The county has codes and standards that must be met by most kinds of land use or structures erected on a given parcel of land – these codes/standards are included in our Zoning Regulations and building codes. The state allows exemptions from these regulations for general agriculture. Property that meets the definition of general agriculture general as defined in the Cochise County Zoning Regulations, and the eligibility requirements included below, may qualify for an agricultural zoning exemption.
Agricultural land, for purposes of such exemptions, shall be defined as "a tract containing a minimum of five contiguous commercial acres (175,000 SF) which is being used for the production of farm, garden, or orchard crops, or the grazing or raising of farm animals, including feeding pens that are incidental and subordinate to a grazing operation." Examples of commodities produced include vegetables, fruit trees, grapes, cotton, grain, poultry, horses, cattle, sheep, and swine.
The term "general agriculture" includes such uses as the necessary treatment, packing, or storage of farm products produced on-premises, the sale of any farm crops or livestock raised on-premises, and any signs, structures, or fences utilized for agricultural functions." By statute, "general agriculture" includes dairy operations, including areas designated for raising heifers and bulls owned by the same dairy operation that is on property contiguous to the dairy operation or within one-quarter of a mile.
It does not include signs advertising off-premise facilities, junkyards, other retail sales, manufacturing, any non-agricultural services, stockyards, slaughterhouses/meatpacking plants, commercial pen feeding, production wineries, boneyards, plants for the reduction of animal matter, poultry feeding operations, agricultural processing plants, or the growing of marijuana. In addition, a reasonable operating profit must be possible in order to qualify for an agricultural exemption.
Applicants must demonstrate eligibility for an agricultural exemption by producing verifiable evidence of active commercial agricultural status. The following are examples of documents that are helpful in establishing that claim:
- Brand inspection certificates.
- Business plan (for new operations).
- IRS Form Schedule F, Profit and Loss Statement (or equivalent).
- Livestock grazing plan.
- Sales invoices of agricultural products or livestock sold.
- Receipts for services rendered or items purchased relevant to the agricultural operation.
An agricultural zoning exemption allows for land to be used without being subject to use regulations and safety codes.But please note: agriculture exemption does not apply to the following:
- Health Department requirements, such as septic permits
- Right-of-way permits for County highway access
- Subdivision Regulations
- Floodplain permits
- Manufactured home installation permits
In addition, any improvements not incidental to the exempted agricultural use must comply with all applicable regulations and these improvements will require building permits to construct.
This approval has no bearing on your property taxes. For information on agricultural status for property tax purposes, please contact the County Assessor's Office.
Applicants must complete an agricultural exemption form and provide appropriate evidence for eligibility in order to be granted exempt status. Physical inspections may be conducted to substantiate the use as agricultural.