Friday, May 8, 2009

Federal Seed Act Labeling Requirements

The Federal Seed Act, 7 USCS § 1551, et. seq., is the starting point for compliance as it is akin to the truth-in-labeling law. The purpose of the Act, which has state counterparts that may require more disclosure or standards, is for everyone to know what is exactly in the bag. The Act generally applies to any vegetable or agricultural seeds, including lawn and forage seed, that are shipped in interstate commerce or will eventually be shipped in interstate commerce.

Labels are to be affixed to the containers or bags that inform the agricultural seed buyer of the name of the kind or kind and variety and percentage of each present, the lot number, origin if the Secretary believes this information is pertinent and is in excess of 5% of the whole, percentage of weed seeds and noxious-weed seeds, kinds of noxious-weed seeds and rate of occurrence which cannot be outside the acceptable standard, percentage of inert matter, percentage of weight of agricultural seeds not specifically labeled. Additionally, for any seed in presence of 5% or more, the percentages of germination and hard seed along with the month and date of such test that must be completed in the preceding five months. Most states have a seed lab that can help you with this last step. Additionally, there are private seed labs that also perform these tests. Last, but not least you must provide a name and address of the person who transports or delivers the seed or the person who is receiving the seed plus a code designation identifying the transporter.

Vegetable seeds are divided on whether the containers weigh one pound or more and one pound or less to determine the amount of disclosures required to be on the label. Both require names and percentages, hard seed and germination percentages, as well as identifying people to link the seed, but the one pound or more designation requires a lot designation similar to agricultural seeds.

All disclosures must be truthful, and evidence any form of treating the seeds may have received along with the generic name of the treating agent and whether it is safe for humans and animals. Any mercurials or toxic substances must follow the “Poison” label guidelines.

Violations of these labeling requirements can result in misdemeanor liability and civil fines, as well as a possible seizure of any mislabeled seed.

This post will get you into the ballpark of proper labeling. However, each state has its own accepted guidelines regarding allowable percentages that must be consulted before shipping to these states.


  1. You mention that state seed laboratories can provide germination tests to give germination data. Please also note that there are many private seed testing laboratories that can do the same. Private labs have difficulty competing with state labs because state labs are often subsidized. Private labs must live off of small profit margins because of this. Please state in your blog that there are other options besides state labs. We have difficulty competing in this market and would appreciate you mentioning us as a possibility for testing services.

  2. Thank you for the comment Terry and I will adjust the post accordingly.