Open Letter to Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors:
As an avocado grower in the Carpinteria Valley I would like to express my increasing concern about the cannabis operations in our area. The cannabis industry has obtained extremely high toxicity standards for its plants which are mainly grown in greenhouses. These standards, which are strongly claimed as necessary to protect their plants, may or may not be necessary. But the insistence on these inflated plant tolerances has one important and harmful side effect. It puts non-cannabis growers adjacent to their facilities in some peril.
For many growers here, be they avocado, vegetable or even flower growers, it is necessary to control seasonal pests on these crops. Spraying, using approved, safe, and effective materials, has been done for years, until now. The cannabis industry’s insistence that their purity standards are inviolate has had a chilling effect on local farm operations. Some spray operators, whether aerial or ground,, have already said they will not be apply to apply the materials this year, citing farm proximity to a grow operation.
We cannot sell fruit that is scarred and damaged from pests like thrips and persea mites. The damage done in these cases is particularly acute for smaller farms. These are often family businesses that may have much or all of their acreage adjacent to a grow operation. Combine this with the present cannabis acreage, and the proposed increase in area and the true extent of the problem emerges.
For some non-cannabis farms this danger is beyond a nuisance; it is existential. If we non-cannabis farmers cannot get a fair and equitable price for our crops then we must look elsewhere to support ourselves. Selling existing farmland for more housing projects or to a vastly expanding cannabis industry is an unpleasant but distinct possibility. This is a future that few Carpinterians would embrace.
One important tool to reverse such an event lies right at hand before you, the Board of Supervisors. You could and should order the County Planning department to include the Coastal Zone in its evaluation of a ban on cannabis production on AG-1 parcels less than 20 acres.
Santa Barbara County has quickly become perhaps the biggest locus of the California cannabis industry. The Carpinteria Valley in turn has become the driving engine for this local surge of cannabis sprawl. We farmers may be on the wrong side of historical inevitability on this issue, but I think not quite yet. With some help from you we may be able to bring some balance to our agricultural future.
I urge you at a minimum to extend the ban on cannabis production on AG-1 parcels less than 20 acres. Also to specifically extend this restriction to the Coastal Zone including, of course, the Carpinteria Valley.