Seed Mislabeling Settlement Reaches $300,000 and Includes Probation Requirements

An Oregon grass seed company was found in violation of seed laws.

A long legal battle may soon be over. Dynamic Seed Source agreed to pay a $300,000 settlement for mislabeling Kentucky 31 (K31) grass seed variety.

An investigation found Dynamic Seed Source LLC, based in Salem, Ore., and owned by Trevor Abbott, mislabeled 161 seed lots of K31, resulting in 207 violations. In Oregon, a single lot of grass seed equals 55,000 pounds of seed, and it took examining more than 2,000 seed lots, the records of more than 200 seed dealers and 100 seed growers.

This investigation has been ongoing, Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) issued Notices of Civil Penalty to Abbott and Dynamic Seed Source in June 2019 and amended documents in June 2020, January 2021 and February 2021. In early May, ODA and Dynamic Seed Source agreed to the settlement to avoid further litigation.

The settlement agrees that Abbott and Dynamic Seed Source neither admit nor deny any wrongdoing. However, it agrees that the ODA may find that Abbott and Dynamic committed the 207 violations alleged in the prior sent Notices of Civil Penalty.

Both Abbott and Dynamic agreed to pay $150,000 in civil penalties, resulting in a $300,000 settlement. In addition, Dynamic Seed Source’s wholesaler license will be suspended for one year, which came into effect on June 30, 2021, and they will be under a probationary period for three years once their license is reissued. The probation period includes:

  1. Twice yearly record audits (i.e., required to submit to the department all records related to seed sales for review).
  2. Participation in at least one workshop or training on Oregon Seed Laws.
  3. At least one in-person examination of records annually.

A Settlement Years in the Making

ODA started its original investigation into mislabeling grass seed in 2018.

“ODA launched an industry-wide investigation in response to concerns submitted to us by the Oregon grass seed industry,” said Alexis Taylor, director of the ODA, in a release. “We take every complaint seriously and thank the seed industry for its support and cooperation. Together with our agricultural partners, ODA is committed to keeping our industry reputable, strong, forward-thinking, and in compliance with state, federal, and international requirements.”

Angie Smith, executive director of the Oregon Seed Association (OSA), says the OSA has supported the ODA’s investigation since 2017.

“The OSA firmly believes in the overall integrity of its members, and that customers who purchase from OSA members can have full confidence in the products they purchase,” Smith says. “The OSA does not condone the mislabeling of seed by its members and upholds its mission to promote integrity in member business practices. The OSA has been on the leading edge in protecting industry standards in the labeling of seed. To that end, we took the initiative in 2017 to request the Oregon Department of Agriculture investigate instances of seed mislabeling of K31 within the industry, an investigation that continues today.”

The OSA has also appointed representatives to serve on the ODA rules advisory committee to review and revise regulations and increase penalties and fines for those found in violation in mislabeling seed.

While Dynamic Seed Source isn’t an OSA member, Smith says they’re working to hold all members to a higher level.

“The OSA’s ethics policy requires all members to abide by certain ethical standards in their general business practices,” she says. “Such standards include full and truthful representation of the quality and description of the seed sold or offered for sale. Breaches of the ethics standards, when directed to the attention of the OSA Board of Directors and after due process, shall result in suspension or termination of membership in the association.”

The ODA continues to investigate mislabeling of seed in Oregon.

Originally published by Alex Martin, Seed World, 8/23/2021