County approaches finalizing hemp ordinance

The public had a chance to ask questions, voice concerns at Thursday’s public hearing 

By Kaitlin Washburn 

TULARE COUNTY – Tulare County is getting closer to establishing regulations on hemp cultivation.

Tom Tucker, the Tulare County agricultural commissioner, presented the draft plan for regulating the crop at a public hearing last Thursday. Roughly 40 people came to hear about the ordinance, which is expected to come into effect early next year. 

Some of the regulations are that only three agricultural zones will be permitted for hemp grows, farmers are expected to grow a minimum of 20 acres and a hemp field is required to have a 100-foot barrier between the crop and its neighbor. 

“This is an agriculture crop and we are going to treat it that way,” Tucker said. 

Tricia Stever Blattler, the director of the Tulare County Farm Bureau, attended the hearing and asked about the decision to only allow hemp in three of the county’s agriculture zones. 

Tucker said the primary reason to only permit hemp in AE-20, AE-40 and AE 80 zones is industrial hemp is similar to cannabis, in smell and appearance, and this will allow the county to control where it can be grown. Those three zones are far away from urban areas. 

This rule ensures that a hemp field is at least a quarter mile from cities, parks, churches, schools, daycares or any other place designated “sensitive” by the ag commissioner. The field must also be 200 feet from a non-grower residence. To grow indoors, the grower must use a structure designed for ag use, like for cultivating nursery plants. 

“We don’t want you to take old house for example and start growing hemp in that,” Tucker said. 

The ordinance also excludes interplanting, which means a grower can’t plant hemp between rows of another crop. 

The 100-foot boundary line between a hemp field and a neighboring crop is intended to protect hemp from pesticide spray drift, Tucker said. 

Though some of the attendees at the hearing were concerned that wouldn’t be enough. There are few pesticides permitted for hemp. If a restricted pesticide is detected on the hemp, the crop can’t be sold. The hemp grower can also sue their neighbor if their pesticides were detected on their hemp, Tucker said. 

When transporting hemp in Tulare County, the ordinance will require that a lab test is included with the crop. The test results should show that the hemp’s THC content is below the state legal limit of 0.3 percent. The testing must also be done at a lab accredited by the International Organization of Standardization. 

Going forward, the commissioner’s office will consider the comments from Thursday’s hearing and make any necessary changes. Then the plan will need approval from the Tulare County Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee before it’s sent to the Tulare County Board of Supervisors for final approval. 

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