Grazing Lease and Agricultural Exemption Information

Update - April 1, 2016

Whew . . . it's finally coming together. After weeks of trying to get in touch with the Cattle Company, sending e-mail and leaving phone messages, I finally got word back from a property owner who had actially called and reached someone. As it turns out, the information I had previously was for the actual cowboy who handles the cattle. They operate with an office guy who handles the paperwork, deals with the County and assembles the information for the cattle company. And, as I discovered, he handles a lot of the business for various Cattle Companies in Maricopa County - so if you have other land parcels needing this service, call and ask him about this as well. Contact Bob Jastrab at (602) 228-4400 or e-mail him at by clicking here.

I had been having trouble in getting in contact with Bobbie Weighall at B&J Cattle over the past few months by phone (her mailbox was full so I couldn't leave a message), by e-mail (sending messages to her, and forwarding e-mail from others who wanted to get information or get their parcels signed up) trying to send messages on Facebook, and even sending out a couple of letters by regular mail to see if I could elicit a response. No Luck ! !
As I was heading out of Whispering Ranch on day, I spotted a truck moving slowly, so I pulled along sid, and guess what - it was Bobbie Weighall ! ! We had a lengthy discussion about what has happened, and since Mark passed, she has been struggling to keep the Cattle Company in business. Despite offer to help, she admitted that she was closing the business as of the end of 2015, and would not be providing the Grazing Leases to entitle owners to the Agricultural Exemptions to taxes. This means that everyone who had a Grazing Lease will no longer have this in place in 2016 and the tax rate will go back to the normal tax rate for the property.
Unless we can find another Cattle Company - approved by Maricopa County - to initiate new Grazing Leases, put cattle on the parcels, and complete the paperwork with the County to re-instate the Agricultural Exemption for the land owners. I'm working on that, but I'm not having much luck.

I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for the honesty and ethics that the "Cowboys" I have known have lived. On of the men I respected was Mark Lee of B and J Cattle Company. He was a man of his word, no fluff, no crap, always the straight scoop. You could count on him doing what he said he would do, and you could trust him. Sadly, we lost Mark around Easter Sunday in 2012. He will be missed by those who knew him. I will miss him too. But I will never forget this rough skinned, big hearted, honest creature I had the honor to work with. It's Mark you see on the horse in these pictures, driving the cattle. I hope it's where he is today as well.

Back a few years ago, Whispering Ranch five acre parcels were selling the in $7,000 to $10,000 range. And the property valuations were in line with the sale prices, so there was not a major issue with annual property taxes in the $100 to $140 range for your average five acre parcel. Then, in late 2004 to late 2005, there was a "land rush" and I watched prices for a five acre parcel increase astronomically up to around $85,000 to $95,000 before we went into our current slump. Since values have retreated from those all time highs, an average parcel in the current market will sell in the $15,000 to $20,000. In early 2007, the Maricopa County Treasurer started looking at what had happened to land values, and in conjunction with the Maricopa County Assessor's Office, began to raise property valuations to bring them in line with actual sales prices previously recorded. These increases in the value of properties were anywhere from 400% to 1000%. But they also presumed that there would be area growth and they have added on these growth figures to the documented rise in sale prices. That projected growth hasn't happened, and the market "adjusted" downward. What we are finding is that the Treasurer's Office and the Assessor's Office are not responsive to this downturn, since when you protest your valuation they are generally unwilling to reduce the valuations by any significant amount. So, in their mind, values were increasing, but as we can all see from the current market, they are not. They have actually declined in the 60% range from the all time high point. In today's market, prices are actually where they were before the "Land Rush of 2005" started. But taxes are significantly higher.

I have had letters, phone calls and e-mails from a large number of property owners who are not too happy with this increase in valuation, and some owners who indicate they actually cannot afford to pay these tax increases, and may be forced to sell their property. That would be tough to do in this market, since the Real Estate market in general is severely depressed. I have advised people to hang on until this current "adjustment" turns around, but despite my optimism, it looks like things will get worse before things turn around and head the other way. Recent economic forecasts reinforce those timeframe projections. I think that the first half of 2012 may be even worse than 2011, but we should bottom out by the end of the year and start on the road to recovery. And with all of the parcels currently on the market, we will have to start selling off the lower priced existing inventory before the market swing upward will take place. So it might be a long wait.

From the time that we became a state, Arizona's economy was based on the "Three C's" - Copper, Cattle and Cotton. They have added two more "C's" in the last fifty years, Climate and Citrus. Previously we were an agricultural and mining based (Copper, Gold, etc.) economy, but in the last few decades, we have developed into a broad based economy with plenty of light electronic manufacturing for the Defense industry, a whole load of financial service companies, and rapid growth of tourism. But thank God for the foresight of our farmers, ranchers and cattle men. Arizona still has a strong agricultural segment of our economy and they have maintained quite a bit of political influence. One of the items that the Cattle Industry has kept in place is the "Agricultural Exemption". This allows a property owner to pay a reduced County Property tax rate if their property meets the requirements and the property is leased to a Cattle Company for the purposes of cattle grazing. The parcels in Whispering Ranch meet those requirements for this exemption in most cases. I have been in touch with a company that has a large number of properties under lease in Whispering Ranch, and they are interested in acquiring more "Pasture Leases" or "Grazing Leases" to add to their current inventory.

There is a little work involved on your part, and it will cost you $50.00 per year that you will have to pay to the Cattle Company. This fee basically helps them in processing paperwork so that the Assessor's Office can classify your property with the Agricultural Exemption. The lease agreements are for a period of three years and will terminate upon the sale of the property. So, if you are granted this exemption and decide to sell your property, the new property owner would have to make the decision to enter into a new lease agreement or just pay the higher tax rate when the lease ends. From where I sit, it is a good investment to pay this $50.00 per year if it will significantly reduce my property taxes. I researched the difference in the taxes, and in 2006 there were two Whispering Ranch properties side by side - pretty much identical. One paid the normal tax rate of $108.00 that year. The adjoining parcel had the Agricultural Exemption and the taxes were $9.80 for the same tax period. And if the taxes on a parcel follow the valuation amount, this saving will be even more signficant once the new tax bills come out!! It could amount to hundreds of dollars saved every year. I don't know how much my taxes will rise in the future - the Assessor may reduce the tax rate somewhat, but you can bet that the taxes will rise. A good bet is that taxes will continue to increase until the County finds a way to balance the budget with cuts, but don't hold your breath on that one.

It has come to my attention from a number of property owners that even though the parcel valuations are going down, the actual dollar amount of taxes they will pay is on the increase. Evidently, since Maricopa County is running at a deficit, they are increasing the tax rate to generate more money. So even though your parcel is worth less, you will be paying more taxes on it. And there's no end in sight. As long as the County is deficit spending, they will try to make up for the shortages by raising taxes. And when the County recovers from the current downturn, they won't have to raise the tax rate, they will let more sales activity and price increases raise the valuation of the properties. Heads, they win . . Tails, you lose !!

I have been getting a lot of positive input from those folks who are taking advantage of the Grazing Leases and the Agricultural Exemption from taxes.

Maybe you should consider this for your properties too.

Here are the forms you will need (though Maricopa County does require that you use their 3-part carbonless forms when you submit your application) these will get you started. And the backup information is here as well. It probably would be a good idea to print up all of this stuff and read through it so you are somewhat familiar with it when you call and ask for their "specific" forms. And feel free to contact the Cattle Companies and the staff in the various offices. If you approach them, they will normally be pretty helpful.

Agricultural Land Use Application (DOR 82916)

Statement of Agricultural Land Lease (DOR 82917)

Agricultural Property Manual

Agricultural Exemption - Submittal Forms Index

Sample Pasture Lease

Pasture Lease Information

Update - October 2009

Here's an e-mail I got recently from an owner who decided to try this idea . . .

Hi Joe,

I just received my tax bill from Maricopa County for our 5 acre lot at Whispering Ranch. I could not believe the sharp drop in taxes over last year - $478.60 vs $4.60. Thanks to you we learned of the grazing rights lease arrangement through Mark Lee at B. & J. Cattle Co. This method amounts to a total of $54.60 for the year - quite a bargain compared to the county barrons. I'd much rather help the rancher any day.
This notice also served as a reminder to us that we owe Mark the lease amount of $10 per acre per year, so I just mailed my check to cover the lease for all of 2010 through December, 2011.

Again, I take this opportunity to thank you for assisting us to take these money saving steps. I also thank you for the frequent news letters that give us an idea of what is taking place at Whispering Ranch. When and if these lots become attractive again, you can place our lot on the market.

George & Janice Lance

Update - February 5, 2010

Late in January, I got an e-mail from a woman who owns three parcels in Whispering Ranch. She was advising me that her application for the Agricultural Exemption had been denied by Maricopa County. Up until that point, I had received e-mails from other owners who were pleased with the fact that their property had been granted this Exemption under State Statute, so I was a little disturbed. I sent an e-mail up to Mark Lee at B&J Cattle Company to see if he was aware of any other owners who had made application and had been denied. Soon after that, Mark e-mailed me back that the County had decided that his Cattle Company was "not on the County approved list" for the 2011 tax year, despite all his efforts in providing the information needed to bring him into compliance. He had been furnishing information to them since October of 2009. If you want to see the e-mails back and forth and what the County was demanding and how he was working to meet their requirements, send me an e-mail and I'll send you copies of the correspondence. What it all finally boiled down to was they wanted to count his cattle. But they couldn't seem to find the time in their busy schedules until the date had passed for sending out the 2011 tax valuation statements.

I had a feeling that something like this was on the horizon when the economy went into the tank. With Maricopa County operating at a budget deficit, they are looking to ANY revenue source, even putting in some "temporary" taxes. I had a gut feeling that they would do whatever they could to maintain or possibly even increase tax revenues with no regard for the impact on the public at large. The Grazing Leases with a ' bona fide' Cattle Company and resulting Agricultural Exemption dramaticaly reduces the tax bill on the land parcels in Whispering Ranch. If the average Whispering Ranch parcel pays about $400 a year in taxes and there are approximately 3400 of them, the tax income for the County from this area would be $1,360,000. But if every parcel had the Agricultural Exemption and paid $50 (which is a high estimate of the tax amount) the County tax income would be $170,000 - a loss of $1,190,000 in tax revenue. So the County needs to put the brakes on this process. They need the money. And, since the past attitude of the County officials has been autocratic, I don't expect we will see any coopertion with Mark Lee at B&J Cattle Company to resolve this issue.

How will this impact you ? ? Well, if you currently are taking advantage of the Agricultural Exemption in Whispering Ranch, and if your grazing Lease is with B&J Cattle Company, you may well see your 2011 taxes go up to the normal residential rate. I don't think that the County Agricultural Department or the State Agricultural Department can allow two different Cattle firms to graze the same area. So if they can remove a company from their "Approved List" the Agricultural Exemption goes away . . . and Tax Revenues go up.

If you want more information, want to file a protest, object to this action or just make your voice heard, it might be a good idea to contact the Maricopa County Assessor's office. Keith Russell is our current Assessor. I will acknowledge that he is in a tough spot with a depressed economy, but that shouldn't stop him from choosing what is right over what is economically beneficial in the short term. You can reach him at (602) 506-3406.

Update - March 7, 2010

It looks like the County Assessor's Office is getting the letters and e-mails out as they had promised. But it would be in your best interest to make sure you have yours by the April 15th deadline or you might just miss out on getting the tax break for the upcoming year. If you don't have anything in writing yet, here's the information you can use to follow up . . .

Keith Russell, Maricopa County Assessor,
(602) 506-3406

Marita Lammie, Agricultural Supervisor
(602) 372-2683

Joe Parprati, Chief Appraiser
(602) 506-3678

Manuel Dominguez

David "Beau" Boisvert, Land Division Manager
(602) 372-1629

Daron Back, Property Appraiser

If, in your dealings with these folks, you should come up with more current e-mail addresses, telephone numbers or anything that would help others get in touch with these "Public Servants", feel free to pass the information along to me at this web site by sending me an e-mail, and I'll post the information here.

To send me an E-Mail, click here.

Liberty Southwest Realty, LLC

Joseph D. (Joe) Liberty, Designated Broker
26742 West Ross Avenue
Buckeye, Arizona 85396
Phone: (602) 505-7675

Last updated April 2016 - J. D. Liberty/Webmaster

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