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Don’t be tempted by illegal seed

Shortages of seed in some crop types are almost a certainty leading into the 2012 planting season. Durum, barley and edible bean seed acres were greatly reduced in 2011 due to poor planting conditions. In the case of barley, a reduction in malt contracts over the past two years has also negatively influenced seed production.

Nearly every commonly used small-grain variety is protected by Plant Variety Protection Title V and may only be sold as a class of certified seed. Brown bagging, or farmer-to-farmer exchange or sale of protected varieties, is illegal.

The North Dakota State Seed Department is utilizing several media sources to convey this information this year and encourages certified seed producers, conditioners and retailers to assist in this educational effort as well.

Key Points

Durum, barley and dry bean seed may be in short supply for 2012.

Don’t let shortages tempt you to buy or sell brown-bagged seed.

The State Seed Department will be monitoring sales.


Under current circumstances, the temptation to circumvent seed laws by accessing seed from a neighbor may be strong. But participants in illegal seed sales must be aware that the consequences of breaking seed laws are stiff for both buyer and seller (up to a $5,000 fine per sale for violating PVP laws).

Variety owners will also go after violators, and they can collect up to triple damages for the seed sold and the production from illegally acquired seed. It is the responsibility of all parties involved — the seller, the conditioner and the buyer — to understand the limitations of PVP laws.

Seed certification ensures that high-quality seed of known genetic identity and purity is available to the agricultural industry. Illegal seed sales are detrimental to the entire seed industry. The seed department will work with other agencies and seed industry partners to investigate violations and enforce seed laws.

The buyer’s proof of seed certification is either a valid seed tag or a bulk sale certificate issued by an official seed certification agency such as the North Dakota State Seed Department. Seed sellers are required to provide this documentation with each container of certified seed sold. Seed regulatory agencies may ask for these documents when examining potential seed violations.

Additionally, North Dakota seed laws require that seed sold in North Dakota be labeled with specific information regarding the variety and quality of the seed in the container. The full name and address of the person who labels or offers the seed for sale must also be included. Proper labeling is required for all seed, whether it is a protected variety or not.

We cannot emphasize strongly enough — if it isn’t a legal seed source, don’t sell it, don’t buy it and don’t plant it. Legal seed may be difficult to find in certain crops, but not impossible.

For more information about seed sales or a list of protected varieties, contact the State Seed Department at 701-231-5400, or visit www.ndseed.com.

Bertsch is director of the North Dakota State Seed Department.

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This article published in the December, 2011 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.