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Harvesting the Sun: A Sustainable Approach for Florida’s Greenbelt Law

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Photo by Randy Traynor Photography

In 2021, Florida dropped to 21st place for gross receipts of farms, its lowest rank since 1953.[1] The Sunshine State boasts a long history of supporting its farmers with legislation to slash costs and promote incentives. Included in this legislation is the Florida Greenbelt Law,[2] codified in F.S. §193.461, which helps farmers by lowering the tax burden on their land that is “used primarily for bona fide agricultural purposes.”[3]

Farmers are turning apprehensively toward their John Deere 9RX 640’s[4] after the price of diesel rose to $4.62 per gallon on January 30, 2023 — up $2.07 from just three years before.[5] At the same time, the “Florida Electric Utility Retail Price is at a current level of 0.1258 USD/kWh,” an increase of “11.92% from one year ago” in 2022.[6] As the agricultural industry is caught in the throes of these price hikes, its essential lifelines are limited in effect and availability. This article provides justification for a proposed amendment to F.S. §193.461 to clearly provide that the placement of solar facilities on a farmer’s land to power its agricultural operations, will not, in itself, preclude an agricultural classification.[7] When carefully regulated, property used to generate solar electricity can align with Greenbelt’s legislative purpose of supporting agricultural pursuits. Solar facilities are consistent with this purpose when they are scaled to that operation’s needs, kept entirely separate from any outside electrical grid, are not disruptive of the agricultural activities on the land, and are used exclusively to power that operation. Less productive lands are ideal for solar siting as they will minimally disrupt productive agricultural activities. However, co-location of agricultural and solar production can serve as an alternative where all land on the property is sufficiently productive, or where siting on less productive land is not feasible. Restricting the size of solar facilities to match the demonstrated energy needs of the farm would ensure that agriculture remains the primary focus of the property. Preventing landowners from selling or otherwise distributing any electricity generated by these facilities would have the same effect. Ultimately, any electricity generated by solar facilities sited on agricultural land must be used exclusively for the farming operations conducted on that land. Empowering farmers to harvest the sun will give Florida’s agricultural industry the competitive edge it needs for success on a national and international level.

Understanding Greenbelt

In 1959, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 831,[8] an act commonly known today as Florida’s Greenbelt Law.[9] Drafters prefaced the bill’s substantive text with context for the legislation, highlighting especially that increased tax assessments on agricultural lands had forced “many persons to give up their livelihood” as farmers.[10] In response, legislators crafted a law that enabled farmers to lower the taxable value of their land. The original purpose of this law was to protect Florida’s citizens and economy by serving “to perpetuate, and continue, and encourage agricultural pursuits.”[11] Over 60 years later, Greenbelt is doing just that.[12]

Greenbelt’s tax benefit is only awarded to lands that are classified by a county property appraiser as “agricultural.”[13] To receive this classification, the land must be used primarily for a bona fide agricultural purpose — meaning a “good faith commercial agricultural use of the land.”[14] Property appraisers may use various criteria in evaluating the use of land, including “[t]he length of time the land has been so used,” “[w]hether the use has been continuous,” and “[t]he income produced by the property.[15] The latter is known as the “income methodology approach.”[16] Additionally, appraisers may also look to “other factors as may become applicable.”[17] These factors are available for appraisers to turn to in their evaluation, but they are not requisite. The Florida Supreme Court has maintained that actual agricultural use is “the guidepost in classifying land.”[18] As Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal summarized in Gianolio v. Markham, 564 So. 2d 1131, 1133 (Fla. 4th DCA 1990), agricultural classification requires “that the actual physical use of the land is agricultural. . . [and] that such use is both ‘primary’ and ‘bona fide.’”

The Proposed Amendment

The authors recommend that F.S. §193.461 should be amended to provide that the placement of solar facilities on property used for agricultural purposes will not, in itself, preclude an agricultural classification.[19]

The initial reaction to this proposal will likely beg the question, “What’s the limit?” After all, stamping solar panels with the same seal of approval awarded to traditional farming applications seems facially incongruous with the purpose of the law. Moreover, the perceived economic policy implications of this modification may stoke greater skepticism. Landowners are incentivized to pursue agricultural classification by the promise of a lower tax burden. At the same time, government reliance on tax revenue encourages legislators to scrutinize proposals to broaden the statute.

Exploring the text of statutes and related judicial opinions highlights realities that justify amending Greenbelt with solar-inclusive language and, thus, provides guidance for developing limitations that would govern this modification.

Legislative Guidance

While Greenbelt was created to foster agricultural ventures such as cattle farms and citrus groves, the statute recognizes that every inch of land cannot feasibly be covered with cows or crops. From barns and greenhouses to sprinklers and livestock fans, nearly all farms rely on man-made structures for their operation.

Subsection (6)(c)(1) provides that “irrigation systems, including pumps and motors, physically attached to the land shall be considered a part of the average yields per acre and shall have no separately assessable contributory value” under the income methodology approach.[20] The codification of subparagraph (1) in 1999 by House Bill 1639 was the first instance of this distinction in the statute.[21] Other structures — specifically those used for litter containment, frost protection, and pest control — have since received the same protection through the addition of subparagraphs (2)-(4).[22] The use of “shall” in these subparagraphs delineates that appraisers cannot attribute a separate contributory value to these structures when assessing a property under the income methodology approach.[23]

In contrast, residences sited on agricultural land do not fall under Greenbelt’s agricultural classification and are instead assessed separately under subsection (3)(d).[24] This exclusion applies only to “the portion of the property consisting of the residence and curtilage.”[25] While residences are precluded from agricultural classification, this has no effect on classification of the property’s remainder.[26] In the alternative, permanent residences assessed as homesteads can qualify for an exemption of $25,000, which can increase to a total of $50,000 if the assessed valuation is over $50,000.[27]

Unlike residences, solar facilities used to power agricultural operations are deeply similar to the structures listed in (6)(c)(1)-(4) in that they provide a strictly utility-based benefit. For example, solar power and diesel motors alike can power irrigation systems, yet solar facilities are oddly considered tangible personal property beyond the scope of Greenbelt’s protection. Instead, §196.182(1) offers an 80% exemption from ad valorem taxation for solar devices “installed on real property on or after January 1, 2018,”[28] while §193.624(2)(b) provides the same exemption when “determining the assessed value of real property used. . . [f]or nonresidential purposes.”[29]

The inconsistency in valuation is only part of the problem — the greater issue is the lack of explicit support in Greenbelt for solar facilities. In fact, §193.461 supports an inference against the use of solar facilities on a farm. Unlike subsection (3)(b)(1), which grants property appraisers the discretion to determine whether the land in question is being used for bona fide agricultural purposes based on apparent factors, subsection (4) requires appraisers to reclassify lands as nonagricultural where the land has been “diverted from an agricultural to a nonagricultural use,” or where the land is “no longer being utilized for agricultural purposes.”[30] Without the specific, inclusive language enjoyed by irrigation systems and litter containment structures, appraisers may view solar facilities as an abandonment of a property’s agricultural use.

This interpretation, under the right circumstances, would present a striking contradiction. A solar facility scaled to accommodate the energy needs of an agricultural operation would be no more disruptive to the land’s use than would the “pumps and motors” powering the irrigation systems accepted under (6)(c)(1).[31] In fact, some companies sell solar-powered pump irrigation systems, which could be used to help farmers break away from the expensive diesel engines many Florida farms use to power their irrigation systems.[32] If appraisers find that these systems preclude the accommodating land from agricultural use, that finding would contradict the provisions of (6)(c)(1), which implicitly accepts the utilization of these systems without contemplating any disruption of the land’s agricultural use. On the other hand, if appraisers accept the use of solar-powered pumps, there is little argument against extending this permissibility to other agricultural applications.

Arguing that energy generation is not as essential to farming as irrigation systems would overlook how the latter is only necessary to the extent that it enables agricultural operations to overcome the limitations of human labor. The same goes for the other structures listed under (6)(c). By including exemptions for these structures, the Florida Legislature has recognized that these structures allow the agricultural industry to remain competitive on a domestic and international scale. Solar energy systems function in kind by reducing expenses and directly supporting agricultural operations, and should, therefore, be accepted within this class of structures.

However, limitations on these facilities will be necessary to prevent resourceful parties from passing off a commercial solar farm as a bona fide agricultural use. The Greenbelt statute provides guidance as to what restrictions could be used in the amendment. Turning firstly to §193.461(6)(c)(3), frost and freeze protection structures are required to be “consistent with the interim measures or best management practices adopted by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services” (FDACS).[33] This qualifier is unique to subparagraph (3), but a similar qualifier could be used to ensure the use of solar facilities to power farm operations comports with Greenbelt. The authors recommend that FDACS publish and adopt best management practices (BMP) for solar facilities housed on agricultural land. The BMP would recommend ideal siting practices that farmers could follow to minimize any detriment to agricultural production. This would include listing crops suitable for co-location with solar facilities. As co-location can help “create a microclimate for the crops grown below them” by retaining moisture and blocking excess sunlight through shading, farmers could follow the BMP’s recommendations to maximize the productivity of their land.[34] Florida cannot afford to overlook this benefit, especially with new summer heat records[35] and rising global temperatures.[36] Co-location practices are just one factor — the BMP could provide guidance for everything from the height and angle of the panels, to the facility’s recommended generation capacity based on the farm’s size. Once the BMP is created, the Greenbelt amendment could mimic §193.461(6)(c)(3) by requiring compliance “consistent with the interim measures or best management practices adopted by” FDACS.[37]

Whether placed on minimally productive land or co-located with productive areas, solar facilities can conform to the restrictions and intent of Greenbelt when they do not disrupt the operations on that land. The two-fold effect of minimizing any detriment to productive land while maximizing financial assistance to farmers in the form of renewable energy advances the legislative goals of Greenbelt. Requiring facilities to remain separate from the electrical grid, while ensuring the generated power is only used for bona fide agricultural operations on the property, would safeguard this amendment from violating Greenbelt in practice.

Judicial Guidance

Although Florida’s courts have yet to weigh in on whether solar facilities would disrupt a property’s agricultural classification, litigation related to Greenbelt has developed the modern interpretation of the statute’s requirements and restrictions. The tax assessors who determine a property’s classification are constitutional officers, and their evaluations are “clothed with the presumption of correctness.”[38] These assessors serve as the gatekeepers for classification, but when an evaluation is disputed, a property owner may challenge the classification by instituting an action in court.

For example, landowners have placed a few cows on their land and claimed that these animals qualify their property as an agricultural operation.[39] Florida’s courts have pointed to this scenario as an example of a non-bona fide use.[40] In another instance, a landowner tried to receive classification for a property that kept about 50 chickens — some of which roamed loosely around the land — and presented no evidence of any commercial sales.[41] The assessor denied classification because the landowner’s alleged agricultural endeavors appeared facially illegitimate.[42] Although the landowner won at the trial level, the appellate court reversed, finding there was “ample evidence” the assessor could have relied on to deny agricultural classification.[43]

In another case, the First DCA reviewed a property assessment challenge where the owner failed to disclose the property’s use and was subsequently denied agricultural classification.[44] The court pointed to the necessity of ascertaining “the intent of the property owner. . . as to the utilization of his land,” but acknowledged that the burden of this obligation would be too impractical to place on assessors.[45] The court provided an example:

For instance, one of two abutting property owners, each having three thousand acres of timberland, may conduct a bona fide timber program while the other primarily utilizes his land as a game preserve with timber producing being incidental. A visual examination of the property by the tax assessor would disclose a similar utilization of the lands, but the bona fides of the utilization of each tract for agricultural purposes would depend to some extent upon the subjective thinking of the landowner.[46]

Rather than relying on a property’s appearance, the court concluded, “it is the bona fides of the utilization by the landowner that makes the land eligible for the benefits of the statute.”[47]

Lastly, §193.461(3)(e) provides that “land which has received an agricultural classification. . . is entitled to receive such classification. . . until such agricultural use of the land” is discontinued.[48] The Fifth DCA has construed this section to “limit the inquiry” of appraisers “to what may have. . . materially changed” when determining a property’s classification.[49] In Tilton v. Gardner, 52 So. 3d 771, 778 (Fla. 5th DCA 2010), the court found a material change where a property owner “had done nothing but harvest timber” for two years, while allowing the “conditions on the property relating to natural regeneration” of the timber to fall apart.[50]

These examples provide a framework for the proposed amendment. Each case illustrates how the bona fide requirement protects against abuse. It is the responsibility of the land owner to “demonstrate to the taxing authorities that his agricultural operation is bona fide, in good faith.”[51] Property owners running legitimate agricultural operations that utilize solar facilities could easily make a showing of the necessary bona fides.

For example, owners should be required to demonstrate that the solar facility is built to scale with the needs of their operation. On average, grain elevators use 4 kWh per 1,000 bushels of grain, while an incubator uses 1 kWh per 25 eggs.[52] In Florida, “the average 400W solar panel can produce 63 kWh or more” per month.[53] Of course, these figures are just estimates; actual energy generation and use vary based on energy demands, available sunlight, and other factors. Still, farmers are capable of calculating the energy needs of their operation and approximating what size solar facility the property would need. These figures would be demonstrated to the appraiser during assessment. Requiring property owners to demonstrate that the energy output of the solar facility does not exceed the needs of their operation would prevent solar facilities from superseding the actual agricultural use of the property. Checking compliance with this requirement would be relatively simple, as appraisers would need only to compare a property’s energy use to its energy production. In this scenario, property owners who fail this showing could be found in violation of the bona fide requirement and denied classification for the portion of land that houses the solar facility.

The amendment should also limit solar facilities by requiring that the electricity be used exclusively for agricultural operations on the land. The purpose for this limitation echoes the very reason for restricting the size of facilities: to prevent electricity generation from overtaking the bona fides of an agricultural property. While solar energy should be recognized as a bona fide use where it directly powers farming operations, selling electricity is a markedly commercial-industrial use that would certainly run afoul of the intent of Greenbelt. Should any property owner attempt to sell excess electricity back to the grid, they would likely be found in violation of §193.461(4)(a). Subsection (4)(a) provides that property appraisers “shall reclassify…[l]and diverted from an agricultural to a nonagricultural use.”[54] For existing farms, new profit from energy sales would certainly be found to constitute a “material change,” which appraisers could then use as justification to deny agricultural classification for that portion of land.[55] The same goes for providing power to dwellings on the land. Residences are assessed separately under Greenbelt, so facilities should not be permitted to provide any power to dwellings of any kind.[56]

In the event of a Greenbelt violation, whether by selling electricity or powering dwellings, only the portion of land housing the solar facility should be denied classification. Just as “[t]he maintenance of a dwelling on part of the lands used for agricultural purposes does not in itself preclude an agricultural classification,” neither should a solar facility that violates Greenbelt preclude non-violating agricultural land from retaining its classification.[57] Appraisers should only deny classification to the portion of land that loses its bona fides as this is consistent with the statute.

Keeping solar energy on the farm is imperative to remaining within the guidelines of Greenbelt. The legislature should clarify that solar facilities cannot be connected to the electrical grid, nor their generated power sold in any way. To maintain the targeted focus of the proposed amendment and prevent abuse of the tax benefits, solar power must be used exclusively for the agricultural operations on that land.

Justifying the Amendment

Greenbelt has been amended several times since its inception, and these amendments generally trend towards inclusivity. For example, the statute originally restricted agricultural zoning[58] to land used “exclusively for agricultural purposes.”[59] Greenbelt was amended in 1967 to only require a use “primarily for agricultural purposes.”[60] This modification had the effect of lowering the burden property owners have to meet to achieve classification. Also consider subparagraphs (6)(c)(1)-(4), which each set aside protections for specific structures placed on agricultural land. The proposed solar amendment would simply serve as another instance of legislative broadening meant to better accommodate the ever-changing needs of the agricultural industry.

Second, Florida has a long tradition of protecting its farmers. A more recent instance of this is the legislature’s fight to save the agricultural industry from the devastating effects of citrus greening.[61] H.B. 749 was passed in 2016, amending §193.461(7)(a). The amendment adds that land taken out of production by the Citrus Health Response Program qualifies for continued agricultural classification to the same extent as land retracted “for other state or federal eradication or quarantine program[s].”[62] Included within this program is the Abandoned Grove Initiative, which provides “an incentive to owners who removed their abandoned groves by allowing them to maintain their agricultural classification while offering a reduced assessment on the cleared property for up to five years.”[63] This incentive is reflected in §193.461(7)(a), which sets the assessment value of these fallow lands at a maximum of “$50 per acre on a single-year assessment methodology.”[64] Lands laid fallow due to citrus greening do not need to remain useless. Instead, they could serve as sites for solar facilities, allowing farmers to derive meaningful use from the land while they combat the greening disease. The authors’ proposed Greenbelt amendment would continue Florida’s tradition of helping farmers by enabling them to save on energy costs and by helping them become more self-sufficient.

Third, other states have embraced the intersection of solar energy and agriculture with demonstrable success. In 2020, North Carolina was ranked 14th out of the states for its total value of agricultural exports — two spots above Florida.[65] As of October 2022, North Carolina had 33,463 solar facilities, and ranked fourth in the nation for total installed solar capacity — up from eighth place in 2021.[66] Florida has ranked third for years, and currently houses 142,910 facilities.[67] In their rising success, North Carolina proves that solar facilities can be co-located with agricultural sites without disrupting the latter. In 2022, the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association published an update on the state’s solar and agricultural land use. The update noted that “solar PV systems occupy 31,125 acres of a total 10,999,656 acres of agricultural land in North Carolina, or 0.28%.”[68] Furthermore, despite the Tar Heel State’s great leap in solar facilities, their use on farmland would represent only “4.25% of the total agricultural land lost” between 2001 and 2016 if all of the solar facilities included in that analysis were installed during that time range.[69] Though solar facilities generally occupy a small amount of land, co-location can further minimize the land lost to these facilities. Citing examples provided by the Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center, the NC Sustainable Energy Association recommends planting crops and pollinator habitats around raised solar facilities, as well as “allowing for animals to graze in and around” the panels.[70] North Carolina’s demonstrable success in solar/agriculture co-location can be applied in Florida, a move that would help the Sunshine State maintain its namesake as a solar-friendly state and status as an agricultural giant.

Fourth, the federal government is encouraging transitions to renewable energy in rural areas. The 2018 Farm Bill supports a number of well-funded programs meant to achieve congressional policy goals, such as “energy security, [limiting] greenhouse gas emission, and [satisfying] increased demand for U.S. farm products.”[71] One example is the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), codified in 7 U.S.C. §8107.[72] REAP “provides guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers. . . for renewable energy systems.”[73] For agricultural producers, the program is limited to “those with at least 50[%] of their gross income coming from agricultural operations.”[74] For the cost of renewable energy projects, including solar facilities, producers can secure loans of up to 75%, or grants up to 25%.[75] Other federal initiatives are devoted to researching benefits derived from “co-locating solar projects on agricultural lands,” such as the Department of Energy’s InSPIRE project.[76] One achievement of this project is the publication of the Low-Impact Solar Development Strategies Primer. The primer provides “insights and best practices” meant to guide parties — including state agencies — in “siting, designing, installing, and operating low-impact solar development projects.”[77] The U.S. government has recognized and supported the importance of renewable energy, agriculture, and the mutual benefits that flow from their collaboration. It’s time for Florida to do the same.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Florida Legislature itself recognizes the benefits of integrating solar electricity generation with agriculture and has recently passed a statute effectuating that understanding. Effective as of July 2021, §163.3205 acknowledges the legislature’s intent “to encourage renewable solar electrical generation,” and emphasizes the importance of building and maintaining solar infrastructure throughout the state.[78] The most significant part of the statute comes from subsection (3):

A solar facility shall be a permitted use in all agricultural land use categories in a local government comprehensive plan and all agricultural zoning districts within an unincorporated area and must comply with the setback and landscaped buffer area criteria for other similar uses in the agricultural district.[79]

Local government comprehensive plans are defined in §163.3177 as providing “the principles, guidelines, standards, and strategies for the orderly and balanced future economic, social, physical, environmental, and fiscal development of the area.”[80] Comprehensive plans are utilized by counties and municipalities, which tailor these plans to the specific needs of their locality. Greenbelt requires the classification of “all lands within the county as either agricultural or nonagricultural,” a task completed by the county property appraiser. Because appraisers are county representatives, §163.3205(3)’s obligation of local governments to permit solar facilities as an agricultural use opens the door to extend Greenbelt status to compliant solar facilities.

While §163.3205 opens the door, it does not appear to require this extension. At present, the statute affirms that solar facilities are a permitted use in two specific instances: 1) in all agricultural land use categories in a local government comprehensive plan; and 2) in all agricultural zoning districts within an unincorporated area.[81] The statute’s use of “zoning” in its language creates some confusion over whether the use-permission granted to solar facilities could be extended to agriculturally classified lands. For example, §404.09 of the Alachua County Code of Ordinances provides that “[a]gricultural uses are permitted by right in the A and A-RB districts.”[82] Section 403.02 establishes zoning districts, and in Table 403.02.1 defines A districts as “Agriculture” and A-RB districts as “Agricultural Rural Business.”[83] Section 404.50.5 allows solar facilities “as a limited use in the A district,” as well as in A-RB districts with special exception.[84] The distinction between land zoned as agricultural and land classified as agricultural is that Greenbelt status is only conferred on the latter. If solar facilities are installed on an Alachua County property that is both within the A-RB district and classified as agricultural, one may draw an inference that the use-permission would not disrupt the property’s classification, provided that the solar facility does not materially alter the bona fides of the property.

Though this inference cannot be verified, there is legislation that supports it. Section 163.3194(5) provides that “[t]he tax-exempt status of lands classified as agricultural under s. 193.461 shall not be affected by any comprehensive plan adopted under this act as long as the land meets the criteria set forth in s. 193.461.”[85] As local governments are required to permit solar facilities as an accepted use in all agricultural land use categories under §163.3205, §163.3194(5) would allow agriculturally-classified properties to accommodate these facilities without losing their classification, provided that the land’s agricultural bona fides are not materially altered by the facility so as to implicate §193.461(4). Still, the absence of clear language in §193.461, coupled with the seemingly industrial nature of solar electricity generation, leaves unanswered the question of whether solar facilities would materially alter a property’s bona fides by default. Even if a solar facility was placed on a farm without disrupting its production, and the electricity was used exclusively for the agricultural operations on that property and those operations remained the dominant use of that property, the landowner would still remain at the mercy of the appraiser’s interpretation. Without clear language in §193.461, the appraiser could decide — despite the aforementioned justifications — that the solar facility “diverted [the land] from an agricultural to a nonagricultural use,” therefore, requiring a reclassification of the land as nonagricultural.[86] Such a decision would contravene the purpose of Greenbelt.


Allowing agricultural land to house solar facilities without foregoing Greenbelt tax status would perpetuate and encourage agricultural pursuits by allowing farmers to lower the energy cost of their operation without being penalized by property taxes. Empowering farmers to zero out their electricity bill without penalty would help them continue their work by reducing costs. Similarly, prospective farmers would find financial reassurance in learning their operational costs can be reduced. The authors recommend that §193.461 should be amended to provide that the placement of solar facilities on property that otherwise meets the requirements for agricultural classification will not, in itself, preclude an agricultural classification.

To prevent abuse, the amendment should set forth conditions that property owners must follow in siting and operating their solar facility. Owners should be required to demonstrate that the generation capacity of the facility is no greater than is necessary to power the agricultural operations on that land. This could be calculated by evaluating the present electricity usage of the property, to the exclusion of any usage by residences or dwellings. Usage measurements would help appraisers understand the power needs of the operation, which could then be reviewed against the facility’s output. This would ensure that solar facilities remain scaled to the operation’s needs. Owners should be restricted from using the generated electricity from powering any dwelling on the land, as residences are “assessed separately, pursuant to s. 193.011.”[87] Owners should additionally be restricted from selling the generated electricity to the grid or any other parties. Owners should only be permitted to use the generated electricity to directly power agricultural operations on the property. Owners should be encouraged to site the facility so as to minimally disrupt the property’s agricultural operations. Siting should be preferred on the least productive portions of the land when possible. Siting should also be limited from occupying the most productive land, either entirely or in part, but co-location provides an alternative where this is not feasible.

Originally, the best avenue for promoting the authors’ amendment and its attendant conditions would have been through the Energy Equity Task Force that was to be created by S.B. 1678. The bill intended for this task force to serve as an adjunct to FDACS, with the express purpose of providing “recommendations for fostering a fair and equitable transition of Florida’s energy infrastructure to renewable energy technologies within. . . rural. . . communities.”[88] The task force would have “recommend[ed] appropriate policies, including necessary statutory changes, for the equitable siting of energy infrastructure.”[89] Though the bill died in appropriations in March of 2022, its stated purpose proves that the legislature is considering ways to ramp up Florida’s transition towards renewables. Furthermore, with the Sunshine State eyeballing 2050 as a possible goal for reaching 100% renewable energy, the nation’s “second-largest producer of electricity”[90] is almost certain to reconsider the Energy Equity Task Force, or something similar, in the near future.[91]

The challenges of Florida’s agricultural industry and the growing demand for renewable energy can be assuaged with an intersecting solution. The moment is prime to amend Greenbelt with protections for solar facilities on agricultural land. With this amendment, Florida’s farmers can truly begin harvesting the sun.

[1] U.S.D.A. Economic Research Service, Farm Sector Financial Indicators, State Ranking, 2021,

[2] “Greenbelt” is not a name conferred by §193.461, but the statute is commonly referred to by this name. See Fla. Stat. §187.201(22)(b)(11) (2022); Florida House of Representatives, CS/HB 1361 2023 Staff Analysis 2 (Mar. 28, 2023) (on file with committee) (referencing the “‘bona fide agricultural operations’ defined in Florida’s Greenbelt Law”), available at

[3] Fla. Stat. §193.461(3)(b) (2022).

[4] John Deere, 9RX 640 Tractor,

[5] U.S. Energy Information Administration, Weekly Retail Gasoline and Diesel Prices Petroleum & Other Liquids (2023), (note the weekly price, and then select “Annual” for period to compare the current price to previous years).

[6] Florida Electric Utility Retail Price (2022), YCharts,

[7] The views and conclusions expressed in this article are strictly those of the authors and not those of The Florida Bar or The Florida Bar Journal.

[8] See Fla. Stat. §193.461 (2022) (Historical and Statutory Notes, Preamble (Laws 1959, c. 59-226)).

[9] See note 2.

[10] Id.; see also H.B. 831, 1959 Leg., 37th Sess. (Fla. 1959).

[11] Id.

[12] See FDACS, Florida Agricultural Overview and Statistics,; Cary Estes, This Sugarcane Operation May Be the Most Sustainable Farm in Florida, Successful Farming (Mar. 30, 2022),; J. Scott Angle, UF/IFAS Science Helps Florida’s Farms Succeed, The Gainesville Sun, Apr. 5, 2021, available at

[13] Fla. Stat. §193.461(1) (2022).

[14] Fla. Stat. §193.461(3)(b) (2022).

[15] Fla. Stat. §193.461(3)(b)(1) (2022).

[16] Fla. Stat. §193.461(6)(b) (2022).

[17] Fla. Stat. §193.461(3)(b)(1)(g) (2022).

[18] Straughn v. Tuck, 354 So. 2d 368, 370 (Fla. 1977).

[19] The views and conclusions expressed in this article are strictly those of the authors and not those of The Florida Bar or The Florida Bar Journal.

[20] Fla. Stat. §193.461(6)(c)(1) (2022).

[21] H.B. 1639, 1999 Leg. (Fla. 1999).

[22] Fla. Stat. §193.461(6)(c)(2)-(4) (2022).

[23] Fla. Stat. §193.461(6)(c)(1) (2022).

[24] Fla. Stat. §193.461(3)(d) (2022).

[25] Id.

[26] Fla. Stat. §193.461(3)(c) (2022).

[27] Fla. Stat. §§196.031, 193.155 (2022).

[28] Fla. Stat. §196.182(1) (2022).

[29] Fla. Stat. §193.624(2)(b) (2022).

[30] Fla. Stat. §193.461(4) (2022).

[31] Fla. Stat. §193.461(6)(c)(1) (2022).

[32] Advanced Power Inc., Solar Irrigation for your Farm Articles (2022),; Ameresco Solar, Solar Power Water Pumping Off-Grid Systems (2021),; FDACS, Commissioner Adam H. Putnam, Water Quality/Quantity Best Management Practices for Florida Vegetable and Agronomic Crops 41 (2015 ed.), available at

[33] Fla. Stat. §193.461(6)(c)(3) (2022).

[34] Kirk Maltais, New Technology Lets Farmers Use Land for Both Solar Panels and Crops, Wall Street J., Nov. 10, 2022, available at

[35] Cathy Carter, July 2022 Was The Hottest Month Ever Recorded In Tampa, WUSF Public Media (Aug. 1, 2022),

[36] Rebecca Lindsey & Luann Dahlman, Climate Change: Global Temperature, (Jan. 18, 2023),

[37] Fla. Stat. §193.461(6)(c)(3) (2022).

[38] Straughn, 354 So. 2d at 371.

[39] Kim Gilmore, Greenbelt Revisions Target Tax Evaders, Tampa Bay Times, Dec. 15, 1997, available at

[40] Stiles v. Brown, 177 So. 2d 672, 676 (Fla. 1st DCA 1965); Walden v. Fletcher Ave. Dev. Corp., 313 So. 2d 65, 67 n.1 (Fla. 2d DCA 1975).

[41] Daniel v. Stone, 481 So. 2d 1251, 1252 (Fla. 2d DCA 1986).

[42] Id.

[43] Id. (citing Straughn, 354 So. 2d at 371).

[44] Stiles, 177 So. 2d at 673.

[45] Id. at 676.

[46] Id.

[47] Note: These cases reference Fla. Stat. §193.11, which was the Greenbelt statute at the time.

[48] Fla. Stat. §193.461(3)(e) (2022).

[49] Tilton v. Gardner, 52 So. 3d 771, 778 (Fla. 5th DCA 2010).

[50] Id.

[51] Stiles, 177 So. 2d at 677 (citing Matheson v. Elcook, 173 So. 2d 164, 166 (Fla. 3d DCA 1965)).

[52] Freeborn Mower, Farm Energy Estimator,

[53] Isaac Ost, How Much Energy Does a Solar Panel Produce? (Apr. 19, 2023),

[54] Fla. Stat. §193.461(4)(a) (2022).

[55] Tilton, 52 So. 3d at 778.

[56] Fla. Stat. §193.461(3)(d) (2022).

[57] Fla. Stat. §193.461(3)(c) (2022).

[58] The condition was changed from zoning to classification in 1972.

[59] Fla. Stat. §193.201 (1959).

[60] Fla. Stat. §193.201(3) (1967).

[61] U.S.D.A. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Citrus Greening,; Ronald Brlansky, Citrus Greening (HLB) (2014),

[62] H.B. 749, 2016 Leg. (Fla. 2016).

[63] FDACS, Commissioner Wilton Simpson, Abandoned Grove Initiative,

[64] Fla. Stat. §193.461(7)(a) (2022).

[65] U.S.D.A., Economic Research Service, Annual State Agricultural Exports Interactive Chart, (click North Carolina and Florida to see their respective statistics).

[66] Solar Energy Industries Association, Solar State By State (2022), (click North Carolina).

[67] Id. (click Florida).

[68] Daniel Brookshire, Jerry Carey & Daniel Parker, North Carolina Solar Land Use and Agriculture 2022 Update, 4 (2022).

[69] Id. at 12.

[70] Id. at 4; Colorado Agrivoltaic Learning Center, Agrivoltaics 101,

[71] Congressional Research Service, Overview of the 2018 Farm Bill Energy Title Programs (2022).

[72] 7 U.S.C. §8107 (2022).

[73] U.S.D.A. Rural Development, Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants (2022),

[74] Id.

[75] Id.

[76] U.S. Dep’t of Energy, Low-Impact Solar Development, InSPIRE | Open Energy Information (2022),

[77] U.S. Dep’t of Energy, Low-Impact Solar Development Strategies Primer, InSPIRE | Open Energy Information (2022),

[78] Fla. Stat. §163.3205(1) (2022).

[79] Fla. Stat. §163.3205 (3).

[80] Fla. Stat. §163.3177(1) (2022).

[81] Fla. Stat. §163.3205(3) (2022).

[82] Alachua County, Fla., Ordinances §404.09 (2022).

[83] Id. at §403.02.

[84] Id. at §404.50.5.

[85] Fla. Stat. §163.3194(5) (2022).

[86] Fla. Stat. §193.461(4)(a) (2022).

[87] Fla. Stat. §193.461 (3)(c).

[88] S.B. 1678 (Fla. 2022).

[89] Id.

[90] U.S. Energy Info. Administration, Florida State Profile and Energy Estimates, EIA,

[91] Alex Harris, Florida to Set Goals For 100% Renewable Energy By 2050. But Will It Actually Happen?, WUSF Public Media (Feb. 12, 2022),

Michael T. Olexa

Michael T. Olexa, Ph.D., J.D., is a professor and director of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Center for Agricultural and Natural Resource Law.

Hill ChristopherChristopher Hill is a graduate of the University of Florida Levin College of Law. He plans to practice exclusively in trial litigation.