The need for an agricultural grading or clearing permit is a local regulation determined by the incorporated cities or the County where an existing or proposed farm is located. In general, the deciding factors that trigger the need for a permit are environmental (habitat loss, water course impacts, runoff regulations, etc.) or the volume of soil to be moved. There is common consent that converting from one agricultural crop to another is not likely to trigger the need for a clearing permit as long as farming operations have been relatively continuous. For detailed regulations, check with the local jurisdiction.
In the unincorporated county, the once-popular ag grading exemption was rescinded in 2001 in response to environmental law and has been replaced with an “Agricultural Guideline” process. County staff uses the guidelines to determine what level of permit review will be required and what site-specific requirements or mitigation might be needed for ag grading and clearing permits. It is important to note that the regulations apply even if the land is zoned agricultural.
Environmental impacts are the key determining guidelines. Ag grading and clearing applications not meeting the guidelines will require further review and could escalate to a major grading permit. In brief, the guidelines used in the unincorporated areas include the following:
- Sensitive habitat areas have been addressed.
- Grading or clearing will not involve rivers, streams, or lakes.
- The land is not within a “Pre-approved Mitigation Area” (land identified for preservation).
- The area does not include a watercourse serving 100 or more acres or a floodplain.
- Grading will not be conducted within 500 feet of the sighting of an endangered species.
- A groundwater study must accompany applications in groundwater dependent areas.
- Less than 200 cubic yards of soil will be imported or exported from the site.
- Less than 40 acres of previously disturbed or 20 acres of undisturbed land will be involved.
For permits issued under the agricultural guidelines, the County requires the applicant to sign a statement that the graded or cleared area will be used for production agriculture for a minimum of five years.
The County’s complete grading ordinance can be seen here. The ordinance addresses clearing as well. The County has an assigned Agricultural Permit Coordinator. The APC not only processes permit applications, but also will meet with applicants for a pre-application meeting to discuss the various aspects of the permit process. It is recommended that potential applicants familiarize themselves with the Agricultural Guideline process that will determine the level of permit needed. The name and contact number for the currently assigned APC can be obtained by contacting the Farm Bureau office at 760-745-3023.
There are dozens of farm stands operating in San Diego County selling farm products to the traveling public. If you are looking to expand your business model to include direct marketing, a farm stand presents unique sales opportunities.
The County of San Diego has set forth rules and regulations governing farm stands within unincorporated areas. Before you begin planning your farm stand, if you live inside the boundaries of a city you’ll need to check and find out what your local zoning laws allow. In unincorporated San Diego County, farm stands are allowed under the following:
- Only in the RR Use Regulations on lots one acre or larger, and in the A70, A72, S87, S90 and S92 Use Regulations.
- No nearer than 15 feet from the edge of any street or highway right-of-way.
- Shall be operated by the owner or tenant of the property upon which the stand is located.
- Ag products produced on other premises owned or leased by the same property owner or tenant may be displayed and sold.
- The total roofed area of the stand, including all areas used for display or storage for all products, shall not exceed 300 square feet.
- No agricultural produce shall be sold from a motorized vehicle.
- A produce stand may sell only those ornamental plants that are grown on the same lot as such stand is located.
For more details or to request a copy of the regulations governing farm stands in unincorporated San Diego County, contact County of San Diego, Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures.
In order to sell at a farmers market a producer must be inspected and have a certificate issued by the County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures (AWM) office. This Certified Producer Certificate (CPC) assures the public that the market seller has grown the products being sold. Click here to download a Certified Producer application, fill it out and submit it, then call AWM at (858) 694-2739 to schedule an inspection and arrange for certification.
New farmers markets can only be opened by a recognized non-profit organization, certified producer, or a local government agency. Onsite managers control the market operations and decide who can participate as a seller. Farm Bureau suggests prospective sellers visit the market(s) of their choice and speak with the manager.
Unfortunately, criminals continue to target local farms they see as ripe for theft. In addition to reported theft of plants and fruit, it has become all too common to hear about losses of fertilizer, pesticides, equipment and metal. On the plus side, law enforcement views crimes against farmers as a serious matter. Through cooperative efforts with the County Sheriff, local police, and the District Attorney, in addition to preventative measures taken by farmers to protect themselves, ag crime can be dealt a blow.
Here’s what you can do to protect your property, and what to do if you become a victim or a witness to ag crime:
Document your property inventory, including a complete physical description of the equipment, commodity or livestock and any model/serial/identification numbers or tags, and keep this document current. Apply for an Owner Applied Number with the County Sheriff’s Ag Crime Prevention Specialist. The application process takes less than 5 minutes and gives the owner an alpha-numeric identifier to put on anything they feel may be stolen. If you are a victim of ag crime, providing law enforcement with a list of stolen items quickly can increase the chances of recovering the items.
Always be on the alert to suspicious activity near farm areas. Slow-moving, unfamiliar, or unoccupied vehicles, especially at dawn or dusk, should be suspect. Watch for unknown individuals, unusual/suspicious noises, signs of human activity such as rock piles, water bottles, clothing draped over fences or brush, or unfamiliar boxes, bags or containers hidden around your property.
Immediately write down every detail surrounding a suspicious activity, especially descriptions of people and vehicles.
Talk to your neighbors when you have been victimized or notice suspicious activity. The more eyes on the lookout, the better.
Call 911 to report a theft in progress. Never attempt to halt a crime in progress without the assistance of law enforcement officers. Be ready to provide the critical details: what, who, when, where, as well as the direction of flight.
Report all crimes and thefts. Any suspicious activity or an ag crime that has already occurred should be reported to your local law enforcement non-emergency number. Ag crimes often occur in patterns and your report of a crime could lead to solving other cases. Look for any evidence that may have been left behind including tire tracks and footprints. While reporting a crime doesn’t guarantee the criminal will be caught, not reporting guarantees they won’t.
Secure your property. Your best defense against becoming a victim is to reduce access to those items a thief would target. Be sure to lock up tools and chemicals and don’t leave deliveries of supplies out where they are visible and easy to reach. Thieves need access, so install locked gates at points of entry to your farm. Alarms can be beneficial in securing offices and storage areas.
Consider cameras. Camera technology has advanced significantly making it possible to install small high resolution cameras in remote locations. These cameras are capable of recording images without an external light source.
If you have been a victim of ag theft, the first thing to do is REPORT the crime. Reporting a crime will not guarantee the perpetrator will be caught, but not reporting guarantees they won’t. Call 911 if the crime is in progress, or (858) 565-5200 in areas patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department in non-emergency situations. If you are located in an incorporated city, call the non-emergency number for a theft that has already occurred. Once a report is filed, the Sheriff’s Department can post the information on their inter-county network to alert other regions of the activity and help prevent crooks from plying their stolen goods in other counties.
For more information on preventing ag crime, contact the County Sheriff’s Ag Crime Prevention Specialist at (760) 751-4408.
It’s a repeated truism that all agricultural crime begins with trespassing. Whether the crime involves theft, vandalism, or other violations, a person has to enter property illegally to commit the crime.
Section 602.8 of the California Penal Code sets the penalty for people who trespass on farms and ranches. The penalty is $75 for a first offense of trespass and $250 for a second offense. A third or any subsequent offense would constitute a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months or a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
Here is what the law states:
“Any person who without the written permission of the landowner, the owner’s agent, or the person in lawful possession of the land, willfully enters any lands under cultivation or enclosed by fence, belonging to, or occupied by, another, or who willfully enters upon uncultivated or unenclosed lands where signs forbidding trespass are displayed at intervals not less than three to the mile along all exterior boundaries and at all roads and trails entering the lands, is guilty of a public offense.”
“No Trespassing” signs, in English and Spanish, are available for purchase by Farm Bureau members at the San Diego County Farm Bureau office.
The law states, “No agricultural activity, operation, or facility, or appurtenances thereof, conducted or maintained for commercial purposes, and in a manner consistent with proper and accepted standards, as established and followed by similar agricultural operations in the same locality, shall be or become a nuisance, private or public, due to any changed condition in or about the locality, after it has been in operation for more than three years if it was not a nuisance at the time it began.”
In essence, the right-to-farm law says that a farming operation that wasn’t a nuisance doesn’t become a nuisance just because an existing or new neighbor dislikes the impacts that have existed for three years or longer.
In 2017 the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board (San Diego Water Board) put into law the General Waste Discharge Requirement for Discharges from Commercial Agricultural Operations (GWDR). Simply stated, the GWDR will require commercial producers to use best management practices, keep records, take educational courses, and provide for runoff testing in the effort to keep pollutants from leaving farms in storm water or irrigation runoff.
GWDR states that all commercial growers must comply regardless of size, crop type, or production technique.
The GWDR allows producers to meet the most difficult and expensive requirements – multiple tests annually of runoff water – by joining a group effort. Groups will do testing on a watershed scale with shared costs while those choosing to comply as individuals will have to test runoff at the edge of the farm.
Considering the cost and trouble of individual compliance, the San Diego County Farm Bureau Board of Directors thought it was clear that members should be provided with the opportunity to avoid dealing with this matter alone.
The action by the Farm Bureau led to the formation of the non-profit San Diego Region Irrigated Lands Group Educational Corporation (SDRILG) in 2009. SDRILG is available exclusively to Farm Bureau members as a member benefit. In brief, SDRILG will meet the runoff, collection, and reporting requirements on behalf of the group’s members. Also, SDRILG provides prompts and forms that members need for timely reports to remain compliant. SDRILG has proven to be a popular choice with a majority of the irrigated acres in the county enrolled in the program. Funding for SDRILG is on a user fee basis.
Visit SDRILG Website here or call Kathy Rathbun at (760) 745-2215.
These are just some of the questions we help San Diego farmers and ranchers answer. We offer farm-related classes on everything from Fieldworker Training to Water Usage to Labor Law and AgroTourism. We team up through task forces to solve problems like Asian Citrus and LBAM. We provide group options like the Irrigated Lands Group when it is challenging and expensive to go it alone. And we can point you in the
We monitor every aspect of ag and keep our members informed so our farmers can farm.