Agricultural Exemption – the Drought Rules

Here is my scenario; a client calls to let me know that he needs to remove his livestock from his property because there is no grass to graze and he can’t afford to feed them.  He’s worried that if he does that, he’ll lose his agricultural (ag) exemption.

First, let me state that there is no great magic going on here, I simply called the appraisal district and posed the scenario.  The response from the appraiser (talk to an appraiser, not the receptionist) was to send him an email, explaining what we were doing and why.  He’ll put the letter in the file and after we have some rain and the grasses return, the livestock would need to return as well.  He admitted that there was going to need to be considerable rain before our grasses return.  I asked him what he meant by “grasses return” and his answer was “knee high.”  He stated that my client was not alone and that there are many ranchers/farmers in that situation.

So, let’s apply the “Drought Rules” to my client.  First, at no time do I think the appraisal district will let my client’s grasses get “knee high” before the cows need to return, but I’d settle for “ankle high,” so that’s what we’re going with.

We are sending the letter/email.  Keep in mind that appraisers have rules and one of those rules is “what would a prudent rancher do.”  So, keeping notes and taking pictures (presumable of dry property with no grass) is important.  When contesting, the guy with the most data usually wins, so we’re taking pictures, noting rainfall, etc. as data to present if the WCAD tries to revoke our ag exemption.

Other things we are noting are items like the cost of hay.  You just need to be prudent, they can’t make you keep and feed your cows.

We are also keeping the cattle sale proceeds in the bank, because we will one day have to buy cows again, possibly at the current high prices.  I know several ranchers that have lost their ag exemption because they couldn’t afford to buy back in. “Cattle prices are too high” will not be an excuse once your grasses return.

Please note that I mostly deal with the Williamson County Appraisal District, so how the county appraisers work in your county may differ.  If fact, given a little time, it may also differ in Williamson County.