Check Payment


Definition of Agriculture


How we define “Agriculture” will shape and frame life in Napa County for decades to come. Prior to the 2008 County General Plan (GP) update, the definition of Agriculture in our County ordinance was quite simple: Agriculture is the growing of crops, trees, and livestock. Many other uses may be permitted/allowed but must remain related, subordinate, and incidental to the main use.


Over the years, this definition has been expanded to the point that we are urbanizing our protected Ag Watershed and Ag Preserve lands. Here is that history.


  • 1990    The Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved the Winery Definition Ordinance (WDO) which defined a winery as an “agricultural processing facility” for “the fermenting and processing of grape juice into wine.” The ordinance also allowed for wineries to sell and market wine, but such marketing activity must be “accessory” and subordinate to production.


  • 2008 The Steering Committee for the 2008 General Plan update, comprised mostly of industry representatives and winery owners eager to expand their business options, expanded the definition of Agriculture to include not only the raising of crops, trees, and livestock, but also “the production and processing of agricultural products and related marketing, sales and other accessory uses”.  Agriculture now also includes “farm management and farmworker housing”.


  • 2010  During the economic downturn of 2008, the wine industry pressured the BOS to include “direct marketing” as an accessory use of agriculture. The BOS approved this in 2010. This means that VISITATION, WINE AND FOOD PAIRINGS, AND RELATED EVENTS, are consistent with “accessory use of agriculture”.


  • 2017 The Board of Supervisors further eroded the definition of Ag by including marketing and sales equal with the growing of crops, trees, and livestock, not just accessory uses. This has potentially disastrous consequences for citizens and the environment.  




Right to Farm: In Napa County, Agriculture is protected by a “right to farm” clause. This means that if you live next to a farm or vineyard, you accept the burden of the noise, smells, and activities of the agricultural activities. Under this expanded definition of Ag, does this mean that a permitted winery operates under this law by right with its visitation and related events?


Measure P and Measure J: We believe this change in the definition to be a VIOLATION OF MEASURE P AND MEASURE J. Changing agricultural lands to include expanded commercial uses (by right) violates the intensity of uses and protections under Measure P, which extends Measure J’s protections until 2058. When wine and food pairings become four or five course meals, they are closer to being restaurants than they are to being agriculture. Any change in agricultural land use must be with voter approval. RESTAURANTS ARE SPECIFICALLY CITED AS GROWTH THAT HAS TO GO INTO THE CITIES OR ONE OF THE VERY SMALL URBAN NODES IN THE UNINCORPORATED AREA, UNLESS VOTERS ARE WILLING TO ALLOW AN EXCEPTION


This is an example of the Wine Industry circumventing a vote by the citizens of Napa County in order to expand business opportunity at the expense  of voters’ rights to make land use decisions. Napa Vision 2050 supports a return to the strong, sane protections of the original definition: Agriculture is the growing of crops, trees, and livestock.