MADERA — The Madera County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday delayed a final decision on whether to approve large-scale expansion of industrial hemp in the county.
The final vote on the new ordinance was scheduled for today’s meeting but the board made some last-minute changes, including increasing the maximum allowable size of fields from 50 to 80 acres — and decreasing property setback limits for growers from one-half mile to one-quarter mile.
“The changes open up a few more parcels around the county for cultivation,” said District 3 Supervisor Rob Poythress.
The board is now scheduled to OK the final language of the new ordinance at their June 2 meeting.
Before Tuesday’s action by the board, the Madera County Farm Bureau formally weighed in on the issue, with MCFB Executive Director Christina Beckstead sending a letter to supervisors last week asking the board to consider delaying a final vote until “several issues” in the new ordinance could be worked out.
And at this morning’s board meeting, invoking Madera County’s Farm to Farm ordinance, MCFB Board President Nick Davis told supervisors that “a farmer has a right to plant whatever commodity he wants on as large a parcel as he wants.”
District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler, who has been a vocal proponent of industrial hemp expansion in the county, agreed with Beckstead and Davis, supporting the last-minute changes easing some of the restrictions on growing the burgeoning new crop.
“I think they all make sense and won’t make or break anything,” Wheeler said.
In terms of hemp’s future in Madera County, Stevie McNeill, county agricultural commissioner, told supervisors Tuesday to anticipate more changes in regulations to be dictated by expected new directives from both state and federal authorities.
McNeill characterized the county’s proposed new industrial hemp ordinance as a “living document.”
At last week’s meeting, before the latest set of changes were made, the board voted 3-2 to approve the first reading of the new ordinance.
Tuesday’s vote to delay the final reading until June 2 also was 3-2, with Supervisors Max Rodriguez and David Rogers voting no.
At the June 2 meeting, supervisors will once again have the chance to debate — and OK — large-scale expansion of hemp in Madera County.
Also at today’s meeting, the board postponed until its June 2 meeting any further action on a potential eminent domain proceeding on a parcel of private property in the path of the new Oakhurt Connector project. Community Development Director Matt Treber told the board Tuesday that “fruitful” negotiations were continuing with the private property owner.