Mega Florida Landowner Shares Panhandle Plans, Down On Citrus

Nov 15, 2016

Credit RCragun / By Rcragun - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7904193

One of Florida’s largest landowners may reducing its citrus output but it’s planning to keep its North Florida holdings agricultural.

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Florida’s citrus industry is a shadow of its former self, struggling against tree-killing insects that have decimated orchards across the state. Grapefruits and oranges have been effected, to the point that production levels are the lowest they’ve been in 50 years. Erik Jacobsen, president of Deseret Ranches, says the company may lower citrus production.

“Frankly, we’re trying to sort through where we’re going with citrus in the future," Jacobsen told the Economic Club of Florida Monday.

While he’s down on the future of citrus, he’s up on Florida Cattle. So much so, Deseret Ranches plans to expand its cattle operation. It’s already got production going in states like Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana Utah and Canada. Deseret is planning to introduce a new product into the beef market: pasture-fed cattle:

“We’ve negotiated an agreement with Cargill and they’re developing a product called pasture crafted beef- we will be the exclusive supplier for that product. They’ll be the exclusive offerer of that product. So eventually you’ll see it in the grocery stores, this pasture-crafted beef product," said Jacobsen.

As for North Florida, the ranch owns hundreds of thousands of acres from Panama City east to Tallahassee. Much of that land was bought two years ago from the St. Joe Company, and Jacobsen says it won’t be developed anytime soon:

“There will be areas where the plantation pines are that s we go in and cut the pines, rather than re-plant, we’ll convert some to pasture. We want to end up with a mosaic of pasture-forested areas, wetlands and uplands, and create a more diverse program there with cattle and citrus.” 

That’s the goal for the ranch’s Central Florida operation as well. It’s embarking on a plan to work with local governments to ensure no more of its land gets picked off for development—Jacobsen says Brevard County declared imminent domain on some of its acreage years ago and converted that property into a landfill.