The Mormon Church is growing so fast in Florida, that the congregation is making a purchase of 382,000 acres for $565 million. The congregation now owns timberland property across eight different counties in the state.
AgReserves, a corporate affiliate of the deal is buying the land from developer St Joe Co., according to reports.
The proposal will more than double the 290,000 acres already controlled by the church, pushing past 650,000 acres, according to the Tampa Bay Times, vaulting the church past number two landholder Foley Timber and Land Co, which has 562,000 acres, and real estate trust Plum Creek’s 448,000 acres.
The massive plot is referred to as “non-strategic timberland,” according to WJHG.
AgReserves will continue to use the land for timber and agriculture, as well as take over all contracts involving timber production, the Times said.
The tax-paying Mormon Church affiliate has been involved in agricultural operations for more than 60 years, a joint statement released by the two companies said.
Rival Foley Timber came out in favor of the announcement.
“Based on what we know of the company and their land management practices in central Florida, we believe they will be good stewards of the land in north Florida as well,” spokesperson Bo Taff told the Times.
According to the Times, AgReserves’ operations at its Deseret Ranches in Florida include beef cattle, citrus and timber, as well as other farming. Roughly 90 employees man operations in the state.
St Joe’s sold the business as part of a strategy changed and moving more towards resort and planned community development, a spokesperson told The News Herald.
“This sale of timberland will help the company concentrate on its core business activity of real estate development,” said the spokesperson.
The transaction is expected to close early next year.