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In the unincorporated county, the once-popular ag grading exemption was rescinded in 2001 in response to environmental law and has been replaced with an “Agricultural Guideline” process.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.
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 Tasha Ardalan 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.