Thomas Fire burning in the foothills as seen from State Route 192 (Dec. 10, 2017)
Paul Wellman

About 40 growers have reported estimates totaling $20 million in crop and structure losses from the Thomas Fire and the 1/9 Debris Flow, according to the Santa Barbara County Agricultural Commissioner. Avocados were hit hardest, as well as cut flowers, cherimoyas, and row crops. Rudy Martel, the county’s assistant commissioner, noted farmers were additionally impacted by loss of sales and cleanup efforts. He added that his office is still reaching out to some growers.

Ken Melban of the California Avocado Commission explained 300 acres of avocado farms burned within the boundaries of Santa Barbara County. “The problem is we don’t know what level within each grow the impact is,” he said. “We don’t know if the trees have to be replanted. It’s a huge wait-and-see game.”

It is well-known that dozens of cannabis farms sprawl throughout the Carpinteria Valley area. Last week, Cate School Headmaster Benjamin Williams complained at a Board of Supervisors hearing that cannabis plants washed up in the mud in the roadways surrounding the campus after the devastating January 9 storm. When asked, Martel said there were no losses of cannabis crops reported to his office. In fact, it remains to be seen exactly what role the Ag Commissioner will play in overseeing that particular plant, he said. In March, the county supervisors will vote on whether or not to classify cannabis as an “agriculture product.”


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