By Justin Callaham, LL.M., Attorney
Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson P.A.
Q: Greening has decimated my small orange grove. How can I remove the trees but still retain the grove’s agricultural designation for property tax purposes?
A: Yes, you may be able to remove the trees and retain the land’s agricultural designation.
Greening, also known as huanglongbing or HLB, is a bacterial disease spread by flying insects known as psyllids. When HLB infects a grove, many growers scale back their maintenance regimen and all but abandon the infected grove. Removal of the trees, however, is the best way to prevent an infected, unproductive grove from becoming a breeding ground for psyllids and HLB. Many growers hesitate to push the grove due to the possible loss of the land’s agricultural designation for property tax purposes.
In recognition of this problem, the Florida legislature adopted § 193.461(7)(a) which allows land to retain its agricultural designation for property tax purposes if the land was taken out of agricultural production by a state or federal eradication or quarantine program. Additionally, the Citrus Health Response Program, an initiative developed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, declares that much of the State of Florida is quarantined due to the presence of HLB. Taken together, §193.461(7)(a) and the Citrus Health Response Program allow growers to remove trees from an infected and unproductive grove while retaining the land’s agricultural designation.
If your grove is infected with HLB and you are interested in completely removing the trees, start by contacting your local Citrus Health Response Program office and requesting a Site Report. Next, execute a CHRP Abandoned Grove Compliance Agreement. Once you receive the Site Report, submit the Site Report and an executed CHRP Abandoned Grove Compliance Agreement to your local property appraiser before the March 1 statutory deadline. If your grove is currently designated as agricultural for property tax purposes, you will not be required to file a new application. However, if your grove is not currently designated as agricultural for property tax purposes, submit an application for such designation along with the Site Report and CHRP Abandoned Grove Compliance Agreement.
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