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MDA provides protection against fraudulent seed sales

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is reminding consumers to file a complaint if they believe they have purchased seed that does not perform as advertised or labeled. Faulty performance would include things such as the incorrect variety, inferior quality, or the seed simply does not live up to claims made in advertising.

The Minnesota Seed Law protects consumers through truthful labeling of seed in the state and fair marketplace competition by requiring all seed labelers to comply with the same requirements. Violations of the seed law typically involve seed that is sold after the germination test date has expired, is not of the kind, variety, or quality stated on the label, or contains excessive levels of inert matter or weed seed. Violations may also occur when seed has been otherwise misrepresented by false or misleading advertising.

Seed law complaints may be filed with MDA by mail, e-mail, phone, or in person via an MDA Seed and Noxious Weed Unit staff member or a County Agricultural Inspector (CAI). The individual making the complaint will be asked to complete and sign a Seed Inspection Request Form. This form is used to officially initiate a complaint investigation and establish a case file.

In order to accurately investigate a case, MDA must be notified about the complaint before the crop is harvested so inspectors can see the field and gather evidence such as samples, statements from involved parties, and documents related to the sale. The earlier in the growing season that a problem is discovered and reported, the more likely a conclusive investigation can be accomplished.

A complaint investigation may include inspections of seed retail or wholesale facilities, conditioning plants, fields, gardens, and other areas. If possible, an official sample of the seed lot is obtained and analyzed. Upon completion of the investigation, all parties directly involved will be informed of the results.

If a violation of the Minnesota Seed Law is discovered, the department may issue a "stop-sale" order on remaining portions of the lot, or an order for corrective action to bring the seed lot into compliance such as re-labeling, reconditioning, or removing false or misleading statements from advertising. In more serious cases, the department may seek an injunction, assess civil penalties, or pursue criminal (misdemeanor) charges through county or state courts.

For cases involving interstate shipment of seed, MDA cooperates with Federal seed regulatory officials who may investigate the case for potential violations of the Federal Seed Act.

MDA does not have the authority to award compensatory damages, but the department's findings may be used in settlement negotiations or in court cases. If a dispute cannot be resolved through negotiation between parties, it may be submitted to the arbitration process as provided for in the Minnesota Seed Law.