Farmland values continue increase The value of farmland throughout Florida continues to increase, with grapefruit land posting big gains for the second consecutive year, according to a new University of Florida survey.

"During the past year, the value of grapefruit groves increased 25 percent or more - the largest one-year jump ever recorded in our annual agricultural land value survey," said John Reynolds, professor of agricultural economics with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

"And that's on top of increases that ranged from 6.7 to 23.8 percent during the previous year. This is in sharp contrast to the decline in value of grapefruit groves from 1990 to 1998," he added.

Reynolds attributed the back-to-back increases in grapefruit land values to improved prices for the fruit. During the pst year, the value of grapefruit groves increased by 28.4 percent in south Florida and 25.1 percent in central Florida.

However, he warned the value of grapefruit groves is unlikely to continue increasing at those rates. Because inventories of grapefruit juice have accumulated, average on-tree prices for grapefruit in the 2000-2001 production season will be lower than those of the past year. That will pull down the value of grapefruit groves.

"While the future value of grapefruit land is uncertain, the value of non-citrus cropland and pastureland in all regions of the state increased this year and is expected to continue its upward trend," he said.

For the survey, Reynolds divides the state into four regions: South, Central, Northeast and Northwest. He also collects data for southeast Florida - Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties - because of the impact of urbanization on agricultural land values in the region.

He started the survey in 1985.

The UF agricultural economist said it also was the second consecutive year since 1990 that orange and grapefruit groves have not declined in value. During the past year, the value of orange groves increased 1.7 percent in both the South and Central regions. The value of five to seven year old citrus plantings increase by 1.9 percent in the South region and 1.4 percent in the Central region.

The average value of land with five to seven year old citrus plantings was $5,799 per acre in the South region, more than $950 per acre higher than in the Central region.

As it usually is, the value of citrus land was higher in the warmer South region than in the Central region where freezes can damage crops.

In the South region, the average value of orange groves was $6,956 per acre, or about $175 per acre higher than in the Central region. The estimated value of grapefruit groves in the South region was $3,759 per acre, or $216 per acre higher than in the Central region. However, the value of other types of agricultural land was higher in the Central region than other regions.

Because of urban growth, large tracts of agricultural land are being converted into home sites and commercial development. For the second year, the value of this `transition' land was almost three times higher in the Southeast than in other regions.

Outside the Southeast, values for transitional land in metropolitan counties remained two to three times as high as the value of transition land in non-metropolitan or rural counties.

The value of transition land within five miles of a major city in metropolitan counties increased four to 4.5 percent in northern areas, 5.6 to six percent in the South and Southeast regions, and 2.5 percent in the Central region.

The survey also shows:

- The value of both irrigated and non-irrigated cropland increased by about 10 percent in the Northwest region, eight percent in the South region and five percent in the Central region. In the Northeast region, the value of irrigated cropland increased 9.9 percent, while the value of non-irrigated cropland increase by 6.5 percent.

- The largest increase in the value of improved and unimproved pastureland, almost nine percent, occurred in the South region, while the Central and Northwest regions had about a six percent gain. In the Northeast region, the value of unimproved pastureland increased 8.3 percent and improved pastureland values increased 2.9 percent.

- Except for non-irrigated cropland, the values of cropland and pastureland were higher in the Central region than in other regions. Again this year, the lowest agricultural land values were reported in the Northwest region.

- The value of farm woods increased 9.1 percent in the Northwest region and 5.2 percent in the Northeast region.

The 200 survey respondents included property appraisers, farm lenders, real estate brokers, farm managers, land investors, federal farm-assistance and conservation service staff, UF Extension agents and others who develop and maintain information about rural land values.