Several state agriculture departments have issued alerts regarding unsolicited packages containing seeds arriving in the mail from China.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture issued the following statement Tuesday:
"We are currently working with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to address reports of unsolicited shipments of seeds from foreign countries. Anyone who receives unordered seeds in the mail should contact the Illinois Department of Agriculture by emailing the following information to agr.seeds@Illinois.gov: First and Last Name, Phone Number and the number of packages received. Do not open the package, plant the seeds, or throw them out. Please keep all seeds unopened and with their original packaging and labels, including mailing labels, until further instruction is provided.”
Illinois Farm Bureau officials remain in constant contact with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. This story will be updated as this situation develops.
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The Washington State Department of Agriculture issued a statement noting the packages appear to have come from Chinese origin and contain packages of seeds, although the contents may be described as jewelry.
The concern is the unsolicited seed could possibly be invasive, introduce diseases to local plants or be harmful to livestock. Invasive species can displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops. Taking steps to prevent their introduction is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations, a news release from the Arkansas Department of Agriculture read.
On Friday, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) issued a release when a resident in St. Rose, Louisiana, received an unsolicited package of seeds.
"Right now, we are uncertain what types of seeds are in the package. Out of caution, we are urging anyone who receives a package that was not ordered by the recipient, to please call the LDAF immediately," said Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain, D.V.M. "We need to identify the seeds to ensure they do not pose a risk to Louisiana's agricultural industry or the environment."
The Arkansas Department of Agriculture also issued a notification that the types of seeds in the packages are unknown at this time and may contain some invasive plant species.
Some have suggested that the shipments are a "brushing" campaign, a technique sometimes used in e-commerce to boost a seller's ratings by creating fake orders.
"Whatever the reason for these mailings, it's important to use caution when it comes to unidentified seeds," said South Carolina Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner Derek Underwood, who oversees the agency's Consumer Protection Division. His statement came in a news statement warning about the shipments.
The states ask that you follow these steps if receiving an unsolicited package containing seeds:
- Do not open the seed packets or handle the seeds.
- Do not plant unidentified seeds. They may be invasive species that could displace or destroy native ecosystems.
- Do not discard the seed in the trash.
- Retain the seeds and packaging and put them in a zip-top bag to deliver to regulatory authorities.
Don Robison, of the Indiana State Chemist Office, said it is important those receiving the packets do not simply throw them away. "We want to identify what they are and sending them to a landfill is the equivalent of planting them by placing them into soil and moisture," Robison told DTN. He urged those receiving unsolicited seed packages to contact state authorities.
APHIS issued a statement acknowledging that they are aware that people across the country have received unsolicited packages of seed from China in recent days. "APHIS is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection and State departments of agriculture to prevent the unlawful entry of prohibited seeds and protect U.S. agriculture from invasive pests and noxious weeds," their statement read.