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MDA: file a complaint if you see seed sale fraud

As any farmer or home gardener will tell you, it is hard work turning little seeds into productive, healthy plants. The process becomes much more challenging in those rare cases when the seed itself is defective.

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. Problems may include incorrect varieties, inferior quality, or some other failure of the seed to live up to advertising claims.

Seed complaints may be filed with MDA by e-mail at, by phone at 651-201-6531, or in person with a County Agricultural Inspector.

More information about seed complaint reporting can be found online at

Most seed products are high quality, but problems sometimes occur. In 2008, MDA inspectors found 194 instances of seed lots that had significant violations of the seed law.

Violations of the Minnesota 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.

According to MDA Plant Protection Division Director Geir Friisoe, farmers and homeowners should let MDA know as soon as possible about problems -- ideally before the crop is harvested.

"Consumers should let us know as soon as possible if they suspect a problem," Friisoe said. "Our inspectors need to see the plants in the field and gather evidence such as samples, statements from involved parties, and documents related to the sale.

"The earlier in the growing season we get notified, the more likely it is we can conduct a conclusive investigation."

If a violation of the Minnesota Seed Law is discovered, MDA may issue a "stop-sale" order on remaining portions of the seed lot, or an order for corrective action to bring the seed lot into compliance. In more serious cases, MDA may seek an injunction, assess civil penalties, or pursue charges through county or state courts.