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The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted on Wednesday, August 6, to begin exploring a proposal to open a significant portion of the county's unincorporated land to uses such as wineries, microbrew operations, cheese-making, beekeeping, and "agritourism." Any actual zoning changes, however, could be years away.

Under a proposed Agriculture Promotion Program, planning and land-use regulations would be expanded in order to allow for a wider use of rural land, which was generating as much as $1.75 billion in revenue as of 2012.

The region's budding wine industry could be the big winner if the program is implemented, as up to 650,000 acres — roughly 27 percent of the county's unincorporated land — would be made available for winery development.

Current regulations allow the cultivation of wine grapes but do not necessarily permit processing facilities or tasting rooms. The new proposal comes on the heels of a report that, from 2011 to 2012 (the latest year for which data is available), the number of acres dedicated to growing wine grapes jumped nearly 500 percent.

Officials from the county's office of planning and development say it could take up to two and a half years to flesh out the program and bring a working model to the board for approval.

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