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State makes record purchase to preserve farmland in central Florida


The state on Tuesday barred future development on more than 3,200 acres of ranchlands in one of Florida's fastest growing counties. It marks the single largest purchase of agricultural land for preservation under a state program started 15 years ago.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet unanimously agreed to pay $5.4 million to the Adams Ranch in Osceola County to put 3,245 in a conservation easement that will prevent the land from being subdivided or the construction of homes or other buildings except what is necessary for the continued operation and maintenance of the ranch.

That 3,245 acres is in addition to 1,536 acres of Adams Ranch secured in December 2014 and 783 acres in 2010. Now in total, the state has protected 5,564 acres for the ranch.

Adams Ranch, just south of Lake Marion, is a 4th generation cattle business that started in 1937. The easement is just a fraction of the ranch, which has more than 24,000 acres in central Florida. 

The conservation easement is paid for through the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture. Since it was created in 2001, the state has used that program to set aside 18,378 acres of land for conservation, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican elected in 2010, said. The state's never bought conservation rights on a larger track of farmland than the 3,200 secured on Tuesday, Putnam said.

"By partnering with Florida’s farmers and ranchers, we can preserve these invaluable pieces of our rural economy and our world-renowned ecosystem for future generations,” Putnam said. 

The Cabinet also voted unanimously to put another 528 acres, called Camp Lonesome, also in Osceola County into a conservation easement. That land cost the state almost $1.2 million.