Longleaf Pine Private Landowner Incentive Program

From South Florida’s Everglades to Gainesville’s Paine’s Prairie, Florida boasts a variety of natural ecosystems. Some are the subject of grant or incentive programs which allow agribusinesses and private farmers to benefit from maintaining those ecosystems.

In Florida, one example is the “Longleaf Pine Private Landowner Incentive Program.” As its name indicates, this rebate-style program is for private landowners with Pinus palustris habitats, also known as Longleaf Pines.

According to the Florida Department of Agriculture, “[l]ongleaf pine forests once covered a vast range from Texas to Virginia, but have been reduced to less than four percent of historical acreage due to conversion.” They are hearty, resistant groundcover with a unique imprint on the landscape.

In an effort to preserve this ecosystem, the USDA Forest Service, U.S. Department of Defense, and state agencies like Florida Forest Service collectively provide funding to private landowners who revitalize and maintain Longleaf Pine Forests.

Incentive Program Qualifications

The program has several qualifications. First, you have to be a “private” “landowner.” A landowner can be an individual or an entity. An entity can still be considered private even if it operates commercially so long as no more than 50% of the entity’s gross income derives from “wood-using” industries.

You’ve then got to be a private landowner of a longleaf pine “stand,” which means that 50% of the relevant acre must be made up of Pinus palustris. The program is also limited by acreage and county. You can only participate if you are near to state-identified conservation areas and have at least five acres of land (and not more than 5,000). You can figure out whether your county is included here.

Finally, landowners already participating in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) or Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) may be prohibited from the longleaf program depending on the type of aid they receive.

Incentive Program Application & Benefits

If you’re eligible, application can be made once a year to the Florida’s Department of Agriculture, during the designated “sign-up” period, typically in the summer. If accepted, you’ll receive funding and assistance of up to four approved longleaf pine restoration activities. Specifically covered include “longleaf planting, site preparation, longleaf seedling purchase, prescribed burning, native understory establishment, timber stand improvement, herbicide application, fuels reduction, mowing, [and] invasive species control.”

The landowner typically retains an arborist, forester or similar natural resource expert to prepare the application and in implementing the practices. The approved practices have a specific payment rate, per the figure below.

Participants must submit invoices and receipts per the Department’s standard form. Activities must also adhere to the Silviculture Best Management Practices, found here.

Overall, while improving longleaf forests requires care and attention, it’s a worthwhile activity that can preserve a vital Florida ecosystem while putting a little money back in your pocket.

Questions about the Longleaf Pine Program? Let’s chat. Contact us at contact@groveslaw.ag to schedule a consultation.

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Kara Groves

After earning her law degree from University of Florida Levin College of Law and working as a tort defense litigator, Kara is settling down and bought some acreage out in Mount Dora. She has returned to her sustainable, regulatory background to help farmers and locally-focused businesses innovate and capitalize on direct-to-consumer movements across the state. In her off time, Kara is an avid gardener and cook. You’ll often find her in downtown Mount Dora adding to her plant collection or taking client meetings in the local brewery and marketplace.

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