The ordinance would limit small farmers to 25 acre-feet per year (AFY) for the next 22 years

PASO ROBLES — Tomorrow, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors will vote to possibly adopt the Paso Basin Land Use Management Area Planting Ordinance. The ordinance would limit small farmers to 25 acre-feet per year (AFY) for the next 22 years.

The San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau has written a letter to the Board of Supervisors urging them not to pass the ordinance. 

Arguing the ordinance does not support “small farmers,” the Farm Bureau explains, “Given the structure of the Planting Ordinance (the allowance of 25 AFY of water for an unlimited number of sites if they are not contiguous), the most likely beneficiaries will be people with larger financial resources who will take advantage of this new system and plant new crops on multiple sites. As not all leases include a recorded Memorandum of Lease, the County will not be able to prevent a single vineyard company from leasing an unlimited number of sites each with 25 AFY of new water.”


Any farmer or rancher in the Paso Basin who rotates to a different irrigated crop each year/season would be subject to the ordinance. However, any same crop and acreage that has been in production within six years preceding March 1, 2023, would be exempted — it is not clarified if the exemption goes away if the replanting happens in a site that has not been cultivated within the last 10 years. 

With the ordinance comes additional regulations for farmers and ranchers: 

  • A new and unprecedented Greenhouse Gas and Carbon Sequestration mandate to plant crops; and
  • New County requirement to hire a geologist to perform a hydrology report before planting crops. 
  • A new 50-foot setback from riparian and wetland areas (includes intermittent blue-line streams);
  • Mandatory reporting of monthly irrigation water usage to the County (records may be public); and
  • A new Dust Control regulation with things like paving farm roads and installing speed bumps along fields.

If you are interested in commenting on the ordinance during the Supervisors meeting on Tuesday. Dec. 6 you can do so the following ways:

  • The Planting Ordinance will be heard after 1:30 p.m. Our Agenda Item 47 is the second item after the board reconvenes at 1:30 p.m., so it will likely be heard closer to 2 p.m. 
  • The Supervisors meet in the County Government Center located at 1055 Monterey Street (next to Fremont Theater). Walk in the front door and the Board Chambers are on your right.
  • You will fill out a “Board Appearance Request Form” and submit it to the Clerk seated next to the Supervisors. You will have 3 minutes to speak when the Chair, Supervisor Gibson calls your name. You can submit this form any time before Item 47 is discussed. 

You can find the Farm Bureau’s letter and information on the ordinance here 

The Supervisors agenda can be found here