House agriculture committee members tangling Monday over potential designation of two types of wild blackberries as noxious weeds found consensus in laughter about Lawrence residents’ love of a weed smoked rather than eaten.
The Kansas Livestock Association sought a bill allowing county commissions to be declare the Himalayan blackberry and everbearing blackberry to be noxious weeds. It’s a thorny plant that seems to only get angry when burned and causes economic damage to tallgrass regions of Kansas, said KLA lobbyist Mike Beam.
“The grass will grow up because cattle won’t want to get up to it,” Beam said. “It shades out the other plants and desirable species.”
Under current law, the Kansas Legislature possesses authority to add plants to the state’s noxious weed list. A dozen plants are blacklisted, while two others can be declared noxious by individual counties. Senate Bill 117 would permit county officials to voluntarily list the two blackberries species.
Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said residents of a county could force independent action against a noxious plant with a petition signed by 5 percent of residents. That threshold is far too high, he said.
Douglas County has more than 100,000 residents, he said, requiring signatures of at least 5,000 people who have to actually care about a weed.
“I’m sure there are 5,000 people in Douglas County that care about weed,” said Rep. Adam Lusker, D-Frontenac.
After chuckling subsided about left-leaning preferences of Lawrence inhabitants, legislators with an agriculture background attested to the negative traits of wild blackberries.
“I agree it’s a menace,” said Rep. Larry Hibbard, R-Toronto. “I’ve been gouged and tripped by it.”
Rep. Doug Blex, R-Independence, said he was skeptical about meaningfully curtailing wild blackberries. He also said there was a danger careless spraying of roadside patches by county employees. He has two acres of commercial blackberries that might be damaged with toxic over-spray.
“They are hard to kill,” he said. “You’ve got to have something pretty hot to kill them.”
The House Agriculture Committee is expected to vote Tuesday on the Senate-passed berry bill. The legislation was opposed by the president of the County Weed Director’s Association, who didn’t believe the wild blackberry met the definition of an invasive species.