Cover Crop Seed: The Ins and Outs of Growing and Selling It

With the rising popularity of cover crops we frequently receive questions from producers about how to grow and sell cover crop seed. Here’s some important information if you are interested in growing and selling cover crop seed.  



Frequently farmers wish to buy a small grain and plant it, however, the farmer that raised and ultimately sold that grain may have raised a variety with a Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) protection. The PVPA provides developers of new varieties of plants patent-like rights that protect the reproduction and distribution of their varieties.

Varieties that are protected under the Plant Variety Protection Act can be sold as seed stocks only with permission of the certificate holder and in some cases, only as a class of Certified seed. Additionally, these varieties protected under the PVPA can be sold or advertised for seeding purposes only by the owner of the protection certificate or the owner’s permission.

The owner of the certificate may bring civil action if they feel that their rights have been infringed and may ask the court for an injunction to prevent further infringement. These cases can end with a big bang – in 2018 an Iowa producer received a consent judgement for $2,975,000 for illegally selling seed of a protected (PVP) variety.

Frequently producers ask how to go about producing and selling VNS/Variety Not Stated cover crop seed. It is not possible to sell VNS seed legally under the Federal Seed Act. Once a variety is named, that name is attached to it, even after the PVP expires.  For information on raising and selling protected varieties of seed you can contact the Iowa Crop Improvement Association.

Varying with how you intend to produce and sell seed, you may need an Agricultural Seed Permit from the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship (IDALS), or you may qualify for the selling seed from the farm exemption. Contact IDALS for more information.

All agricultural seed sold in Iowa, whether under a Seed Permit or not, is required to be tested and properly labeled. All agricultural and vegetable seed sold, offered for sale or transported within Iowa shall be labeled, as per tests conducted by Iowa State University Seed Testing Laboratory, or tested in accordance with the Association of Official Seed Analyst’s rules, and include the following on the label:

  1. The name of the kind, or kind and variety, of each agricultural seed present in excess of five percent, and the percentage by weight. If “variety not stated’ is used on the label, the kind of seed must still be listed. Seed shall not be labeled or advertised under a trademark or brand name in a manner that may create the impression that the trademark or brand name is a variety name.
  2. Lot number or other lot identification.
  3. State of origin of alfalfa and red clover.
  4. Percentage by weight of all weed seed.
  5. The name and weight of occurrence per unit weight of each kind of secondary noxious weed seed present.
  6. Percentage by weight of agricultural seed which may be designated as “other crop seed” other than those required to be named on the label.
  7. Percentage by weight of inert matter.
  8. For each named agricultural seed, the label must state –
      a. Percentage of germination, exclusive of hard seed.
      b. The calendar month and year the test was completed.
      c.  Percentage of hard seed, if present.
  9. Name and address of the person/company who labeled the seed.
  10. If the seed is treated, inoculated, or coated, contact IDALS for more labeling details.

Note:The test to determine the germination must have been completed within nine months, excluding the month of the tests, prior to sale, transporting, or advertising for sale.

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Source URL: https://crops.extension.iastate.edu/blog/neal-foster-robin-pruisner/growing-and-selling-cover-crop-seed