Why it matters?
- Economic Issues
- CEQA: impacts to agricultural land from ag-urban interface
On January 14, 2020, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an urgency ordinance restricting the planting of industrial hemp in the unincorporated areas of the County. The ordinance places a temporary ban on outdoor hemp cultivation on over 30,000 acres – or 1/3rd of all irrigated cropland – in Ventura County.
These buffer restrictions are significantly larger than any other hemp cultivation buffers in the state of California.
These restrictions have serious consequences to the fledgling local hemp cultivation industry.
But what is the concern behind the moratorium?
Many varieties of industrial hemp have an odor. The strength and quality of the odor varies from variety to variety. While low-odor varieties are current being developed by horticultural research facilities, these were not readily available at the time hemp was planted in early 2019. When the hemp plants began to flower and release odor in the fall of 2019, local officials received numerous complaints of the smell from residents.
Under the Right to Farm Ordinance, farmers are protected from “nuisance odor” complaints. But the Board of Supervisors felt they needed to take action to establish temporary restrictions while the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office works on developing proposed language for a permanent ordinance that will allow for some hemp cultivation in the County while reducing complaints.
The hemp industry, along with the Farm Bureau, Ventura County Agricultural Association, and CoLAB, have proposed what we believe are reasonable and effective mitigation measures to balance the issues of growers and the public.
The Agricultural Commissioner has drafted proposed language and is currently seeking comments and suggestions. The link to read the proposed language and provide comments can be found below.
We anticipate this item to come back to the Board in late Spring 2020.
A Win for Local Ag and Right-to-Farm
On Tuesday, December 15, during the last public hearing of 2020, the Board of Supervisors voted to adopt a permanent hemp ordinance.
In a 3-1 vote, the Board rejected the Planning Commission's recommendation to punitively expand the buffer areas and instead took reasonable action and adopted a 1/4-mile buffer (with Tierra Rejada carve out). The Board's action is a win for both local agriculture and the residents who had experienced odor issues in 2019.
The final ordinance addresses odor complaints and concerns expressed by residents – while still allowing local farmers the option of cultivating industrial hemp on a commercial scale in the future.
CoLAB worked together with Farm Bureau and Ventura County Agricultural Association to bring about this win - and we are so pleased that the final ordinance benefits ALL parties!
To read more about this issue:
- Right to Farm Ordinance
- Interim Urgency Ordinance
- Draft permanent ordinance language (Agricultural Commissioner’s website)
- Maps of buffer zones
- CoLAB comment letters:
- Final Ordinance
- VC Star Article 12/18/20 "New Hemp Rules Expand Crops Growing Area"
- Pacific Coast Business Time Article 12/18/20 "Hemp Growers hope for Comeback as Ventura County Loosens Buffer Rules"