Fair property tax bill passes the Texas House of Representatives!

 

May 1, 2015: HB 1900, to provide for fair property tax treatment for small farmers, has just passed the Texas House of Representatives!  The bill will now go to the Senate.farm-policy

Thank you to Representative Eddie Rodriguez for carrying this important bill. Representative Rodriguez and hist staff have worked hard to fix the problem of urban farmers, vegetable farmers, and diversified farmers being unfairly denied agricultural valuation and having to pay higher taxes.

More information on HB 1900 is below.

 

There is also good news on the water issue.  SB 1907, the massive water marketing and transfer bill, was originally expected to be voted on last Tuesday.  But thanks to your calls and emails, the bill still hasn’t come to the floor for a vote and there are discussions of possible amendments.  The fight is far from over, but we are making progress!  Read more about the water bills here.

Watch for our action alert next week with more information on how you can help on these and other issues.

This weekend, take a moment to celebrate these successes — grassroots activism does make a difference!

 

More information about HB 1900, Fair Property Taxes for Small Farmers

HB 1900 by Representative Eddie Rodriguez would help small farmers and community gardens get fair treatment under our property tax laws.  Although Texas law provides for “agricultural valuation” of land used primarily for raising food, many farmers across the state have experienced problems in qualifying for such valuation due to bias against sustainable farming methods, urban farms, and produce farmers.

Thank you to Representative Eddie Rodriguez and to his joint authors: Representatives Kyle Kacal, John Cyrier, and Joe Moody.

Note: the original bill also included community gardens.  In order to address concerns about potential lost tax revenues, community gardens were removed from the bill by a floor amendment.  We hope to address property tax treatment for community gardens in a separate bill next session.

HB 1900 clarifies the Tax Code by:

  • Specifying that fruit and vegetable production qualify as “agricultural uses.”  There have been multiple cases of county tax assessors asserting that growing vegetables isn’t agriculture!
  • Directing tax appraisers to consider the type of production used, including organic and sustainable methods such as rotational grazing, in determining the degree of intensity of use necessary to qualify.
  • Directing the Comptroller, in consultation with Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, tax appraisal districts, and representatives of affected farmers, to develop guidelines to address under what conditions  small acreages and diversified farms qualify for agricultural valuation.

The landowner will still have show that the land is devoted principally to agricultural use, and has been for at least five of the preceding seven years.  The landowner will also remain subject to five years of rollback taxes if the property ceases to be used for agricultural purposes.

This bill does not seek to increase the number of landowners who are entitled to open-space valuation; rather, it merely ensures that people who should already qualify for agricultural valuation under the Texas Constitution are not inappropriately excluded by local authorities.