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Agriculture Today

Beehives on rural acreage could lower taxes

Beehives on rural acreage could lower taxes
A closeup of busy honeybees at work with their hives

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Special to the Wilson County News
December 26, 2012
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By Robert Fromme

Bees are responsible for pollinating many species of plants and crops within the state, and many Texas crops would be at risk without the bees. Honey has been designated as an agricultural product in Texas.

In May 2011, state representatives George Lavender and James White sponsored a bill regarding honeybees used for agricultural use tax appraisal.

The special agricultural valuation for honeybees applies to land parcels ranging from 5 to 20 acres. If the property owner has a home on the parcel, 1 acre is usually taxed as residential land and that acre cannot be included in the special agricultural valuation. In other words, with a residence on the land, a total of 6 acres would be needed to gain the agricultural valuation minimum of 5 acres. The property must previously have an agricultural exemption or one must have the hives on the property for at least five of the past seven years before the special valuation can take effect. In turn, if the property is sold and the agricultural valuation is not continued, the current owner will be responsible for five years of tax rollbacks, which will take effect with the loss of the agricultural classification on the land. If the parcel of land is barren or requires additional attention in order to support the hives, blossoming plants or trees must be introduced on the land in order to ensure thriving colonies at the location.

There must be at least three active “main frame” beehives to qualify and there is a limit or total of 10 hives for 20 acres. In other words, the hive must include an active, living hive of honeybees, a bottom board, at least one-eighth or one-10th frame brood box, and a cover. A smaller three- to five-frame “nuke” or nucleus hive will not qualify as an acceptable hive in the count.

The beehives must be located on the property; however, they do not need to be owned or managed by the landowner. The property owner may choose to arrange for the hives to be placed and managed by another beekeeper as long as the beehives remain active and are kept on the property.

The actual amount of tax reduction after qualifying for the honeybee agricultural valuation will vary due to an extensive range of appraisal categories for agricultural valuation. Agricultural land is appraised per acre based upon location and its productive potential. In other words, cropland, native open range, introduced grasses on open ranchland, timber, and varied or rough terrain can all impact the final agricultural valuation of the land for tax purposes. At any rate, if a rural family is currently paying taxes on 5 to 20, non-residential acres without an agricultural valuation on the land, they should expect to see a substantial reduction in their taxes after qualifying for the honeybee special agricultural valuation.

Rural landowners who qualify should contact the appraisal district and actually file an application form in order to receive the special agricultural application. For more information, call the Wilson County Appraisal District at 830-393-3065.

Richard Fromme, a retired school teacher, resides in the Fairview community and raises bees on land off C.R. 120, near the Labatt Road Bridge.

Bob and Eva Fromme, retired public school teachers, have enjoyed managing a few honeybee hives since the 1980s. The couple own a few acres to run cattle and attend to beehives near the Labatt Road Bridge in the county.

In 2011, according to http://tx.open government.org, Texas House Bill 2049 relates “to the eligibility of certain land used to raise or keep bees for appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes as qualified open-space land.” The law took effect Jan. 1, 2012.

To assist others about the specific requirements for a honeybee agricultural valuation in Wilson County, the couple contacted Brian Stahl, chief appraiser of the Wilson County Appraisal Office, for more information. The following information and photos were shared by Stahl.

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