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Seed Sharing Legislation Updates

5/19/15

We're proud to be part of the team of advocates that has successfully changed the seed law to allow community-based seed sharing in Minnesota! On May 19, the governor signed the final bill. Thank you to everyone who worked to make this possible!  Read more!

4/3/15

We're pleased to report that interpersonal seed-sharing will soon be legal in Minnesota! After several months of meetings and advocacy, language in state statute will exempt noncommercial interpersonal seed-sharing from the restrictive regulations in the Minnesota's seed law. The language has been included in the Agriculture Omnibus Bill and adopted by respective House and Senate committees. After our negotiations, we expect that it will pass without any challenges. 

The need for this legislation arose in 2014, after the Minnesota Department of Agriculture interpreted the state seed law applying to the non-commercial sharing of seeds facilitated by the Duluth Seed Library. When news about the restrictive impact on seed sharing became clear, a group of organizations across Minnesota coalesced to advocate for changes to the state seed law that recognized the importance of locally adapted seeds and people’s rights to share seeds within their communities.

The state-wide members of this group, including Institute for a Sustainable Future, St. Paul Ramsey County Food and Nutrition Council, St Paul's West Side Seed Library, Gardening Matters, Do it Green! Minnesota, Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council, and Duluth Public Library supported the proposed legislation and applaud Senator Roger Reinert for his leadership to promote healthy, more resilient, local food systems. 

3/2/15

Senator Reinert (Duluth) introduced S.F. 949, amending the MN Seed Law to allow interpersonal sharing of seeds and create exemptions for community-based seed sharing. 

As a resident of Minnesota, you have the chance to make history by helping to pass first-of-its-kind legislation to change the Minnesota Seed Law and permanently protect community-based, non-commercial seed sharing within the state. As a result of the advocacy by several organizations across the state of Minnesota from Duluth to St. Paul to Minneapolis, Senator Roger Reinert (Dist. 7) has introduced legislation, SF 949, to exempt interpersonal seed sharing and seed micro-enterprises from the Minnesota Seed Law!

Now, it's time to pick up the phone and call the legislators in the Senate Jobs, Agriculture, and Rural Development Committee and tell them that you support SF 949 and that you want them to do the same. The bill will be heard in Committee on Wednesday, March 4th at 2pm in Room 112, so we need you to make this call TODAY!

If you've never called a legislator before, don't worry - it's easy! All you need to do is give them your name and the city you live in, and mention that you support SF 949 and want to encourage that the legislator votes in favor of the bill at the hearing. That's it! It may not sound like much, but it will be an extremely powerful message coming from all of you collectively. And remember, always be polite and respectful.

An important tip - If one of the Senators below represents the district you live in, call them first! Legislators are most influenced by public input from their own constituents. If you don't know who your State Senator is, click here to find out.

Here is a list of the legislators who serve on the Senate Jobs, Agriculture, and Rural Development Committee and their phone numbers:

Make one call today and you'll help protect seed libraries and seed swappers across the state of Minnesota and potentially set a precedent for legislation that can be adopted in states across the country!

2/9/15

Last week, the MN Dept. of Agriculture hosted a listening session for those of us working on changes to the seed law. Senator Roger Reinert and Representative Karen Clark joined to talk about crafting the best possible changes to the current law.

After a very productive conversation, we are hopeful that we have legislative language that protects both community-based seed-sharing activities and farmers. In the coming weeks, look for legislation to be introduced that will allow for community-based seed sharing. 

Thank you to the MN Dept. of Agriculture and to Senator Reinert for their responsive leadership on this important issue! We will continue to follow legislation as it is introduced and makes its way through committee. 

Read all updates HERE!

We will try to have the most up-to-date information here, so you can stay tuned to any other citizen action that may be helpful! 

1/22/15

Many thanks to everyone who has voiced their support for changes to the MN Seed Law. Senator Roger Reinert (DFL, District 7), has introduced a bill that would change the MN Seed Law to allow for seed libraries. However, the current proposed changes don't go far enough to ensure community-based seed sharing is also allowed. The group listed below will be working with Senator Reinert, the Dept. of Agriculture, and others to amend this law to ensure community-based seed saving is supported with any legislative changes. View our current proposed language here.

Letters of support for these changes are welcome! If you'd like to sign on to a letter of support, please contact Nadja.

12/18/15

You may have heard or read about the Duluth Seed Library's visit from the Department of Agriculture on Minnesota Public Radio recently. Duluth has a library very similar to seed libraries in the Twin Cities, and they have been informed by the MN Dept. of Agriculture that they are in violation of the state Seed Law. You can read a detailed FAQ about the seed law and the actual violation on their website here. Many gardeners have expressed concern about how this action and the MN Seed Law affects gardeners ability to save and share seeds in a community-based setting.

In the last two weeks, a small group has been in conversation to talk about how to best advocate for positive change. The group includes: Jamie Harvie, Institute for Sustainable Futures and Seed Library in Duluth
Carla Powers, Librarian at the Duluth Public Library
Jahn Hibbs, Duluth Community Garden Program
John Torgrimson, Seed Saver's Exchange
Neil Thapar, Sustainable Economies Law Center, offering legal support to states dealing with seed law challenges
Tamara Downs-Schwei, Local Food Policy Coordinator, City of Minneapolis
Russ Henry, Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council Chair
Sarah Foster, Seed Library in St. Paul and
Nadja Berneche, Gardening Matters and the Saint Paul/Ramsey County Food and Nutrition Commission

On December 18th, we were invited to attend a meeting of the Department of Agriculture's Seed Program Advisory Group meeting to dialogue about the challenges posed by the MN Seed Law and discuss potential ways to move forward. We thank the Department of Agriculture, and especially Steve Malone, for his transparency about the Seed Law and his willingness to talk about ways the Department of Agriculture can support community-based seed sharing. It is important to note that the Department of Agriculture has NO interest in exercising punitive measures (fining, shutting down, seizing seeds, etc) towards any community-based seed sharing activity.

We were pleased to share the Minnesota Food Charter and its support for community-based seed sharing activities:

 

There are two places in the Charter that specifically refer to seed access:
1) Food Availability Strategies: 
"Strengthen community food assets, including community gardens, seed banks, community kitchens, and community-supported agriculture farms."
2) Food Skills Strategies:
"Establish accessible, adequate gardening plots, equipment-lending libraries, garden education options, and seed and seedling giveaways."

 

As a result of the actions so far, the Department of Agriculture is open to recommendations on how to appropriately amend the existing seed law. In terms of future action, we expect to be able to circulate proposed language for legislative changes drafted by the Sustainable Economies Law Center very soon.

Our goals are to:

(1) Change the definition of "sell" to exclude any non-commercial exchange of seeds

(2) To exempt community-based seed-sharing, including seed libraries, from the labeling, testing, and permitting sections of the law.

When there are hearings or opportunities for public comment, we will be sure to post those. This community input will be very important in influencing the final product of legislative action. We are hopeful that changes will be made this legislative session.

On Monday, Dec. 15th, Duluth's City Council unanimously approved a resolution in support of the Duluth seed library, as well as encouraging changes to the MN Seed Law to support seed libraries in legislation. We encourage other city councils to pass resolutions of support. We are already working with the Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to introduce these resolutions. Several organizations (Gardening Matters, Saint Paul/ Ramsey County Food and Nutrition Commission, Do It Green, and Homegrown Minneapolis) have already written letters of support for changes in the Seed Law.

If you are part of an organization that would be willing to add a letter of support or sign-on to Gardening Matters letter, please do so! You can base your letter of support on the letters linked here! Contact Nadja to sign on to Gardening Matters letter, or contact Jamie to submit a separate letter from your organization. Please also sign the online petition from the Sustainable Economies Law Center - www.legalizeseeds.org and share this with your networks and in organizational newsletters as appropriate.