Obligation of the State to Provide Compensation for Destroying a Healthy Although Exposed Tree
In Haire v. Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, 870 So. 2d 774 (Fla. 2004), the Court stated:
In this case, we conclude that under the statutory scheme the State is obligated to provide more than token compensation if the State has destroyed a healthy, albeit exposed tree.
Section 581.1845 expressly states that the specified per-tree amount "does not limit the amount of any other compensation that may be paid . . . pursuant to court order for the removal of citrus trees as part of a citrus canker eradication program." 581.1845(4).
Thus, the Citrus Canker Law sets a compensation floor that is consistent with the established principle that "the determination of what is just compensation . . . is a judicial function that cannot be performed by the Legislature." State Plant Board v. Smith, 110 So. 2d 401, 407 (Fla. 1959) (quoting Spafford v. Brevard County, 92 Fla. 617, 110 So. 451, 454 (1926)).
In accord with our precedent, we conclude that the schedule established by the Legislature sets a floor but does not determine the amount of compensation.
When the State destroys private property, the State is obligated to pay just and fair compensation as determined in a court of law.
We emphasize that the fact that the Legislature has determined that all citrus trees within 1900 feet of an infected tree must be destroyed does not necessarily support a finding that healthy, but exposed, residential citrus trees have no value. Id. at 785.
The statute is remedial, and we give to the statute its plain meaning, which is to provide compensation to homeowners who had trees destroyed on or after January 1, 1995. See: Golf Channel v. Jenkins, 752 So. 2d 561, 566 n.4 (Fla. 2000).