SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A Willamette Valley grass seed dealer accused of mislabeling over 8 million pounds of seed will pay $300,000 in a settlement with Oregon state agriculture officials.
Dynamic Seed Source LLC and owner Trevor Abbott have agreed to pay the fines to to the Oregon Department of Agriculture as part of the deal, The Capital Press reported. The company will additionally have its wholesale seed dealer’s license suspended for one year, starting June 30, and after that will be on probation for three years.
Investigators determined the company between 2016 and 2018 mislabeled 161 seed lots as Kentucky-31, a popular variety of tall fescue used for livestock forage, manicured lawns, erosion control and turf. Each lot equals up to 55,000 pounds of seed.
False labeling is a violation of both the Federal Seed Act and Oregon seed laws, regulating the sale and commerce of agricultural seed crops.
K-31 is sought after for its heat and drought tolerance, low maintenance and durability, fetching a premium price for growers.
About half of all K-31 grass seed comes from Missouri and the other half is grown in Oregon, according to Elizabeth Savory, Seed Regulatory Program manager at the state agency.
In 2017, Missouri experienced a record-low harvest caused by several years of difficult weather. The shortage led to a jump in demand and prices.
The Oregon Seed Association in 2018 requested an industry-wide investigation. Savory said no other violations have been uncovered to date, but the investigation is ongoing.
Under the settlement terms reached May 6, Abbott and the company neither admit nor deny any wrongdoing. In a statement, Abbott and Dynamic Seed Source said ODA’s case was “unnecessary.”
“ODA sued anyway, and after two years of litigation the parties settled,” the company said. “They are glad the lawsuit is over and look forward to putting it all behind them.”
Oregon is the largest producer of cool-season forage and turf grasses in the U.S., producing nearly 591 million pounds in 2017. Grass seed is the fifth-largest agricultural commodity in Oregon, worth more than $517 million.