One of the challenges in running a cattle operation in Florida is the location. This small peninsula has more than 15 million residents, and it's the fourth fastest growing state in the nation.

This population explosion is difficult on Florida ranchers. Every month, more agricultural land is sold for gated communities, golf courses or strip malls.

Urban sprawl is difficult to combat. The growth has driven up our property values considerably. These elevated land prices are hard to weigh against the average income of a farmer or rancher. The result is that many ranchers and farmers decide to take the money. Who can blame someone for selling when development land is worth more than double the value of agricultural land?

To thank us for operating a ranch that provides safe habitat for abundant wildlife and preserving the natural Florida landscape, our county commission and surrounding communities constantly try to tell us how to manage our ecosystems, wetlands and green space. But the area would have been subdivided long ago had our family not had a love for cattle ranching and the land.

Oddly, our ranch is in a county that strongly opposes development and agriculture. They continuously tie our hands on property management. Growth management plans, zoning regulations and ordinances get stricter with every county commission meeting.

At one meeting, our commission considered an excavation ordinance meant to keep people from digging ponds, pools or pipes without permits. The way it's written, however, it bans us from digging water holes for cattle and even fence postholes! The board said they had never considered the ordinance's effects on farmers and ranchers, even though a large portion of the county is zoned agricultural.

The state of Florida, on the other hand, would love nothing more than to keep your land “green.” They will gladly take it off your hands, either through an easement or purchase, for the benefit of the “green corridor.” This is a natural area through the center of the state that cannot be developed.

I favor saving more land from development. But when cattle grazing and other agricultural activities are not allowed, this land becomes jungle.

Our ranches have wildlife and vegetation because our operations work with nature, not against it. Ranchers should be rewarded not condemned for keeping agricultural areas protected and safe from development.

Mary Anne Cruse, brother Wes and her parents and grandparents operate Ru-Mar Inc., a large commercial cow/calf operation in South Florida.