Mormon church completes huge buy of land - now owns 2 percent of Florida land

Orlando Sentinel/March 6, 2014

By Kevin Spear

The Mormon church through its subsidiaries now owns nearly 2 percent of Florida with the completion Thursday of a $562 million purchase of more than 382,000 acres in North Florida's Panhandle region.

The megapurchase of most of the timberland holdings of real-estate developer St. Joe Co. was announced in November. That property combined with Deseret Ranches in Central Florida leaves the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 678,000 acres in Florida.

AgReserves Inc., a taxpaying company of the church, said when the deal was first made public that it will continue to use the North Florida land for timber and agriculture.

Deseret Ranches has more than 40,000 cattle and is one of the nation's largest producers of calves, and stands to become a key player in Central Florida's development patterns, water consumption and transportation corridors.

The closing of the land deal was announced by CBC Saunders Real Estate in Lakeland, which confirmed that terms remained the same as when first disclosed.

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