The following is a letter to the editor, published here as opinion. The opinions expressed in this letter are those of the writer. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor feel free to write to [email protected].
This email is composed with gratitude and respect for Gulliver’s Travels, which is well-described in Wikipedia. Satire about people and their governments is a noble goal. I quote one very brief passage: “The Lilliputians reveal themselves to be a people who put great emphasis on trivial matters. For example, which end of an egg a person cracks becomes the basis of a deep political rift within that nation. They are a people who revel in displays of authority and performances of power.”
Dear Mendocino County Supervisors,
Mendocino County seems determined to craft processing ordinances regarding agriculture. I watched the recent Board of Supervisors meetings and read the voluminous correspondence from voters who seemed to know what they want for cannabis. In that spirit, I recommend that you consider ordinances for grapes.
As you know, the cultivation of grapes causes enormous social, economic, and environmental disruptions in the county. It uses land that previously was essential for wildlife and quiet enjoyment of our beautiful spaces. For example, I used to enjoy the trees and grasslands in the heights above Lake Mendocino, but the Planning and Building Department authorized the clearcutting of a large space that elk and deer and other creatures used to enjoy. The billionaire who used to fly his helicopter to watch his clearing activities there apparently ran out of either money or patience and just left the land destroyed and unimproved. As another example, my own small vineyard has proven unprofitable, and we leave our crop of delicious cabernet grapes to fall on their own after the fruit ripens. Do you have other examples of grape cultivation failures despite the obvious interests and skills of our many vineyard owners in Mendocino County?
We need to do something to earn a grape reputation here similar to Napa County!
How about an ordinance for county staff to fix these problems:
- Allow the Planning and Building Department to survey and revoke licenses for small vineyards that are not “properly” maintained by their owners. Charge fees for those services.
- Verify the organic standards for those grapes. I used to pay over $1000 per year for organic certification and inspections by CCOF, but I stopped that this year when our grapes again didn’t sell. The County and state have long authorized me to claim an organic vineyard, but doing so now would be fraudulent.
- Don’t allow anything but economical drip irrigation of vineyards. We saw a large vineyard near Costco spraying its grapes the day after one of our county’s rare rainstorms. This is a waste of valuable water. Water should be used sparingly and only for important crops, as for the Ukiah golf course.
- Refuse to allow large trucks to go on county roads merely to carry huge harvests to culturally-ugly winemaking establishments. Our roads are too decrepit and the county can’t afford to maintain them even with grape taxes.
- Prohibit the hiring of casual labor in large amounts to trim and harvest the crops, and to live in temporary housing or to drive from decrepit apartments to those vineyards. (These are largely Mexican workers, but as we know our country has a philosophy to exclude them as a nuisance or a crisis invasion.)
- Ask your County Counsel to set strict rules for cultivating grapes and for bathroom facilities. I too went to law school but I didn’t take a course in viticulture. However, surely your legal department has relevant agricultural skills. I have a degree in computer science and practiced computer law but none of the companies, foundations and government agencies I represented over the years would have allowed me to write their valuable software. But your lawyer obviously has grape cultivation skills I lack. You should rely on your lawyers and assume their abilities are sound.
- Only allow trained cultivators to advise on OSHA and employment law requirements in county vineyards, again with the skilled advice of your County Counsel. This is all much more difficult law than amateurs should be enforcing on their own, even though they have apparently done so for many years.
- Other than as listed above, don’t allow county staff to mandate discretionary rules and regulations for vineyards. For example, I admit to my own limitations and have, for over 20 years, hired so-called experts to manage my grapes. You may also want to set standards for those “experts” so that we don’t have rank amateurs or bureaucrats or self-assured lawyers setting rules and practices.
Your experience with grapes should make it easier for you to set other simple regulations for cannabis.
The preceding article was an opinion column, or letter to the editor, and the opinions expressed therein are the author’s, not those of The Mendocino Voice. It was not necessarily edited for punctuation, capitalization, spelling etc. While, we reserve the right to copyedit and fact-check opinion pieces, and letters to the editor — and to annotate such pieces with fact-checking — we do not habitually do so.