The Duluth Public Library, in partnership with the Institute for a Sustainable Future, launched the state’s first Seed Library in 2014. The Seed Library allows library patrons to sign-up to borrow/return seeds at the Downtown Library. As a participant in the exchange program, patrons can borrow up to four packets of heirloom, open-pollinated seeds every year.
The Seed Library enjoyed a great deal of interest from Duluth residents last year, with 200 people exchanging nearly 800 seed packets. It ran into trouble, though, in September when the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) informed the Duluth Public Library that they were in violation of part of the state’s Seed Law. The Duluth Public Library was found to be out of compliance with the law as it had not paid the annual $50 Seed Permit, inadequately labeled the seeds, and failed to perform germination tests. The state’s existing Seed Law is focused on regulating the commercial seed industry, not smaller community exchanges. This legislation attempts to amend the law to better suit these types of seed exchanges by:
- Eliminating the terms “giving away” and “give away” from section 21.81, subdivision 26, which defines the meaning of selling agricultural, vegetable, flower, tree or shrub seed, and seed samples.
- Providing exemptions for a religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational organization that receives fewer than $5,000 in gross receipts in a calendar year from the sale of seeds for use in the state or to interpersonal sharing of seeds. These exemptions would pertain to labeling, germination testing, and the permit fee required.
This legislation was heard in the Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development committee this week where the Duluth Library manager testified about the importance of the seed exchange program and her desire to maintain the program for Duluth residents. The Department of Agriculture also testified in support of the changes. Two groups testified in opposition to the bill including the Minnesota Crop Production Retailers and the MN Crop Improvement Association. Both opposition groups were concerned about allowing exemptions or variances from the current state’s seed laws. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus agriculture bill. (S.F. 949)