SAN DIEGO COUNTY – San Diego County’s Board of Supervisors unanimously directed County staff Aug. 6 to start working on a program to promote agriculture that could one day open up nearly one-third of the unincorporated county to wineries.
The proposed Agriculture Promotion Program would also streamline county planning and land use regulations to expand and promote other agricultural pursuits. Those include microbreweries, “agritourism,” cheese-making, beekeeping, and onsite retail horticultural sales.
The county’s 2012 Crop Report stated that the total value of agriculture in the county in 2012 was $1.75 billion.
However, county officials said that agriculture in San Diego County faces numerous challenges including the high price of land and water.
The proposed promotion program could give agriculture, an important segment of the regional economy, a boost.
Officials from the county’s planning and development services said the program includes the proposal to open up nearly 650,000 acres of land – about 27 percent of all unincorporated land – to wineries. That land, which is now zoned for “general rural” use, currently allows landowners to grow wine grapes but does not allow wineries.
Interest in wineries and grape-growing has exploded in the past few years. The 2012 Crop Report said the number of acres devoted to growing wine grapes in San Diego County jumped by 478 percent from 2011 to 2012.
Planning and Development Services officials said it could take up to 30 months to create the comprehensive program and bring it back to the board for consideration.
Number of harvested acres in San Diego County for growing wine grapes
2008 – 365 acres
2009 – 489 acres
2010 – 447 acres
2011 – 416 acres
2012 – 752 acres
*Data source: San Diego County Crop Reports, based on self-reporting by growers. Above is the most recent data available.