Sonoma County Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures June Update

Written By: Tony Linegar, Sonoma County Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer
Published: June 1, 2019

Board Of Supervisors Approves Temporary Moratorium On Industrial Hemp

On April 2, 2019, the Board of Supervisors (Board) approved a moratorium on industrial hemp in the county that is set to sunset on April 30, 2020. Sonoma is one of about 27 counties that have passed a moratorium. In my presentation to the Board, I outlined my concerns that led to a recommendation that Sonoma County approve a temporary moratorium. First and foremost of those concerns is the fact that the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has not completed drafting the regulations for industrial hemp that will cover the sampling, testing, and enforcement. The only regulation that has been passed is that which allows people to register with the Agricultural Commissioner and plant their hemp crop. Also undecided is how hemp crops that fail to meet the requirement of having .3% or less of THC will be destroyed. Hemp crops must be tested before harvest to make sure they meet this requirement in the law. It is unclear at this time whether or not the balance of the regulations will be ready by the time this year’s crop is harvested. Hemp crops will not be eligible for harvest until laboratory results have come in for the crop.

Other considerations that led to the moratorium include issues around compatibility. Most, if not all of the interest I have heard in Sonoma County is to grow hemp for cannabidiol (CBD). When hemp is grown for CBD, only female plants are grown. The highest concentration of CBD is in the female flower. Those that may wish to grow hemp for seed and potentially fiber will have male plants which produce pollen. Pollen from male plants must be prevented from “seeding” female plants grown for CBD. The same concern exists for those growing Cannabis for flower. To manage this issue, distance must be kept between male plants and hemp for CBD or Cannabis, or male plants must be restricted to indoor grows only.

Beyond the compatibility issue is the question of where the Board would like to allow hemp to be grown. As it stands, since hemp is a legal agricultural crop, it may be grown in any zoning district where agriculture is allowed. This includes Rural Residential (RR), Agriculture and Residential (AR), and Resources and Rural Development (RRD). Of course, hemp is also allowed on all agriculturally zoned parcels. A decision will need to be made as to whether or not to restrict hemp cultivation to certain zoning districts.

When the Board passed the moratorium, they requested that a local program be developed. As I said to the Board at that time, development and implementation of a local regulation covering hemp will require additional staff resources. Since the budget at the County is so tight, it remains to be seen how much additional resources can be dedicated to this effort. It is likely that the availability of funds will dictate the type of program we have given all of the competing interest for county general funds. Either way, the moratorium will sunset April 30, 2020. With any luck, we will be able to develop and launch a local hemp ordinance before that time so that farmers in Sonoma County can begin to take advantage of this new opportunity.

Pest Detection Trapping Program

All Agricultural Commissioners’ Offices throughout the state work to deploy and service a variety of insect pest detection traps. In Sonoma County, the Agriculture Department staff deploys and services traps throughout the county in both agricultural and urban environments. The purpose of these trapping programs is to detect the presence of exotic insect pests before they establish a population. This was critical to the detection and subsequent eradication of European Grapevine Moth (EGVM) between 2009 and 2016!

Equally important is our general pest detection trapping program, which places various types of traps throughout residential and other urban areas of the county to detect the presence of cosmopolitan fruit fly pests and other injurious plant pests. These insects have the potential to devastate agriculture and forestry industries as well as native ecosystems. Insects targeted for detection by our county pest detection trapping program include the Mediterranean, Oriental, Melon, and Mexican Fruit Flies, Japanese Beetle, Gypsy Moth, and Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter (GWSS).

For the past few months, many of you have probably noticed the orange colored EGVM traps popping up in vineyards throughout the county. Starting in early May, over 1,600 various insect detection traps have been deployed in our urban settings. Most of these traps are more discretely placed, as their effectiveness is based on the traps being located out of direct sunlight. However, you will probably notice green colored traps attached to the trunks of trees and yellow panel traps hung high in the canopies of various trees. These are Gypsy Moth traps and Glassy-Winged Sharpshooter traps, respectively. We take great pride in working on the front lines in helping to keep our county safe from injurious insect pests.

Spring 2019 Plastic Recycle Day Recap

On Tuesday, May 7, the Sonoma County Department of Agriculture, with help from the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, held its first plastic container recycling event for 2019. This free event gives our local farmers, nurseries, pest control businesses, golf courses, parks, and government agencies the opportunity to recycle empty, non-reusable plastic pesticide containers which would otherwise end up in the landfill. This spring event brought 65 participants dropping off roughly 10,400 pounds of plastic. This is the second largest spring event of all time for Sonoma County, trailing last spring’s total by just 100 pounds. All participants must fill out a ‘Pesticide Container Rinse Certification’, which certifies the containers are clean and have been triple rinsed in accordance with Section 6684 of the California Code of Regulations.

With the help and cooperation of the Sonoma County Department of Transportation and Public Work, Roads Division, we are able to coordinate with Interstate Ag Plastics to hold our event at the Healdsburg Corporation Yard. With a two-man crew, Interstate Ag Plastics processes the pesticide containers on site, chipping the plastic into half inch pieces. The material is then hauled to the Central Valley where it is distributed and processed into acceptable enduse products. Some of these products include agriculture drain pipe, highway and agricultural fence posts, and industrial pallets for agriculture chemical and seed packaging. Since the creation of the ACRC (Ag Container Recycling Council) in 1992, 190,000,000 pounds of HDPE (high-density polyethylene) plastic has been recycled.

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