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Published December 23, 2013, 09:51 AM

Seed labeling laws and warranties

Many states have passed laws requiring that agricultural seed, sold for planting purposes, be labeled in a particular way.

By: Derrick Braaten, Agweek

Many states have passed laws requiring that agricultural seed, sold for planting purposes, be labeled in a particular way. The statutes generally list specific pieces of information that such labels must contain, although the details vary among the states.

In North Dakota, the law can be found at N.D.C.C. §§ 4.1-53-12 and 13. According to this law, agricultural seed labels in North Dakota must indicate, among other things, where the seed was grown, the percentage and names of any weed seed, the germination rate and the labeler’s name and address.

Like any responsible purchaser, farmers should inspect the seed and take note of the information on the seed labels when they are received to protect themselves if there turns out to be a problem with the seed. If such problems do arise and a farmer believes the information on the label is not accurate or the seed provided does not match the labeling, a farmer may be able to seek compensation from the seed seller based on the Uniform Commercial Code, which is a collection of laws governing commercial transactions.

As adopted in North Dakota, the UCC at N.D.C.C. § 41-02 contains a law on express warranties. Although it would depend upon the particular situation, information on the seed label may constitute an express warranty, or promise, made by the seed seller to the farmer. If the farmer is able to show that the seed did not match an express warranty, the farmer may be able to seek compensation from the seed seller, but he or she should consult an attorney to find out if that is true in each particular case.

Regardless of what is stated on the seed label, if there is a problem with the purchased seed, the same chapter of the UCC also contains laws on two types of implied warranties that might apply to help protect a farmer: the implied warranty of merchantability and the implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. As the names suggest, these are promises that the law implies into some transactions, even when they are not actually spelled out in the seed purchase agreement. These warranties may provide additional protection to the purchaser.

Although there are other elements, the implied warranty of merchantability is essentially an implied promise that the purchased goods, seeds in this context, are “fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used.” An implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose is basically an implied promise that if the seller knew the buyer had a specific purpose in mind when making the purchase, and the buyer relied on the seller’s judgment in choosing the specific product, the product must actually be fit for that specific purpose. There are many other requirements regarding these warranties, so an attorney should be consulted to determine if they would apply in a particular situation.

The savvy seed purchaser should also be aware that it is sometimes possible for the seed seller to disclaim, or get themselves off the hook for, these express and implied warranties or limit the compensation or remedies that the farmer may recover. This is typically accomplished by inserting specific language into the seed purchase agreement that disclaims the implied and express warranties and limits the type of damages the farmer may receive. Such disclaimers frequently appear in the “terms and conditions” section of the agreement or delivery receipt.

If you are concerned about the information on your purchased seed labels or the terms of your seed purchase agreement, as always, seek advice from legal counsel.

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