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ODA: Oregon grass seed falsely labeled as Kentucky variety


Oregon agricultural officials said Tuesday their investigation has found nearly 7 million pounds of Oregon grass seed falsely labeled as a valuable Kentucky brand, violating both state and federal seed laws.

In 2018, the Oregon Department of Agriculture launched an industry-wide investigation in response to concerns by the Oregon grass seed industry.

So far, ODA said it has examined more than 2,000 seed lots, the records of over 200 seed dealers and more than 100 seed growers.

One of the major findings of the investigation is that one Oregon seed company, Dynamic Seed Source LLC, owned by Trevor Abbott of Salem, misrepresented 124 seed lots. In Oregon, a single lot of grass seed can be up to 55,000 pounds of seed. The department said it also found 124 violations of Oregon law related to the 124 lots, leading to fines of $248,000.

“There is still work to do, this is the single biggest investigation in the history of the seed program at ODA,” said agency Director Alexis Taylor. “The findings in this case are a real game-changer in the industry and have national significance.

“Our federal partners have developed new testing methods that can identify K31 and distinguish it from other tall fescue varieties. ODA could not have done this without the support and cooperation of Oregon’s seed industry,” Taylor added.

Kentucky 31, known in the seed industry as K31, is a popular variety of tall fescue, valued for its durability, easy establishment and low maintenance. While Oregon is a significant producer of tall fescue seed, the bulk of K31 is grown in Missouri.

In 2017, Missouri experienced a record-low harvest of K31 seed. The shortage led to record demand for K31 – with high demand leading to higher prices.

The combination of circumstances worried the Oregon seed industry and there were concerns that the temptation to misrepresent seed as K31 may be too profitable to resist. Under the Federal Seed Act and Oregon law, all seed offered for sale must be labeled by variety, or with a statement “variety not stated”.

Oregon is the largest producer of cool season forage and turf grass seed in the United States, producing nearly 591 million pounds in 2017.

The Willamette Valley is the main place of production, and Linn County is affectionately referred to as the “Grass Seed Capital of the World.” Grass seed is the fifth-largest agricultural commodity in Oregon, worth more than $455 million and driving more than $1 billion in economic activity.

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