The North Dakota State Seed Department has fined two Minto farmers a total of $12,500 for an illegal farmer-to-farmer transfer of a protected wheat variety.
A farmer-to-farmer exchange of Linkert, a Plant Variety Protected (PVP) spring wheat variety released by the University of Minnesota, precipitated the enforcement action by North Dakota’s seed regulatory agency.
Linkert, licensed to the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, is protected under PVP Title V of the Federal Seed Act, which requires the seed to be sold as a class of certified seed.
PVP law allows a farmer to replant a protected variety on his/her farm but prohibits transfer to another farmer, a practice commonly referred to as “brown-bagging.”
The seed was purchased legally by one of the producers, but commercial grain was transferred to the second grower for planting purposes without approval of the variety owner, violating numerous state and federal seed laws.
“Variety protection laws are in place to protect the interests of variety owners, who invest millions of dollars in varietal development,” says Ken Bertsch, North Dakota’s state seed commissioner.
The illegal seed transfer totaled 737 bushels, and was discovered during a routine seed regulatory audit by State Seed Department regulatory officials.
The North Dakota State Seed Department is designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service-Seed Regulatory and Testing Division as the state’s authority for seed certification and seed regulatory activities.
The seller of the noncertified grain paid $8,000 in fines, while the receiver paid $4,500 in penalties.
Bertsch adds, “The takeaway message is that grain exchanged between farmers, and used for planting purposes with the intent of circumventing variety protection laws, comes with great risk.
“This case should also give notice to the industry that the Seed Department takes its responsibility to provide for consumer protection, to enforce PVP and to advocate for variety owners very seriously,” he notes.
North Dakota seed laws allow the State Seed Department to levy fines up to $10,000 per violation. The authority to enforce PVP laws only extends to those public and private company varieties that are protected under Plant Variety Protection (PVP) or Plant Variety Protection Title V.
Higher-limit fines generally are issued only in cases involving violation of Plant Variety Protection. Violations of labeling laws are more commonly assessed fines in the range of $500 to $1,000.
The case has been turned over to the variety owner for further legal action, including recovery of royalties lost in the illegal exchange.