MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — Skagit County commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday to approve an ordinance seeking to protect the county’s brassica seed industry.
The ordinance would create a method to resolve conflicts between commercial and noncommercial growers of brassica plants, such as cabbage, broccoli and kale.
When homeowners — often inadvertently — allow their brassica plants to flower, they can cause cross-pollination and economic loss for seed growers, said Joseph Shea, Noxious Weeds Board coordinator for the county.
About 30 people attended the hearing and four gave testimony.
The ordinance was submitted by the Puget Sound Seed Growers Association. Under the measure, commercial growers could seek legal remedy if unable to resolve a conflict with a noncommercial grower.
Tony Wisdom of Skagit Valley Farms said growers prefer to work out conflicts in a friendly manner.
“The ordinance presents a backstop,” he said.
Cross-pollination impacts both seed growers and seed companies by polluting the seed’s genetic material, and growers stand to lose up to $12,000 an acre, he said.
Paula Moore with the state Department of Agriculture’s seed inspection program requested the county postpone its decision.
She said the state Office of the Attorney General wanted more time to review the ordinance.
The ordinance, as written, places too much burden on commercial growers to identify flowering brassicas, she said.
Lisa Janicki, who voted against the measure, said she wanted more time to clear up legal questions.
Commissioners Ken Dahlstedt and Ron Wesen, who voted in favor, said there was no time to waste because pollination season is starting.
“Every acre we have is absolutely critical,” Dahlstedt said.
Dahlstedt said commissioners could consider amending the ordinance later.