Minnesota seed law is too strict for library

A grant from the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development initiative helped the Duluth Public Library begin a seed exchange program earlier this year. The “Seed Library” allowed local gardeners to drop off and pick up seeds at the library, free of charge, with the intent of encouraging the growth and consumption of local produce.

However, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has claimed this seed exchange is illegal based on state laws regulating the sale of seeds. Designed to protect and regulate commercial seed companies, these laws require that any individual involved in selling seeds must pay a $50 permitting fee and have 400 of their seeds tested before sale.

The law does not differentiate between commercial operations and small community programs.

Although those involved with the Seed Library are working to bring the seed exchange into compliance with state law, the library said in a statement that “the Seed Law places an incredible burden and hardship on the Seed Library.”

Current seed laws are useful and effective for regulating a commercial industry, but we believe that the same laws are unrealistic and overly strict when applied to individuals or small sharing programs.

Stifling programs that encourage local food production or improved dietary habits was not the law’s intended use. Laws regarding seed exchanges should be amended to recognize different types of commerce, and continuing to penalize programs like the “Seed Library” makes little sense.