Medina County Changes minimum acreage to 20 acres for ag exemptions (see exceptions)

Local ag operations under 20 acres will have to meet certain requirements in order to keep ag exemptions due to recent changes in minimum acreage. This article outlines types of common Ag operations in our area as well as some of the changes in requirements to qualify for ag exemptions.

According the Medina County Appraisal District (MCAD) Agricultural Guidelines document, the first ag appraisal law was approved by voters in 1966 and was “intended to protect the family farm from being taxed out of existence as Texas became more and more urbanized and market prices of agricultural land skyrocketed.”
MCAD is now implementing changes to the Minimum amount of Acreage and/or requirements in order for property owners to claim an “ag exemption” on property taxes. There will be no “grandfather rule” for smaller ag operations that have been operating here in Medina County. However, the document states “It should be noted that these guidelines are to be used as a general guide for qualifying agricultural land. Exceptions to the rule will be handled on a case-by-case basis.”
The full Agricultural Guidelines can be accessed on The following is a portion of that document regarding acreage and requirements:
“Properties less than twenty (20) acres will generally not qualify for the agricultural use appraisal. Consideration will be given to parcels less than twenty (20) acres that are in operation with an adjoining parcel if all the following requirements are met (see other exceptions as well):

  • the agricultural use and the operator of both parcels are the same
  • when adding the total acreage of the two parcels together, the total acreage devoted to agricultural use must be at least twenty (20) acres
  • all other requirements of these guidelines are met
  • properties that qualify under this exception may be asked to reapply annually and/or file a 5-year agricultural management plan
    Consideration will also be given to parcels less than twenty (20) acres that are being used for intensive type agricultural operations such as vegetable truck farms, beekeeping, orchards, vineyards, and hay production.
    Other exceptions may arise and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the chief appraiser. Tests-In addition to having qualified land, to receive a 1-d-1 productivity use value, the agricultural operation must pass four separate tests. These include current and principal agricultural use, principal or primary use, degree of intensity test, and time period test.
    Types of Agricultural Operations in Medina County
    There are several types of agricultural operations in Medina County, including: Livestock/Exotics, Cow/Calf operations, Stocker/Feeder Calf operations, Sheep, Horses, Goat, Exotics, Cropland, Hay production, Orchards/Vineyards, Truck Farming Operations, Beekeeping, Wildlife Management operations, Ecological Labratory. The following tells us a little about the requirements for these kind of operations, please see the full manual for more info.
    Some of the Details provided in the MCAD Ag Guidelines:
    Livestock and Exotics – Properties must be actively involved in standard agricultural practices. These practices include fence maintenance, providing a water source, minimum number of animal units, and marketing of livestock. It has been determined that all operations pertaining to grazing of the land in Medina County will have a minimum herd size of three (3) animal units. This means that the amount of acreage being utilized by the herd must be adequate to sustain at least three (3) animal units. Larger tracts of land may be required to have more than 3 animal units depending on the carrying capacity of the soil type(s). Livestock should be able to survive on the forage resources with minimum damage to the forage resources.
    Cow/Calf – This type of operation is commonly found in Medina County. The operators of cow/calf grazing operations are in the business of raising beef for sale to either processors or other operators as breeding stock. These include purebred operations as well as commercial breeders who sell calves to the local livestock market. Intensity requirements: a minimum of 3 animal units (3 cow/calf pairs); cows must be bred and should calve each year; carrying capacity of land to be determined by soil type(s) but usually not less than 20 acres.
    Stocker/Feeder Calf – This operation is in the business of raising beef for processors or for the feedlot. This operation involves acquiring calves at a certain weight from cow and calf operators or the livestock auction. The calves are then raised until they grow large enough for the feedlot or for slaughter; or are sold as replacement heifers. Both heifer and steer calves are found in these types of operations, with steers being the most common sex when sold for slaughter or to a feedlot. Intensity requirements: a minimum of 3 animal units (5 stocker or feeder calves); carrying capacity of land to be determined by soil type(s) but usually not less than 20 acres.
    Sheep – This operation is in the business of providing two products: wool and meat. The wool is produced from the fleece of the animal and the meat is either mutton or lamb. Sheep operations may be purebred or commercial in nature. A commercial operation would not require any particular breed and may be in the business of meat production only. Purebred operations are normally in the business of producing wool, meat, or animals to sell to other producers as breeding stock. Intensity requirements: minimum of 3 animal units (15 head of grown breeding ewes); ewes must be bred and should lamb each year; carrying capacity of land to be determined by soil type(s) but usually not less than 20 acres.
    Goat – This operation is in the business of producing primarily three products: mohair, meat, and milk. Mohair production is usually limited to the Angora breed, although there has been some Cashmere goat breeding in the area. Nubian and other similar breeds are milk producers. The milk is sold for human consumption or fed to orphan animals. Most other breeds are involved in the production of meat, or cabrito, meaning the meat from a kid goat. This breed is usually referred to as a Spanish goat. The Boer goat breed from South Africa was introduced some years ago as a meat producer and has been interbred with the Spanish and other goat breeds to increase the size of these animals. Some producers breed only purebred Boer goats for sale to other producers for breeding. Intensity requirements: minimum of 3 animal units; (18 head of grown breeding nannies); nannies must be bred and should kid each year; carrying capacity of land to be determined by soil type(s) but usually not less than 20 acres.
    Horse – This type of operation is limited to breeding operations. A breeding operation involves having brood mares and either a stud (stallion) on location or using artificial insemination for breeding the mares. This type of operation may include some training of colts or fillies. The operation may involve any number of breeds. Land used primarily to keep, train, show, race, or ride horses does not qualify. Typical pastures are of the improved variety, such as Coastal Bermuda grass. Supplemental feeding is a given fact of a breeding horse operation. Intensity requirements: a minimum of 3 breeding age mares (should be 3 years or older) carrying capacity of land to be determined by soil type(s) but usually not less than 20 acres. Typical Management Practices for Livestock • Fences maintained • Continuous water supply • Herd management and systematic marketing practices • A fertilization and weed control program • Recordkeeping (receipts for: purchases and sales of livestock, breeding, vaccination & deworming, etc.) • Proper land management to provide long-term forage • Adequate animal units matching the carrying capacity of the land and typical agricultural operations
    Exotics – This type of operation involves the raising of deer, antelope, emus, ostriches, and other types of animals not native to Texas. Some exotic animal operations supply meat for consumption or leather or plumage for clothing or industrial use. Some by-products of exotic animals are used in cosmetics or for medicinal purposes. Some exotic animal operations supply animals for breeding purposes. Intensity requirements: a minimum of 3 animal units; an animal unit for this type of operation depends on the type of animals being raised; carrying capacity of land to be determined by soil type(s) but usually not less than 20 acres. The primary use test is particularly important for exotic game since only production for food or other commercially valuable products qualifies. Exotic game is defined to include axis deer, nilgai antelope, red sheep, and other “cloven-hooved ruminants” not native to Texas. The owner must raise game to produce human food or tangible products that have commercial value, such as leather or hides. Because hunting is recreation, an exotic game ranch that is devoted primarily to hunting could not qualify for agricultural appraisal. MCAD will consider all relevant information to determine the primary use. Typical Management Practices for Exotics • Seven to eight-foot perimeter fence, working pens, capture equipment, trailers, etc. • Continuous water supply • Written breeding and herd management procedures • Written active business plan showing herd size, harvest schedules and harvest reports • Systematic marketing practices • Recordkeeping (receipts for purchases and sales of exotics, etc.) • Proper land management to provide long-term forage • Adequate animal units matching the carrying capacity of the land and typical agricultural operations
    Cropland – The most common type of cropland operation in the county is small grain and sorghum hay. These two types of operations are usually a part of a grazing operation, but not in all cases. Row crop farming is done on a limited basis. The types of crops planted in row crop farming are usually milo and corn. Other crops such as cotton may be planted; however, these types are usually found further south. Much of the land that is not irrigated is grazed during part of the year, usually during the winter months. Small grain and sorghum hay operators will typically plant their fields on an annual basis and combine the grain or bale hay for a minimum of one cutting. Landowners should follow practices typical for their area. Typical Management Practices for Cropland • Adequate fencing and continuous water supply for any stock present • Planting & cultivation • Removal of previous crop • Application of herbicides and pesticides • Fertilize according to soil test or typical for area • Must try to harvest average county yield • Recordkeeping (receipts for seed, chemicals, sale of crops; crop rotation schedule, etc.)
    Hay Production – This is land used to grow perennial, improved grasses, which are cut and baled for livestock consumption. The most common type of grasses includes Coastal Bermuda and Klein grass. These grasses are usually baled in the spring and early summer if irrigation is not available. If the land is irrigated, it may be baled up to the fall. Landowners should follow practices typical for their area. Property cut occasionally to clear the grass/weeds will not qualify for ag use. Typical Management Practices for Hay Production • Fertilize as typical for area • Weeds and insects controlled • Cut and bale with a minimum of 2 cuttings per year. • If cut less than minimum, should be used for grazing for remaining of growing season • Recordkeeping (receipts for seed, sprigs, sale of crops; hay rotation schedule, etc.) • Market or used for personal livestock feed
    Orchard and Vineyard – These operations are in the business of cultivating and growing trees and/or grapevines that produce crops of nuts and/or fruits. This type of operation can yield abundant harvest on small acreage. The orchard/vineyard must be a wholesale operation. Typical Management Practices for Orchards/Vineyards • Minimum density: ▪ Pecan/fruit trees – 14-100 trees per acre ▪ Vineyard – 100 vines per acre • Recordkeeping and written production plan and • Spraying as recommended by Texas AgriLife Extension Service • Mechanical or chemical weed control • Fertilization according to soil test or typical for the area • Drip system or some other means of adequate irrigation for establishment and production of nuts/fruit/grapes • Pruning of trees and vines • Harvesting techniques to maximize yields for commercial sales – home use does not qualify
    Truck Farming Operations – This type of operation is in the business of cultivating the soil for the planting and production of vegetables. Truck farming depends on a good source of water for irrigation purposes and will utilize some type of irrigation system. There are some types of crops, such as okra, that do well in dry land areas and may not require irrigation, so each operation should be considered separately. Examples of crops grown in truck farming operations include tomatoes, squash, potatoes, peppers, carrots, and other types of vegetables. Typical Management for Truck Farming • Site preparation • Erosion control • Pest/fungus control • Recordkeeping and marketing
    Beekeeping-The district’s degree of intensity is six active hives (colonies) on the first five acres with one hive per additional 2.5 acres up to 20 acres. This will give a range of 6-12 hives. Each hive must contain a minimum one brood box (8-10 frames) with a cover and bottom. Bees need an adequate source of nectar and pollen throughout the growing season of April to September. Bees will travel within a 3-mile radius from the hive to find adequate forage for survival. If adequate forage cannot be found the bees will simply move (abscond) or die. It is the responsibility of a prudent and conscientious manager to see that adequate forage is available for his/her bees. Beekeepers will have their bees in locations that provide food for their bees, allow for the pollination of various agriculture and food crops, and manage their bees in a manner to keep them healthy, surviving, and producing for the long-term. Beekeeping is not a “cheap” endeavor nor is a short-term endeavor. Requirements • Six (6) – twelve (12) active hives of honeybees • Each hive must include at a minimum one brood box (8 or 10 frames) with a cover and bottom • Hives must be located on the property for the entire year, be maintained, and kept alive • Due to the limited flowering vegetation located in our county, planting of flowering plants and shrubs may be necessary • A beekeeping supplement and a 5-year plan of action is required to be submitted with the initial application.
    The plan should include the following: ♠ Type of bees ♠ Number of hives ♠ Map with location of hives and plant life ♠ List of vegetation for food source (all plant life intended to support hive) ♠ Marketing plan for production of human food or products that have commercial value ♠ Number of acres to be used for beekeeping, including leases ♠ Information about bee migratory habits ♠ The primary operation and any secondary uses of the bees ♠ Plans for expansion ♠ Contingency plan in case of a catastrophic disaster of hives An annual report is required. This annual update provides the district with an overview of activities throughout the past calendar year and is due by March 1st of each year. Examples of items to include in the annual report: • How many pounds of honey were harvested • Were the bees used primarily for pollination • What by-products were produced • What products were purchased for the operation • Maintenance log of the hives • Supplemental feeding log of the hives • Additional bees purchased during the year • Predator prevention such as Africanized bees or fire ants
    Wildlife Management- In 1995, Texas voters approved Proposition 11, which amended Article VIII, Section 1-d-1 of the Texas Constitution to permit agricultural appraisal for land used to manage wildlife. H.B. 1358 implemented the constitutional amendment by making wildlife management an agricultural use that qualifies the land for agricultural appraisal. For more information on wildlife management see MCAD’s Wildlife Management Guidelines.
    Ecological Laboratory-Please contact MCAD for specific qualifications and requirements for Ecological Laboratory. Governmental Programs Currently, the only governmental program that will qualify for 1-d-1 productivity use value on its own is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) ten year set aside program; a federal program that pays producers to participate in the program to put cropland back into grassland. The value of the property at the time it is accepted into this program will be the value of the property each year it remains in the program. There may be governmental programs for activities such as riparian management in the future, and these programs may be added to the state’s approved activities from time to time.