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Published May 13, 2010, 01:42 PM

ND state seed commissioner warns of illegal durum sales

FARGO - There is renewed interest in planting durum wheat in North Dakota because of the new loan rates that were announced earlier this month. Since the production of commercial durum has fallen in the state, there has been a parallel reduction in durum seed production, so supplies may be limited or at a distance from demand.

By: NDSU Extension Service, INFORUM

FARGO - There is renewed interest in planting durum wheat in North Dakota because of the new loan rates that were announced earlier this month. Since the production of commercial durum has fallen in the state, there has been a parallel reduction in durum seed production, so supplies may be limited or at a distance from demand.

The North Dakota State Seed Department reminds producers that brown-bag seed sales are illegal.

Most durum varieties planted today are protected by Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Title V, which states the variety may be sold only as a class of certified seed, according to Ken Bertsch, North Dakota State Seed Department commissioner.

The buyer's proof of certification is either a valid seed tag or a bulk sale certificate issued by an official seed certification agency such as the 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 also must be included. Proper labeling is required for all seed, whether it is a protected variety or not.

Brown-bagging seed is considered by some as a way to circumvent the legal process of seed sales and the payment of royalties or research fees to the variety owner. Violators of PVP Title V seed law may be fined. Those fined can be the conditioner, seller, buyer or anyone who assists in the unauthorized sale of protected varieties. While it is permissible for a farmer to save seed that he or she has legally acquired to plant on the farm, farmer-to-farmer sales of bin-run seed are illegal. It also is illegal for a seed conditioner to clean seed for selling that a farmer has saved.

"With the announcement of durum loan rates, brown-bagging of seed became an immediate and major concern," Bertsch says. "Aside from communicating and reminding the industry of the rules and law, investigating potential violations becomes the highest priority. We will have to remain in the enforcement mode long after the 2010 crop is planted. I cannot emphasize strongly enough that if it isn't a legal seed source, don't sell it and don't plant it."

Under current circumstances, given the unanticipated demand for durum seed, the temptation to circumvent seed laws by accessing seed from a neighbor may be strong.

"Participants in illegal seed sales must be aware that the consequences of breaking seed laws are stiff for both buyer and seller," Bertsch says. "The fine can be up to $5,000 per sale for violating PVP laws. Variety owners also will 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 to understand the 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," says Steve Sebesta, deputy seed commissioner. "The Seed Department monitors seed sale activities, including advertisements placed in state newspapers and trade magazines. Regulatory inspectors are in the field investigating activities related to illegal seed transactions and will actively pursue violations throughout the year. Recognizing the special nature of the situation regarding durum plantings, the Seed Department will work with other agencies and seed industry partners to investigate violations and enforce seed laws."

For more information about seed sales or a list of protected varieties, contact the State Seed Department at (701) 231-5400 or the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Plant Variety Protection website at http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/processverified.

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