is to eliminate property rights. In your research have you found other programs? The topic is interesting.

  2. Hi Daniel, I wrote this post and can give you at least a partial response. I can’t speak for Stephen’s work, but I can clarify that “protecting” is used in a bit of an ad hoc way here. Stephen mapped Agricultural land area in southern Florida in 1990, and then again in 2008. His thesis looked at the impact that designation as open space in the 1990 Future Land Use plans had in affecting the amount of previously-agricultural land that was converted to other uses by 2008. If this is a topic that interests you, I’d encourage you to read his thesis for yourself in the link above. Thanks!

  1. Pingback: Protecting the Florida Orange from Urban Expansion | Urban Farming for the Urban Professional

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