A U.S Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service National Identification Services botanist examined seeds from an unsolicited package of seeds under a microscope.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture currently suspects the unsolicited seeds sent to people in several states are part of a “brushing scam” where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts fake customer reviews to boost online sales.

The USDA is currently collecting seed packages from recipients and will continue to test their contents and determine if they contain anything that could be of concern to U.S. agriculture or the environment.

The USDA announced in late July some preliminary findings on samples of those seeds, many of which originated from China.

In a July 29 USDA Radio Newsline, Osama El-Lissy of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection program said that some of the unsolicited seed packets the APHIS has evaluated have contained several plant species, including flowers, herbs, and vegetables, and identified mustard, cabbage, morning glory, rose, hibiscus, mint, rosemary and lavender among the seed packages.

As of Aug. 5, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection had received more than 1,200 reports of unsolicited seeds coming from state residents, DATCP Secretary-designee Randy Romanski said during an Aug. 6 conference call with agricultural media.

“The number of reports rises almost constantly. The reports we’re getting continue to come in,” Romanski said. “We do appreciate the many people who have reported unsolicited seeds and other packages to us.”

Romanski said DATCP shares the information with the USDA, which follows up with anyone who has received a package. Packages can be reported at datcp.wi.gov. For items other than seeds, contact DATCP’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-422-7128 or email datcphotline@wisconsin.gov to file a complaint.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture had received more than 700 reports of citizens getting unsolicited seed packages in the mail as of July 31.

The packages have contained a variety of seeds, according to a news release from the Department. Seed analysts with the MDA Laboratory have identified some as cosmos, radish, mung bean, juniper, basil, cucurbit, and zinnia.

While these are not seeds from invasive plants, seeds may carry disease and pests can hide in packaging. So far, there is no indication these unsolicited seeds have gone through appropriate inspection or that they are properly labeled, the news release said.

Farm Support Program

Applications for the Wisconsin Farm Support Program are now open at https://tap.revenue.wi.gov/farm. Applications will be accepted through Aug. 24.

The program has $8.4 million still available to support Wisconsin farmers who have been impacted by COVID-19.

The Wisconsin Farm Support Program was announced by Gov. Tony Evers in May 2020. The program provided a total of $50 million in direct payments to support Wisconsin farmers who have faced financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

DATCP, the state Department of Revenue, and the governor’s office developed the eligibility requirements of the program in partnership with more than a dozen groups representing Wisconsin farmers. Following the first round of the program in June 2020, $41.6 million was distributed to nearly 12,000 farmers in 71 Wisconsin counties.

Producers of any commodity are eligible to apply if they had gross income from farming between $10,000 and $5 million in 2019 and they did not already receive a payment in the first round of the program.

Payments are expected to be issued by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue in mid-September. The specific amount producers will receive will be determined once the application period closes.

Anyone with questions or needing help with the application can call 608-266-2772.