Is SpaceX hiring a farmer for tax exemptions?

Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Reddit Stumbleupon Reddit Email
Elon Musk speaking at the SpaceX rocket testing site in McGregor, Texas

Elon Musk at the SpaceX rocket testing site in McGregor, Texas

Elon Musk has a flare for stirring up interest in pretty much everything he does. Even the prospect of hiring a farmer is national news, given Musk’s dream to colonize Mars.

So when SpaceX announced it was hiring a farmer… well, it’s easy to jump to conclusions.

Of the 600+ acres that SpaceX leases from the city of McGregor and Texas A&M University, only about 127 are dedicated to rocket testing, according to the McLennan County Appraisal District, which oversees the area that includes SpaceX test site. The rest of the land is farmland that acts as a buffer for potential rocket explosions.

None of the land at the SpaceX test site is zoned for agricultural use, even though “farmers have been on that land for a number of years,” says McLennan agricultural appraiser Matt Davis.

SpaceX., which has not responded to questions about its farming program, may just want to have greater control over the farmland buffer around its test site.

From the job post:

This position will be required to work around test schedules as necessary to ensure the successful crop production does not interfere with testing progress.

 

According to Mike Farah, a real estate lawyer specialized in farm and ranch law, “it could be as simple as they have a lot of land and they are looking for someone to manage it.”

How Texas ranchers avoid property taxes

There is a loophole in the Texas tax code that allows ranch owners to pay taxes on agricultural production instead of on the value of the land.

That is, if your $20 million ranch only yielded $20,000 in alfalfa last year, you’re only paying taxes on that $20,000, rather than Texas’ higher-than-average property taxes on the full value of the land.

“You’re talking about a major, major economic boost,” Farah said.

Farah, who manages several high net-worth clients, said it is common practice to maintain some farm activities in order to avoid property taxes.

“It’s a very safe place to place many millions of dollars, have that property grow in value and not pay very high taxes to keep it,” Farah said. “There’s nothing shady about it.”

SpaceX is hiring a farmer

Facebook Twitter Plusone Linkedin Reddit Stumbleupon Reddit Email
NASA vegetable garden on the International Space Station

Romaine lettuce growing inside a NASA space garden now on the International Space Station.

Calm down… it’s not what you’re thinking.

Farming may play an important role in the apocalyptic film Interstellar, about space explorers fleeing a dust-ravaged Earth, but it’s not necessarily true that SpaceX is investing in interplanetary farm research. At least, not yet.

SpaceX is looking to hire a farmer in Texas with 10 years experience in “row crop farming”, “preventative maintenance of John Deere agricultural equipment” and “able to climb ladders and work in tight spaces.”

Interstellar's dust storms make life difficult for Earth's farmers

The Dust Bowl takes on new meaning in Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar”

According to Agriculture.com, SpaceX is likely dedicating some of its land in central Texas to agriculture in order to attain tax-exemptions.

Elon Musk has made no secret of his plans to colonize Mars. SpaceX may one day take Musk to the Red Planet, so it stands to reason that he would want to have something eat once he gets there. A company spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SpaceX delivered the first fresh food production system to the International Space Station earlier this year.

The job posting comes just days before NASA’s first test flight of its deep-space Orion capsule that could, one day, take the first humans to Mars.