SodaCanyonRoad | The Right to Farm
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The Right to Farm


Bill Hocker | Jul 15, 2015 on: The WDO

Eve Kahn sent this copy of Napa County's "Right to Farm" ordinance

It is contained in Napa County Code of Ordinances Chapter 2.94.

In it is the one reference that I have found in county documents to agriculture being the "highest and best" use of the land. My own screed on highest and best use here.

The California Covernment Code section 66451.22(2) which uses "highest and best use" is here.

An inherent part of the right to farm is the prohibition upon residents against complaining about the nuisance of the sounds, sights and smells of agricultural operations. This is exactly why the in the definition of agriculture in general plan policy AG/LU-2 that includes marketing as an accessory agricultural use becomes such a nasty issue. The right to farm in the county code refers to the definition of agriculture in ord sec. 18.08.040 which included sales of ag products but says nothing about marking of wine. Dir Morrison has already indicated that the general plan provisions override ordinances where they are in conflict. So which definition applies when it comes to the "right to farm" Do residents have a legal right to complain about the nuisance of those late night bacchanals going on at the winery next door? Is that just an agricultural operation?

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Chris Malan adds:

‘Right to Farm' comes up willy nilly in our many discussions and I have always discounted it as not pertaining to our efforts. I am not sure why we keep bringing it up but here are my thoughts on ‘Right to Farm’ laws .

All States in US have ‘Right to Farm’ legislation. Napa includes ‘Right to Farm’ in the General Plan. We get Right to Farm notification in our tax bills and are informed of this often when discussing farming issues with politicians. I think the term is ofter out of context to the law.

Right to Farm is all about nuisance laws around noise and dust for example, that can not be used against farmers, i.e, so prospective home buyers will be informed they are moving next to farm close to noise and dust.

Right to Farm is not about land use zoning or any ordinance we choose to put before the voters.

Farmers must obey all environmental laws-they do not get the pass card under ‘right to farm’.

Farmers can still be sued if they violate existing laws such as: misapplication of dangerous chemicals; destroying/altering streams; polluting the waters of the state etc.

We are talking about ag/watershed lands being rezoned for protection of watersheds. Right to farm is not going to impinge on our activities with an initiative/ordinance.

Having said this Right to Farm defines farming as including the right to farm and produce farm products (food) from vines. The huge unspoken here is: ‘Right to Farm' does not include the sale (events;merchandise) or manufacturing (winery) of alcohol under the Right to Farm.

Raising wine grapes is farming but the manufacturing of wine as a farm product, clearly does not fall within the ‘Right to Farm’ definition. Hence the huge pass ag has gotten on ‘right to farm' and manufacturing (and sale) under the Right to Farm and sale products.

Therefore, winery production/manufacturing, sale of merchandise and any produce associated with these activities around the sale of alcohol/wine of is subject to nuisance laws. Neighbors of this can sue wineries for this and probably have a good case.

The sale of alcohol is governed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) -hence an ABC license is needed prior to a winery opening up for sales-there is a posting in the neighborhood and a public hearing is available I wonder if other laws regarding the manufacturing of alcohol would be applicable to our neighborhood concerns about children, schools; neighborhood character etc.

Clearly, there are wineries not impinging on neighborhoods and are good partners in our communities but many have become troublesome and not good neighbors. It would be up to each individual winery and their actives as to whether they are violating nuisance laws. This is apart from the ABC license and other laws regulating the sale, manufacturing of alcohol and trafficking of alcohol.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is a federal law enforcement organization within the United States Department of Justice.[4] Its responsibilities include the investigation and prevention of federal offenses involving the unlawful use, manufacture, and possession of firearms and explosives; acts of arson and bombings; and illegal trafficking of alcohol and tobacco products. The ATF also regulates via licensing the sale, possession, and transportation of firearms, ammunition, and explosives in interstate commerce. Many of ATF's activities are carried out in conjunction with task forces made up of state and local law enforcement officers, such as Project Safe Neighborhoods. ATF operates a unique fire research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, where full-scale mock-ups of criminal arson can be reconstructed.

So, as I see it the ‘Right to Farm’ does not include a right to manufacture/sale products from vines=wine sales and other merchandizing and escape nuisance laws. However, grape seeds, grape oil, grape leaves, grape seed flour etc. can be sold as farm products.

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Eve Kahn adds:


Chris - the reason the right to farm COULD be an issue depends upon how the County defines agriculture. If is is only the growing and processing of products that's no problem. But,if the County decides that agriculture includes the marketing and sales of those products (without qualifiying words like incidental and subordinate) then events could not be challenged (unless, as you state there is legal cause). That's the reason this issue came up and why some of us want to make sure that all the appropriate wording is tied to the defn of agriculture. The rest will fall into place.

I don't wish to imply that this is the only thing we should be paying attention to - but if we lose the battle on the definition of agriculture we may be losing our ability to challenge many of the issues Vision 2050 was formed.