Nearly two years ago, investigation of fraudulent certified seed labeling by Seedway, LLC, came to light and was the talk of Northeast agricultural circles. Late last week, the New York Attorney General's Office announced settlement conditions of the state's largest state seed law violation.
The Hall, N.Y., seed company, has been ordered to refund farmers across state $246,000 to farmers who purchased mislabeled seed. The company also agreed to adopt an audited quality assurance program. It will also pay $100,000 to the state in penalties and costs – the largest fine ever for violating state seed certification laws.
Seedway sold about 22,000 bags of falsely labeled seeds to more than 200 New York customers. According to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the company repeatedly mislabeled type, purity and germination rates of bagged seed, and failed to comply with New York State's seed certification requirements. "With this settlement," says Cuomo, "farmers will get back money they spent on inferior products and will know that a new standard has been established."
"Seedway deceived farmers by selling premium, certified seed with germination rates well below what was listed on the bag," acknowledges Ag Commissioner Patrick Hooker. "Through the state's investigation, we have secured full reimbursement to affected farmers for misrepresented seed they purchased from Seedway, recovered penalties and costs to the state."
Between 2004 and 2007, Seedway sold approximately 22,000 fifty-pound bags of falsely labeled and improperly certified seeds to over 200 customers. The company wrongfully certified inferior seeds and labeled seed bags with incorrect classes and germination percentages. Employees at Seedway's Mecklenburg facility also affixed seed bags with New York state inspection certificates when they weren't inspected or certified.
As part of the agreement, Seedway will search its records to identify eligible consumers, determine the amount of refund and send a refund check by May 1. The company must also follow a quality control and assurance program audited by the Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Seed lots must be submitted to a New York state-approved testing laboratory for testing. Audit information on every seed lot also must be submit to Ag and Markets.