Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jessica Ziehm

August 23, 2010

Commissioner Encourages Farmers To Read Seed Labels

New York State Law Requires Key Information to be Included on Seed Tags

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker today reminded farmers to be aware of the information provided on the label of purchased seed this fall.  New York State’s Seed Law requires very specific information to be included on all seed labels in order to help farmers make educated purchases and meet expected production yields.

“When purchasing and planting valuable seed, reading the label makes the most dollars and sense,” the Commissioner said.  “’Bin runs’ or unlabeled seed might seem economical at the time, but could prove to be the most expensive seed you ever bought.  That is why it is always important to know exactly what you are purchasing and planting and to examine the label before doing so.  New York State requires that all seed sold in the State include a label with specific information which can prove helpful in yielding an abundant crop.” 

            Seed information on the label is dictated by the rules and regulations set forth in the New York State Seed Law, Article 9 of the New York State Agriculture and Markets Law, which governs the inspection and sale of seeds.   Label requirements vary by the kind of seed, but general requirements are:

  1. Name and address of the seed company, distributor or labeler
  2. Percent germination
  3. Kind and variety of seed
  4. Percent purity (percentage by weight of each variety or kind included)
  5. Lot identification number
  6. Percentage by weight of other crop seeds, weed seeds and inert matter
  7. Name and number of seeds per pound of noxious weed seeds, if present

            Seed label information is important, especially if the crop has emergence problems.  Information on the label may be able to help identify a problem, or by reading the information before planting, may help prevent a problem from arising.  Note: It is a violation of the New York Seed Law to advertise seed for sale without proper labeling. 

            One way to avoid possible emergence issues is to purchase certified seed that is required by law to meet higher levels of germination and purity.  New York Certified Seed undergoes multiple inspections in the field along with independent seed lab testing to assure genetic purity and conformity with standards.  Certified seed also sells at a premium price because of the higher predicted yields of high germination and high purity seed. 

            Some varieties of certified seed are protected under the Plant Variety Protection Act.  Those protected varieties are not allowed to be harvested and sold again for planting without explicit consent from the owner of a protected variety.  In fact, some protected varieties cannot even be saved for future plantings on your own farm.  Violations in relation to certified seed may result in civil action.

            State horticultural inspectors routinely sample and inspect seed marketed in New York, checking specifically for labeling compliance.  Official seed samples are sent to the New York State Seed Testing Lab in Geneva, New York for analysis and results are shared with the seed labeler.  If the results are inconsistent with the label, the Department’s Division of Plant Industry also notifies the labeler that they are in violation of the New York State Seed Law and depending on the violation, the Department may require the company to cease all sales of that variety, re-label bags of seed and/or issue a penalty. 

            The Commissioner’s Seed Task Force, which is made up of growers of different commodities including vegetable, field crops, greenhouse, sod and corn, will meet in October to further discuss how the Department can better support farmers by ensuring the production and sale of quality seed in New York State, and in particular effective means of education and outreach to growers on New York State’s Seed Law. 

2010 Press Releases