Agricultural processing includes those activities and processes conducted on a farm which change the unprocessed agricultural commodity from its natural state to a different form; examples include, but are not limited to, processing, milk into cheese, fruit into jam, olives into olive oil. Though most agricultural processing involves the processing commodities into food or beverage for human consumption, commodities may be processed into non-food items as well.
Though larger agricultural processing facilities, or processing facilities in the AR Zoning District, are required to obtain a conditional use permit approval prior to commencement, some small-scale operations in the LIA, LEA, DA, and RRD Zoning Districts may be administratively approved and authorized through this faster, less expensive, zoning permit application if they comply with the approval criteria and performance standards attached. However, this application form may not be used for operations which process meat, alcoholic or cannabis products.
To be approved, the applicant must submit a complete application to Permit Sonoma. An agricultural processing facility which does not meet all of the standards attached, either initially or on an on-going basis, will not be considered for administrative approval and a conditional use permit must be obtained.
The applicant/operator is responsible for complying with requirements of Federal, State and local law which apply to the type of agricultural processing proposed. These could include: permits and licenses, food safety laws, building, well, septic, fire, and accessibility requirements. Prior to applying, applicants should thoroughly research all the requirements applicable to their proposed processing facility and conduct the necessary preliminary investigations and cost estimates to assure that their business plan takes into account all costs associated with start-up and operation of the processing facility and that full compliance is feasible. In some cases, a project’s feasibility and approval can be significantly affected by costs related to adequate water supply, waste disposal, and building code compliance. Applicants are encouraged to consult with County staff regarding requirements of the County Code. The County’s Agricultural Ombudsman at the University of California Cooperative Extension can also lend assistance in determining what other Federal or State permits may be required or providing agency contacts.