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The 2018 Farm Bill ushered in a new era for hemp as an agricultural commodity in the U.S., but interest in growing marijuana’s less potent cousin here in Colusa County has gotten off to a slow start.
“The first round of applications for the industrial hemp closed (Jan. 29), and we have five applications totaling just over 850 acres,” said Community Services Director Greg Plucker.
The Colusa County Board of Supervisors last week extended the application deadline to grow hemp as a commodity until Feb. 29.
“We are keeping it open,” Plucker said. “It’s first come, first serve.”
The board has authorized up to 20 applications to grow industrial hemp that have a combined total of 3,000 acres.
The county will allow industrial hemp cultivation in the same location and under the same conditions as other agricultural processes zoned foothill agriculture or exclusive agriculture. Growers will have to have a license and an odor management plan to operate and will have to meet all state requirements, officials said.
Hemp cultivation will also have to be on properties that are a minimum of 1.5 miles from residential areas throughout the county in order to ensure that industrial hemp plants do not cross-pollinate with cannabis growing operations that may be allowed in Colusa and Williams and to prevent possible odors from impacting nearby residents.
The board also approved a setback provision that would require a separation from an industrial hemp cultivation field and an off-site residence, based on the size of the cultivation operation.
Growers will be required to have a 500-foot setback for operations less than 10 acres, a 750-foot setback for grows 10 to 20 acres, and a 1,000-foot setback for grows 20 acres or more.
The ordinance also requires clear signage that the crop is hemp and not marijuana, so as not to invite theft by a criminal element, officials said.
Prospective growers will need to complete a county license application to grow industrial hemp, complete a security plan application, and complete a property control form, as well as pay the required fees and deposit.
The full hemp ordinance and the applications are available at countyofcolusa.com or by visiting the Agriculture Commissioner’s Office or the Office of Community Development, located in Colusa. ■