USDA Offers More and Better Choices for Farmers, Plant Breeders, Seed Stewards and Others
In March 2023, USDA published a report on fair competition in the seed sector. Prepared in response to Executive Order No. 14036 “Promoting Competition in the American Economy,” the report called for the establishment of a Farmer Seed Liaison at USDA to promote transparency and bring the farmer voice into the intellectual property system; a new Federal working group on fair competition in seeds; and a notice to industry under the Federal Seed Act with respect to the disclosure of kind and variety names to farmers before shipment.
While most FSA complaints are submitted by State Departments of Agriculture, anyone may submit a complaint. There are two types of complaints to submit under the FSA:
Title II: Quality violations that are primarily purity, noxious-weed seed, and germination issues. This section also covers misleading seed labels and advertisements.
Title V: Violations of the Plant Variety Protection Act which protects sales of certain certified seed varieties.
Submit complaints to:
The SRTD Regulatory Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org
Seed Regulatory and Testing Division
S&T, AMS, U.S. Department of Agriculture
801 Summit Crossing Place, Suite C
Gastonia, North Carolina 28054-2193
When a violation is confirmed, regulatory action is taken against the interstate shipper. Sometimes a settlement can be reached. View a list of settled FSA cases.
Complaint Investigation Process
State Submissions: States submit samples suspected of being in violation of FSA and the Federal Seed Laboratory will test the submitted samples for comparison. SRTD also evaluates company records including conditioning/handling records, test records, file sample, labeling records, sales, and shipping records.
Public Submissions: Anyone can submit seed suspected of being in violation of FSA. In general, the submission may contain an unopened seed container (if there is a seed quality issue), the receipt, and the seed packet or a copy of the seed packet, if there is a suspected false advertising issue. If SRTD determines the complaint warrants further investigation, SRTD will contact the seed dealer directly to gather the information necessary to evaluate the complaint.
There are several possible proceedings:
No Action: No interstate shipment was involved or there was no FSA interstate violation.
Warning: (Minor violations and technical violations): These violations include omitting the test date on the seed label, using common names instead of the correct kind name, using abbreviations for variety names, and using the brand in place of the variety name.
Formal Charge: (Serious Violations): These violations include misrepresenting germination or purity information, misrepresenting noxious weed-seed content, misrepresenting the kind and/or variety name, and a history of repeated minor or technical violations.
Companies notified of FSA violations have an opportunity to present their views and ask questions. Under the Debt Collection Act of 1982, SRTD assigns and collect monetary assessments to each violation on a charge sheet, based on the current Federal Register amounts. Any person who knowingly, or as a result of gross negligence, violates any provision of the FSA may be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to additional penalties.