Reference Toolbox – Wineries Land Use & Natural Resources
Wineries can be permitted in a number of different zoning types through a variety of pathways. For more than three decades, Oregon has maintained a strong policy to protect farmland. The policy was adopted by the state legislature in 1973. It calls for the “preservation of a maximum amount of the limited supply of agricultural land”. The main tool for carrying out that policy is the Statewide Planning Program. Oregon’s Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) sets standards for such planning. Cities and counties then apply them through local comprehensive plans and land-use ordinances. Under this system, all counties in Oregon have adopted planning and zoning measures to protect agricultural land.
The program calls for counties to:
- Inventory agricultural land
- Designate it in the comprehensive plan
- Adopt policies to preserve it
- Zone it Exclusive Farm Use (EFU)
Exclusive Farm Use (EFU): Oregon’s land use program places major emphasis on maintaining commercial agriculture. EFU zoning limits development that could conflict with farming practices. It keeps farmland from being divided into parcels too small for commercial agriculture. Lands in these zones are automatically eligible for lower property taxes based on the land being farmed. All 36 counties in Oregon have applied EFU zoning to their agricultural land. Wineries are an allowed non-farm use in EFU zones.
Mixed Farm-Forest (F-F): The purpose of the F-F Zone is to protect and maintain areas of mixed agricultural and forest land, including lands for farming, grazing, and woodland use, consistent with existing and future needs for agricultural and forest products. Wineries are an allowed non-farm use in F-F zones.
There are a number of winery permitting pathways on EFU and F-F land.
- SB 841 Permitted Use Winery
- Large Winery
- Commercial Activity in Conjunction with Farm Use (Conditional Use Permit)
- Crop Processing Facility (Farm Stand)
- SB 960 Agritourism/Commercial Events Permits
Details can be found in this DWT Land Use Permitting Matrix.
In commercial and industrial zones, a winery may be permitted outright as a manufacturing production facility, but typically some level of site review is required and the developer may need to file site plans or building-related documents with the local government.
Effective January 1, 2024, wine and spirits containers will be added into California’s beverage container recycling program, better known as the California Bottle Bill managed by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (“CalRecycle”). Beginning July 1, 2025, wine and spirts containers will be required to be labeled with California Redemption Value (CRV) indicia. Note that wine and spirits containers filled and labeled by January 1, 2024 are permanently exempt from CRV labeling requirements. Beverage manufacturers inside and outside of California have registration, reporting, and processing fee payment responsibilities.
An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States Department of the Treasury. Explore the AVAs below to find out what makes each growing region in Oregon special.
- Applegate Valley - Applegate Valley is a sub-appellation of the larger Rogue Valley AVA in Southern Oregon. It stretches 50 miles north from the California border to the Rogue River just west of Grants Pass.
- Chehalem Mountains - Chehalem Mountains is a sub-appellation of the existing Willamette Valley region. This viticultural area is 19 miles southwest of Portland and 45 miles east of the Pacific Ocean.
- Columbia Gorge - Just 60 miles east of Portland, the Columbia Gorge Wine region lies in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, a dramatic river corridor that straddles the Columbia River for 15 miles into both Oregon and Washington.
- Columbia Valley - The Columbia Valley AVA is a very large growing region with 11 million acres of land in total.
- Dundee Hills - Dundee Hills is a sub-appellation within the Willamette Valley located 28 miles southwest of Portland and 40 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.
- Elkton Oregon - The Elkton Oregon AVA in located in Douglas County, Oregon. It is situated 33 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the west.
- Eola-Amity Hills - Eola-Amity Hills is a sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley AVA located just west-northwest of Salem, Oregon’s state capitol.
- Laurelwood District -
- McMinnville - McMinnville is a sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley AVA that sits just west of the city of McMinnville, approximately 40 miles southwest of Portland.
- Red Hills Douglas County - Red Hill Douglas County is a sub-appellation of the Umpqua Valley AVA near the small town of Yoncalla, which lies about 30 miles north of Roseburg and parallels Interstate 5.
- Ribbon Ridge - Ribbon Ridge is a sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley AVA that is contained within the larger Chehalem Mountains AVA.
- The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater - The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater is situated in the Walla Walla Valley in northeastern Oregon 25 miles northeast of Pendleton, OR and 5 miles south of Walla Walla, WA.
- Tualatin Hills -
- Rogue Valley - The Rogue Valley AVA is the southernmost winegrowing region in Oregon.
- Snake River Valley - The Snake River Valley is an AVA that spans from Southeastern Oregon into Southwestern Idaho. The total area is approximately 8,000 square miles.
- Southern Oregon - The Southern Oregon AVA exists in the southwest portion of the state and encompasses Umpqua Valley, Rogue Valley, Red Hill Douglas County, and Applegate Valley appellations.
- Umpqua Valley - Umpqua Valley AVA sits between the Coast Range to the west and the Cascade Range to the east, with the Willamette Valley AVA to the north and the Rogue Valley AVA to the south.
- Van Duzer Corridor - Contained within the Willamette Valley AVA and is located approximately 50 miles southwest of Portland and 40 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. The AVA is named after the Van Duzer Corridor, a natural break in the Coast Range that results in 40-50% stronger winds in the afternoon compared to other Willamette Valley AVAs.
- Walla Walla Valley - The Walla Walla Valley is hemmed in by the Blue Mountains to the southeast, the Palouse to the north, and the Columbia River westward.
- Willamette Valley - The Willamette Valley is 150 miles long and up to 60 miles wide making it Oregon’s largest AVA.
- Yamhill-Carlton District - Yamhill-Carlton is a sub-appellation of the Willamette Valley AVA. Located 35 miles southwest of Portland and 40 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, the area includes the towns of Carlton and Yamhill.
For more information on each of these AVAs, please visit the Oregon Wine Board's Explore Oregon's AVAs page.
The National Organic Program is a regulatory program housed within the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. The USDA is responsible for developing national standards for organically produced agricultural products. The USDA provides organic certification cost share opportunities for organic producers and handlers. Beginning March 20, 2017, organic producers and handlers can contact USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices to apply for federal reimbursement to assist with the cost of receiving and maintaining organic or transitional certification.
Certifiers are responsible for making sure that USDA organic products meet all organic standards. There are five basic steps to organic certification:
- The farm or business adopts organic practices, selects a USDA-accredited certifying agent, and submits an application and fees to the certifying agent.
- The certifying agent reviews the application to verify that practices comply with USDA organic regulations.
- An inspector conducts an on-site inspection of the applicant’s operation.
- The certifying agent reviews the application and the inspector’s report to determine if the applicant complies with the USDA organic regulations.
- The certifying agent issues organic certificate.
Demeter USA is the only certifier for Biodynamic farms and products in America. It is part of a world-wide organization, Demeter International, that was first formed in 1928 and named for the Greek goddess of agriculture, to advocate Biodynamic agriculture and to certify Biodynamic farms. Demeter remains the oldest ecological certification organization in the world, active in fifty countries around the globe. While all of the organic requirements for certification under the National Organic Program are required for Biodynamic certification, the Demeter standard is much more extensive, with stricter requirements around imported fertility, greater emphasis on on-farm solutions for disease, pest, and weed control, and in depth specifications around water conservation and biodiversity.
The Demeter Biodynamic Farm Standard is a comprehensive organic farming method that requires the creation and management of a closed system minimally dependent on imported materials, and instead meets its needs from the living dynamics of the farm itself. Please find more information here.
Low Impact Viticulture and Enology (LIVE) supports environmentally and socially responsible winegrowing through third-party certification and education. Its roots are in the Pacific Northwest and its standard is internationally accredited. Each year, LIVE members complete a checklist of practices and a set of reporting documents. This annual process enables third-party inspectors to verify that sustainability goals are being met. Salmon-Safe requirements are embedded in LIVE certification standards. Learn more about the LIVE program here.
There’s more than one way for vineyard operators to receive Salmon-Safe certification for pioneering viticulture practices. Salmon-Safe’s Oregon and Washington vineyard certification program is operated in partnership with Low Impact Viticulture and Enology (LIVE). Organic vineyards seeking Salmon-Safe certification are certified by Oregon Tilth, the leading West Coast certifier of organic farms. Oregon Tilth offers Salmon-Safe inspection as an optional water quality and habitat overlay to during routine organic inspection. To find out more, visit Salmonsafe.org.
Regenerative Organic Certified® is a certification for food, fiber, and personal care ingredients that represents the highest standard for organic agriculture in the world, with stringent requirements for soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness.
Regenerative Organic Certified® uses the USDA Certified Organic standard as a baseline. From there, it adds important criteria and benchmarks that incorporate the three major pillars of regenerative organic agriculture into one certification.
Regenerative Organic Certified® is overseen by us, the nonprofit Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA). The ROA is a group of experts in farming, ranching, soil health, animal welfare, and farmer and worker fairness.
A water right permit or certificate is required in order to utilize water, including groundwater. However, there are a number of uses of groundwater which are exempt from permitting requirements. These groundwater exemptions, if applicable, mean that the water may be used without going through state permitting, or even registration, processes.
Three exemptions may be relevant to vineyard and winery owners:
Domestic Use: Up to 15,000 gallons per day may be drawn for purposes related to the residential use of property, such as human consumption, household uses and domestic animal watering.
Industrial or Commercial Use: Up to 5,000 gallons per day may be drawn for industrial or commercial uses. Such uses would include water for cleaning of winery equipment, or drinking and sanitary water for a tasting room. Note that groundwater may not be pumped from an "exempt" well for irrigation of vineyards.
Stock, Lawn and Garden Watering: Water may be used for watering stock and for irrigation of up to one-half acre of lawn or noncommercial garden.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality renewed the 1400A and 1400B Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF) general permits for wineries and food processors. DEQ allows up to one year for existing facilities to achieve compliance with new requirements of the renewed permit. Facilities identified as “de minimis” may discharge without a permit. This includes wineries not discharging to a municipal system that produce fewer than 6,000 cases of wine/year.
1400A is for beneficial reuse of low strength wastewater for irrigation. The permit allows only seasonal processes, so that there is no discharge during a non-irrigation season.
1400B is for beneficial reuse of slightly higher strength wastewater that discharges to a subsurface septic type treatment/discharge system. Processes are year around. Permit conditions provide for discharge of wastewater during wet (non-irrigation) season.
The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) 1200-Z general permit is required for industrial facilities that discharge stormwater from their industrial areas to surface waters of the state, or to storm drains that discharge to surface waters of the state. You can find more information on DEQ's website.
The Oregon Dept. of Agriculture (ODA) may require wineries to test groundwater from private wells to ensure the water is of drinking water quality. The EPA regulates contaminants in drinking water under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Oregon, in turn, regulates drinking water under the Drinking Water Quality Act. Both the federal and state acts, only apply to public water systems, but private wells frequently need to be tested (e.g., tasting rooms and other facilities) because the private well, given how it is used, becomes a “public water system” thereby triggering the safe drinking water regulations. The purpose of the rules and the sampling is to protect consumers.
The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is delegated the authority to implement Oregon’s act and adopt administrative rules to ensure safe drinking water. But because the ODA has authority for licensing most wineries on rural land, ODA rather than OHA enforces Oregon’s Drinking Water Quality Act.
A “public water system” is defined as follows: “a system for the provision to the public of piped water for human consumption, if such system has more than three service connections, or supplies water to a public or commercial establishment that operates a total of at least 60 days per year, and that is used by 10 or more individuals per day. Public water system also means a system for the provision to the public of water through constructed conveyances other than pipes to at least 15 service connections or regularly serves at least 25 individuals daily at least 60 days of the year…” The highlighted language is the “trigger” for ODA to require wineries to test groundwater from private wells to ensure that the water is of drinking water quality. Generally the sampling and testing is done annually unless additional testing is required by ODA. However, operators may not be aware of this requirement and the ODA inspectors may not inquire, depending on how often an inspector comes to a facility. OHA/ODA can provide information to the well owner about where to get the water tested and what constituents need to be tested. DWT has hosted a webinar to discuss general guidance around public water systems. You can view the presentation.