Area Briefs

Minnesotans continue to report unsolicited seeds arriving by mail

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) continues to receive reports of citizens getting unsolicited seed packages in the mail. To date, over 700 Minnesotans have made reports to the department.

The packages have contained a variety of seeds. Seed analysts with the MDA Laboratory have identified some as cosmos, radish, mung bean, juniper, basil, cucurbit, and zinnia. While these are not seeds from invasive plants, seeds may carry disease and pests can hide in packaging. So far, there is no indication these unsolicited seeds have gone through appropriate inspection or that they are properly labeled.

The MDA is working with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the issue. All seeds collected in Minnesota are being sent to USDA for additional identification and destruction. Federal officials are investigating the source of the seeds, and the USDA is currently referring to the situation as a “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. 

Those receiving the packages have indicated they either never made an online seed order or they purchased seeds online earlier in the year but never got them and their order indicates it is still unfulfilled.

Minnesotans should do the following if they have received unsolicited packages of seeds.

Save the seeds and the package they came in, including the mailing label.

Do not open the seed packets.

Do not plant any of the seed.

If the packets are already opened, place all materials (seeds and packaging) into a tightly sealed plastic bag.

Contact the MDA through this form (mda.state.mn.us/unlabeledseeds).

If you have planted the seeds you received, please destroy any plants that have germinated. While plants and soil are usually prohibited from trash collection, in this unusual situation, pull up the plants, double bag them and the surrounding soil, and dispose of everything in the trash. Do not compost the seeds, plants, or soil. Please notify the MDA if you have disposed of any seeds or plants through our contact form.

Emerging farmers can receive more startup help

A loan program designed to help nontraditional farmers start or expand their businesses is doubling the maximum amount that Emerging Farmers can borrow.

The Pilot Agricultural Microloan Program from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Rural Finance Authority (RFA) can be used for working capital (annual costs such as seed, feed, fertilizer, land rent) or equipment and other farm asset purchases with a common useful life of 10 years or less.

The Minnesota Legislature this year appropriated funds to expand the maximum loan amount from $10,000 to $20,000.

“We know that agricultural opportunity is not equally available to all Minnesotans. We also know that there is an urgent need to address the future of farming in Minnesota,” Assistant Commissioner Patrice Bailey said. “We at the MDA are examining how to better support Emerging Farmers, and this is one more tool we can use to increase our support for farmers who have traditionally faced barriers to the education and resources necessary to succeed.”

Loans are obtained through participating local lenders. Applicants must meet the following criteria to be eligible:

Be a resident of Minnesota.

Be a member of a Protected Group or a qualified non-citizen as defined under Minnesota statutes.

Use the funds toward production and marketing of specialty crops or eligible livestock.

Demonstrate an ability to repay the loan.

For more information and to apply, visit the Pilot Agricultural Microloan Program web page:

https://www.mda.state.mn.us/pilot-agricultural-microloan-program.

Nitrogen Fertilizer Restrictions Begin September 1

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is reminding farmers and landowners that beginning September 1, 2020 the application of nitrogen fertilizer in the fall and on frozen soil will be restricted in areas vulnerable to groundwater contamination. This will also apply to Drinking Water Supply Management Areas (DWSMAs) with elevated nitrate levels. Vulnerable groundwater areas include coarse textured soils, karst geology, and shallow bedrock. Approximately 12 to 13 percent of Minnesota’s cropland is vulnerable to groundwater contamination. A map showing the vulnerable groundwater areas as well as a list of exceptions to the restrictions are outlined on the Groundwater Protection Rule website: https://www.mda.state.mn.us/nfr.

A short video on the fall restrictions and links for additional information are available on the MDA website.  The MDA will also hold a webinar on August 12, 2020, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. to answer questions. The video and webinar details are available online.

The nitrogen fertilizer restrictions are part of the Groundwater Protection Rule, which minimizes potential fertilizer sources of nitrate pollution to the state’s groundwater and works with local farmers to prevent public water supply wells from exceeding the drinking water standard for nitrate contamination.

For more information, please contact Larry Gunderson at 651-201-6168, Larry.Gunderson@state.mn.us.

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