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Dangers of selling Farm Saved Seed

View profile for Julie Robinson
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The Seed Regulations 2011 make it clear that in respect of Farm Saved Seed (FSS), only the farmer who grew this seed can use it and it must not be marketed or supplied to any other person (Schedule 4, Part 1 (3)). 

We are aware that the winter sown cereal area is smaller than usual this year and some of what has been planted has been damaged by the extended period of wet weather in late 2023/early 2024. Farmers who are unable to plant winter wheat may be looking to plant Spring barley. However, sourcing certified Spring barley seed from merchants is nigh on impossible given the shortage across England. 

This problem has been exacerbated as most of Western Europe has encountered the same issue in the light of the very wet weather, and so there is a very low supply of certified Spring Barley across the EU. A derogation to permit farm to farm trading of FSS was sought by the EFRA commons committee but this has been refused by the Defra Minister, Mark Spencer.

The problem
The Seed Regulations are a critical part of the UK’s plant health regime. The overriding objective is to assure the quality of marketed seed through a statutory certification framework for the main agricultural and vegetable crops. Farmer to farmer sales of FFS would constitute an offence under the Regulations and farmers selling FFS could be investigated and prosecuted.

The solution 
As a derogation for farmer to farmer sales has been refused by the Minister what other options are there for farmers?  One solution could be for the farmer without seed to let the fields he would have planted this spring to a farmer with FSS. This would mean that those fields become part of the FSS-owning farmer’s holding; that farmer can then plant their FSS as permitted under the Regulations. Whilst this may seem a unusual solution -  moving land into a holding rather than the seed off a holding - it will avoid a breach of the Regulations and offers a practical solution for farmers struggling to source seed.   

If you would like further advice on the impact of the Regulations please do get in touch with Julie Robinson, Hannah Leese or Rebecca Ironmonger.