Cuomo reaches $246,000 settlement with fraudulent seed company

Keith Loria Apr. 3, 2009, 11:57am

Andrew Cuomo (D)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has reached a $246,000 settlement that will reimburse farmers who were deceived by an Ontario County seed production company over the quality of seeds that they purchased.

The Democratic attorney general's efforts produced the largest fine ever for a violation of the Agricultural and Markets law in regard to seed sales.

"Farmers depend on accurate seed labeling to operate a successful business and protect their livelihood," Cuomo said. "By mislabeling the quality and class of seeds it sold, this company caused potential detriment to a vital New York industry. With this settlement, farmers will get back money they spent on inferior products and will know that a new standard has been established."

The record-setting settlement requires that Seedway, LLC make refunds on approximately 22,000 bags of falsely labeled seeds. The seeds' type, purity and germination rates were misrepresented.

The agreement requires Seedway to pay $246,000 in refunds to more than 200 consumers and another $100,000 to the state in penalties and costs.
The company must also implement an audited quality assurance program that will set a new standard in the seed industry and provide needed safeguards to ensure the accuracy of future seed labeling. Additionally, Seedway will search its records to identify eligible consumers, determine the amount of refund and send a refund check by May 1.

"This is a landmark settlement for the agricultural community," said New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker. "For several years now, Seedway has deceived farmers by selling premium, certified seed with germination rates well below what was listed on the bag."

The commissioner said the company's fraud cost farmers not only the price of the seed, but also potentially decreased yields.

"However, through the state's extensive investigation, we have secured full reimbursement to affected farmers for misrepresented seed they purchased from Seedway, recovered penalties and costs to the state, and have begun rebuilding and strengthening the state's seed certification program," he said.

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