Saturday, April 10, 2021

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Hemp cultivation allowed in Upland Conservation districts 

The Colusa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday finalized an ordinance that will allow the cultivation of industrial hemp in the Upland Conservation zoning districts of the Colusa County Code. 

The board also eliminated the $2,500 Agricultural Commissioner’s processing deposit, which lowers the total upfront costs to just a $2,500 deposit imposed by the Community Development Department for staff time, licensing, and law enforcement. 

“It will be much more efficient and minimize upfront costs for industrial hemp cultivators,” said Community Development Director Greg Plucker. 

The ordinance to allow hemp cultivation in the Upland Conservation District was first introduced at the board’s Feb. 16 meeting, after the county’s ad hoc committee met to consider the proposed changes. 

Plucker said the only Upland Conservation District zone in Colusa County is in the Stonyford area. There are also Foothill Agriculture zoned areas interspersed in the area, where industrial hemp was already allowed. 

“Given the physical similarity and the actual zoning districts, the development standards are virtually identical,” Plucker said.

Plucker said the only difference between the two zones is that livestock auction yards are permitted in land designated Foothill Agriculture. 

Although the ordinance was passed 5-0, county officials are wary that there will be sufficient water to grow hemp, should cultivaters want to move forward. 

Otherwise, the Board of Supervisors felt that if hemp is allowed in the valley, it should be allowed in other suitable areas, as long as they meet the required setbacks from residents. 

The county may also eventually combine Upland Conservation with Foothill Agriculture in the future, Plucker said. 

A limited amount of Industrial Hemp cultivation has been allowed in Colusa County since 2020. 

Last year, six initial licenses were issued totaling about 790 acres, but due to the lack of production facilities and a poor hemp market, only about 23 acres were planted by two license holders, Plucker said. 

Of the two licensed hemp cultivators, only one met code requirements, Plucker said. Because of that, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday established enhanced provisions for willful non-compliance, which could result in growers losing their hemp cultivation license if they fail to comply with health and safety provisions, zoning requirements, and regularly permits.  

Among the enhanced provisions is allowing inspections of the facilities and hemp operations by county staff, on an as-needed basis.

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