Some Seed Shortages Expected

Some Seed Shortages Expected

Durum, barley and dry edible seed acres in North Dakota were greatly reduced in 2011.

Shortages of seed in some crop types is almost a certainty in 2012, says Ken Bertsch, North Dakota State Seed Department commissioner

Due to poor planting conditions in North Dakota last year, acreage of  durum, barley and edible bean seed was greatly reduced.

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 the Plant Variety Protection Title V and may only be sold as a class of certified seed, Bertsch says.

"Brown bagging (farmer-to-farmer exchange or sale of protected varieties) these varieties is illegal."

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.

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, and those fines can extend to the conditioner, seller, buyer and anyone who assists in the unauthorized sale of protected varieties. While it is permissible for a farmer to save seed that he has legally acquired to plant on his own farm, farmer to farmer sales of bin run seed are illegal. It is also illegal for as seed conditioner to clean for sale, seed that a farmer has saved. 

"I cannot emphasize strongly enough; if it isn't a legal seed source, don't sell it and don't plant it." says Ken Bertsch, North Dakota State Seed Commissioner.  "Legal seed may be difficult, but not impossible to find in certain crops.  The most crucial issue is planning, and the key is booking early to cover your needs".

Under current circumstances, the temptation to circumvent seed laws by accessing seed from a neighbor may be strong. Participants in illegal seed sales must be aware: consequences of breaking seed laws are stiff for both buyer and seller (up to $5000 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 monitors seed sale activities, including ads placed in state newspapers and trade magazines. Regulatory inspectors are currently in the field investigating activities related to illegal seed transactions, and will actively pursue violations throughout the year. 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 see

Source: ND State Seed Department

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