For Release June 27, 2004

Brown Bagging is for Lunches, Not Seed Wheat!

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

In years gone by, it was quite common for one farmer to sell wheat seed to a neighbor to plant in his fields. There were a only a few varieties of wheat being planted and everyone kept back their best wheat for use as seed wheat. But things are different today. There are no less than 30 varieties of winter wheat being planted in Kansas. Some of these varieties are public varieties, others are from private companies that are in the business of creating and selling new wheat varieties.

Creating a new wheat variety takes in the neighborhood of ten years and can easily cost a company in excess of one million dollars. So it is very understandable why they have a vested interest in seeing that they get paid for every single seed of that variety that is planted. To this end the government has legislation known as the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) which basically acts as a patent or copyright for new seed varieties or hybrids.

The Plant Variety Protection Act encourages the development of new varieties by providing for the protection of the intellectual property rights of the owner. It is unlawful to sell, offer for sale or expose for sale, uncertified seed by variety name when it is a variety for which a Certificate of Plant Protection has been issued, specifying sale only as a class of certified seed.

The Kansas Seed Law takes this one step further. This law states that, " shall be unlawful for any person to offer or expose for sale, sell or exchange any agricultural seed for planting or seeding purposes that has not been tested and is not labeled." This is then followed by nine specific provisions regarding labeling, naming, testing, etc. In short, if you sell seed to an agricultural producer it has to be tested and labeled. If it is a seed variety that is protected by the PVPA, then you also have to have an agreement with the company that owns that variety. Failure to follow these regulations is considered a misdemeanor and carries appropriate fines.

At one time a farmer selling seed to a neighbor was exempt from these laws. Those days are long gone. The law applies to everyone selling agricultural seed! The fines and court costs are actually just the beginning of the problem. After the criminal proceedings are taken care of you are then at risk of being taken to court by the owner of variety that you were caught selling illegally.

Will a private company do this? They already have in Kansas and other states. And they have won settlements mounting into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Which is enough to put most farmers of any size out of business in a hurry. By the way, the companies may not just go after the seller. They can also go after the buyers as well!

The companies don't want to have to go through all of this, but they will to protect their investment. I would hate to see any of our local producers drug through the court system because of illegal sales or purchases. You may think that you won't get caught, but with the current technology, it is pretty easy to determine what varieties of crops you are growing even after it is up and growing. So the bottom line is don't mess with this. If you want to sell seed, do it right and become a registered certified seed grower/dealer. When you buy seed make sure that you are buying seed that has been tested, certified and labeled. Because saving a couple of bucks on a bag of seed isn't worth the hassle you're liable to end up with!


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