Can I really get an "Ag Exemption" by putting honey bees on my land?
If you own between 5 and 20 acres of rural or residential land in Texas, you may apply for a special "Open Space" land valuation by raising honey bees on your property, and save substantial amounts on your annual property taxes.
Land 5 to 20 acres is eligible for a 1-d-1 Open Space special land valuation, commonly referred to as "Ag Exemption" or "Ag Valuation") if it meets the criteria outlined in the Texas Property Tax Code Chapter 23, Subchapter D, Sect. 23.51 (1) and (2), and adheres to the specific land valuation rules set by your county's Central Appraisal District (CAD). This provision applies whether the landowner personally owns and manages the honey bee colonies on the property, OR if a beekeeper brings in their own and/or manages the landowner's, because the qualification is tied to the land, not the landowner. Qualified open-space land is land that is devoted principally to agricultural use to the degree of intensity generally accepted in the area, and that has been devoted principally to agricultural use for five (5) of the preceding seven (7) years.
Land used "to raise or keep bees for pollination or for the production of human food or other tangible products having a commercial value" satisfies the specific requirements related to farm and ranch use, and is eligible for special agricultural appraisal after 5 consecutive years of documented qualifying activity (or 5 out of 7 years). Essentially, this means that, once approved in Year 6, land will be appraised at a reduced value due to its engagement in agricultural and pollination activities associated with beekeeping, and/or for the purpose of producing valuable beekeeping related products.
It is important to note that, within the context of the Texas Tax Code, each local appraisal district establishes their own standards and requirements for beekeeping valuation. In most counties, the minimum number of hives to qualify is six (6) for the first 5 acres, usually with additional hives needed per additional qualifying acreage (up to 20). Properties with a homestead may require more than 5 acres minimum to qualify, usually (but not always) one (1) additional acre. See below for a list of county guidelines.
Incidentally, if the land is already under "Ag Valuation" based on another qualifying activity, like livestock management for example, it is possible to transition to managing honey bee colonies instead, and discontinue the previous activity while retaining the land's special valuation, because it still satisfies the 5 out of the last 7 years of qualifying agricultural activity. And because it's the land that qualifies, not the landowner, new property owners may benefit from existing AG valuations, or from past qualifying AG activity performed by the previous owner.
How much can I save on my taxes? Is it really worth it?
The amount saved will vary greatly based on the county's productivity values, tax rates, and the amount of land qualifying, but the savings may amount to thousands of dollars less on property taxes every year. Property resale value might also increase significantly ("Ag" land is very sought after). In addition, land under 1-d-1 Open Space Land Valuation for at least 1 year may be converted to Wildlife Management Valuation, regardless of acreage!
Because of the much lower valuation on the land, one of our Hays County customers saved over $10,000 in yearly taxes on their 7-acre lot (going from $12,000 per year to $1,500 per year despite a homestead on the land: that's almost 90%). The savings can be so big that landowners are willing to pay up to 30% of their yearly savings to have a beekeeper help keep them qualified each year!
What's the catch?
If you do not currently have an "AG Exemption" on your land, you will need to set up and document 5 years of continuing agricultural/beekeeping use before you can obtain your new land valuation in Year 6 and see the reduction in taxes.
How can I get this special land valuation and save money on my taxes?
First, as the landowner, remember that it is the land that qualifies, not the landowner.
That means you do NOT have to own or manage the bees and hives yourself.
In practice, many landowners prefer to use beehive rental/leasing and/or consulting services rather than manage their own, which can be quite daunting and costly for non-beekeepers (a single healthy hive in mid-summer can have upward of 50,000 flying stinging insects, which can be intimidating at first, and the national rate of colony losses is hovering around 50%).
A valid option therefore is to lease the bees from a beekeeper who may, for a monthly or yearly service fee:
bring their own hives and bees to your property
set up your apiary
do all the management work for you
help you keep the accurate and complete records that you will need to qualify
help you file the application for you with your Appraisal District
replaces colonies lost at their expense
Some ambitious souls may take the plunge and
buy their own equipment and bees
get trained in beekeeping, set up their own apiary
manage their own colonies
replace their colony losses
file their application and documentation on their own
possibly hire a beekeeper for help and consulting services as needed
We also have free easy hive plans for the handy DIY crowd!
Whatever your choice, we can help with leasing and consulting services (within our service area), bees and hives, as well as training/education classes: contact us at BeeMindfulHoneyFarms@gmail.com or via text at (512) 699-0605 to ask your questions or to get on our list of customers!
County specific guidelines:
Always consult your local Central Appraisal District (CAD) for the latest guidelines and requirements.
Here are some examples for Hays CAD, Travis CAD, Bexar CAD, Comal CAD, Guadalupe CAD as of 12/28/2023:
If you are within our service area (Hays, Travis, Bexar, Coral and Guadalupe counties),
contact us for more details, like filing deadlines, application form, documentation required, etc!