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Illegal seed sales taken seriously

Steve and Randy Riffel of Stockton, Kan., found out the hard way that seed companies are serious about protecting the value of their wheat varieties. These brothers recently settled a suit brought by the Kansas Wheat Alliance, Inc., and WestBred, LLC for the illegal sale of Jagger and Santa Fe wheat as seed. The total amount of the settlement was $150,000.

Wheat seed companies are being encouraged by farmers to pursue those that ignore the laws and offer seed for sale illegally. These illegal sales rob seed companies of revenues that are necessary for maintaining breeding programs, which develop new varieties to keep wheat farmers competitive with other producers around the world.

"We don't enjoy going after farmers who sell seed illegally," says Daryl Strouts, KWA executive director. "We would much prefer that all farmers respect our property rights and use legal seed. When farmers use certified seed, the seed companies are encouraged to develop new varieties, which is a win-win situation."

Part of the problem are farmers who purchase illegal seed, says Strouts. "If no one would buy non-certified seed, then there wouldn't be anyone selling it." He also noted that often, farmers end up paying more for non-certified seed than they could have paid for certified seed.

"I think some farmers just get caught up in the notion that if they are buying something illegally, then it must be a good deal. Smart farmers know that 'cost' and 'value' are not the same thing," offered Strouts.

Under the settlement agreement, KWA and WestBred have the right to inspect all of the Riffel's business and farming records and premises for the next three years and if the Riffel's are caught selling KWA or WestBred seed illegally again they will pay $35.50 for every 50-pound unit of seed they sell.

The Kansas Wheat Alliance is a non-profit organization working to advance wheat through plant breeding and genetic improvement. For more information visit www.kswheatalliance.org.

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