'Noxious' designation would devestate industry, official says
By STEVE BROWN
Holly growers are considering their options as the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board prepares to consider listing their crop as a noxious weed.
Gene Biboux, president of the Northwest Holly Growers Association, said growers have met with each other, the Washington State Farm Bureau and a state representative to gather support for a November hearing in Yakima.
"Farm Bureau said they'd have somebody there," Biboux said. "Farm Bureau can't produce evidence there, but we just need all the support we can get."
Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton, said she is preparing a letter to send to the weed control board.
"I feel this is an issue that can't wait. With the meeting coming in November, it's important to get it out now," she said. "I've been getting e-mails from people in the (holly) industry."
Haigh, a large-animal veterinarian, said she hopes to hear from foresters what their take is.
Growers fear that if English holly is declared invasive, such a listing would be devastating.
"About 45 to 50 percent of what we grow goes to California, and California is stringent about not allowing noxious weeds into the state," he said.
During a September meeting, the members of the weed control board agreed to include English holly among other plants proposed for listing.
"Our main idea is to separate out holly from the other plants under consideration," Biboux said. "We haven't decided whether to pursue legal action. If they do list it, then it gets pretty dicey, because we'd have to sue the state."
He said the timing of the meeting is troublesome for those who grow English holly for the wholesale market, coming at the beginning of their harvest.
Biboux said it's frustrating to have to fight listing efforts, and the issue keeps coming back. "The state is spending lots of time and money on listing instead of on control efforts on truly noxious weeds."
Alison Halpern, executive secretary of the weed control board, said the decision by the board in November will be final. Though the board voted in September to carry the issue forward to the fall meeting, she said, "This does not mean holly will be listed, and not all members who voted in favor of moving it forward will necessarily vote in favor of the listing."
Noxious Weed Control Board: www.nwcb.wa.gov
Northwest Holly Growers Association: www.nwholly.org