SB 1892 – Relating to the eligibility of land for appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes as qualified open-space land based on its use to raise or keep bees.

Bill Information:
SB 1892 (Drew Springer) Relating to the eligibility of land for appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes as qualified open-space land based on its use to raise or keep bees.

Summary Timeline:
The decline in the overall number of beekeepers that were once spread over the landscape, such as on small family farms, has been noted as one of the many factors believed to contribute to the decline in honey bee populations over the years. Therefore, as a way to address this, the Texas Property Tax Code Chapter 23, Subchapter D., Section 23.51 (2) was amended in 2012 as follows: “‘Agricultural use’ includes… the use of land to raise or keep bees for pollination or for the production of human food or other tangible products having a commercial value, provided that the land used is not less than 5 or more than 20 acres.” In Article 8 of the Texas Constitution, the State of Texas allows for the Taxation of Certain Open-Spaced Land (Section 1-d-1), for the stated purpose of promoting the preservation of open-spaced lands. The incentive (lower property valuation) to qualify land for 1-d-1 through keeping bees has helped to increase the number of beekeepers and honey bee colonies throughout Texas over the past ten years, which has brought many benefits to Texas.

Each appraisal district in Texas has the authority to set standards for their county and enforce those standards. This bill (similar to bills filed in 2021), however, seeks to set statutory minimum state-wide degree-of-intensity standards and the amount of time the hives must remain on the property. Given the geographic diversity of Texas, this statutory minimum standard is unreasonable and is not imposed for any other ag industry. Over the past 10 years, 55 Texas counties have reasonably set degree-of-intensity standards that are less than what is being proposed in the bills. This change will be to the detriment of beekeepers in these counties. Time requirements vary by county as well. For some counties it is a majority of the year, some specify 7 months, some 9 months. These are all decisions that need to remain with local appraisal districts. (For a more detailed discussion, see the additional resources below.)

We have had numerous conversations with stakeholders over the past several years to try to better understand concerns surrounding this issue. We have been told that the increase in public advertising of using bees to save on property taxes has drawn unwanted attention from some counties. While TBA understands this frustration, the concerns we have heard regarding the 1-d-1 appraisals and potential or alleged abuse of it are very limited and do not outweigh the benefits for law-abiding land-owners and beekeepers. The proposed bills are not needed to address the alleged concerns and will only harm lawful landowners and beekeepers.

Why it matters to TBA?
Professional beekeepers, like cattleman and other livestock professionals, often depend on the use of land they do not own in order to maintain healthy bee colonies. Beekeepers and the beekeeping industry benefit from 1-d-1 appraisal in the State of Texas. We believe these changes are completely unnecessary because they do not address any stated issues that cannot be addressed at the local level. Additionally, these changes potentially set a precedent that could negatively affect other ag industries and wildlife qualification for 1-d-1 in the future.

Many of our TBA members have expended substantial resources and worked hard to satisfy the requirements of their local appraisal districts to qualify land for 1-d-1 valuation. It takes 5 years to qualify land. Land that is no longer used for keeping bees after qualifying is subject to roll-back penalties. Beekeepers stand to be negatively impacted if the statute starts changing every two years because some appraisal districts put pressure on legislators. We ask you to contact your state senator and representative and let them know that you do not support these changes.

Beekeeper Insights:
1-d-1 as it relates to beekeeping benefits the State of Texas as well as the beekeeping industry. Whether landowners become beekeepers themselves or allow professional beekeepers access to their property, we find that 1-d-1 encourages:

  • Increasing awareness of land-owners as responsible stewards of the land for pollinators and natural resources. Landowners who allow bees on their property often become more ecologically aware.
  • More responsible and natural beekeeping by encouraging landowners to allow beekeepers access to their land; thus allowing beekeepers to maintain lower population bee yards.
  • Promotion of the agricultural and beekeeping industry – encouraging access to land with natural forage for beekeepers while agricultural pollination crops are not in bloom.

Here are four case-studies or scenarios where professional beekeepers and the beekeeping industry benefit from the 1-d-1 appraisal.

Situation 1: Professional bee breeders sell bees to interested landowners who would like to keep bees on their property in return for tax savings. This promotes the bee industry in Texas through bee sales at a minimum. We also find that citizens that take up an interest in beekeeping are better stewards for the environment, ecology, and pollinators.

Situation 2: Growing commercial beekeepers are able to use 1-d-1 to find quality bee locations and help incentivize landowners to allow bees on their property. This is often done in the form of a lease / service agreement and is mutually beneficial – allowing beekeepers to keep bees in smaller quantities, leading to access to more ample forage to support the nutritional and ecological needs of the hive.

Situation 3: Landowners who own bees often need professional beekeeper help to maintain the health of their hives. This may be a temporary or permanent relationship but promotes responsible beekeeping and healthy bees.

Situation 4: Migratory beekeepers will follow the bloom throughout the farming season and help assist farmers in pollinating their crops. When pollination seasons close, beekeepers need land with natural forage to help provide nutrition to their bees. While beekeepers can supplement feed, natural forage is, as you’d expect, is a more nutritious option for bees.

Additional Resources:
Initial Proposed Language
Letter to Joy Davis, Farm Bureau (2020)
Email to Carla Pope-Osborne (with 2020 list of counties and beekeeper associations with lower min standards)

Response to SB 1892 from TBA Member Joe Bader.