Wash. growers said listing would devastate industry
By STEVE BROWN
After an unprecedented amount of testimony from both sides of the issue, the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board voted unanimously Nov. 2 to reject a proposal to list English holly as a noxious weed.
"This was a big relief," holly grower Gene Biboux said. "Now we can get back to what we're supposed to be doing. We put a lot of things on the back burner to pursue this."
Biboux, president of the Northwest Holly Growers Association, raises holly near Cheshire, Ore.
At issue was a request by King County's noxious weed board to add holly to the state's list after residents of Seattle and surrounding communities "reported to us that English holly is showing up uninvited everywhere from urban yards to rural forests to state and national forest lands," according to a letter to the state board.
Steven Burke, of the King County board, told the state board that English holly requires repeated treatments with herbicides, at a cost of $7,000 per acre per treatment.
"The listing will allow us to increase control and outreach efforts and connect with landowners as we did with English ivy," he said.
Alison Halpern, executive secretary for the state Noxious Weed Control Board, said the request was worded to affect English holly "except where commercially grown."
But Biboux and other growers -- as well as the Washington State Farm Bureau and several state legislators -- testified that any listing of English holly as noxious would devastate the industry, which employs thousands of people in the Pacific Northwest.
Such a listing would mean California, a major market for the decorative holiday plant, would refuse to allow its import, Biboux said.
"If you impact our customers or our ability to ship to other states, you will destroy our markets," Bob Bower, a forestland owner who has grown holly near Olympia for 20 years, said.
Scott Dilley, public policy analyst at the Farm Bureau, told the state board, "We're an export-driven state. We don't regulate agriculture for the convenience of a local government. Local efforts and local education can address this."
After the vote was taken, Biboux said the state board decided the wording of the proposal was flawed, that there was no proper economic impact statement. He was still concerned that the proposal would be introduced again. "We can't be doing this every six months," he said.
Halpern said the state board is considering reviewing the listing process with that in mind. "They're considering expecting substantial new information" before a listing request can be reintroduced.
Other commercially grown species have been proposed for listing as noxious weeds, she said, and two of them -- baby's breath and cereal rye -- have been listed. "The board wants to be careful about how we treat crop species," she said.
Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board: www.nwcb.wa.gov/
Northwest Holly Growers Association: www.nwholly.org/