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Duluth library modifies seed sharing as it waits for law to change

The seed sharing program at the Duluth Public Library is continuing, in a modified form, while a measure to make it exempt from state seed laws wends its way through the current session of the state Legislature. (News Tribune / file)

The seed sharing program at the Duluth Public Library is continuing, in a modified form, while a measure to make it exempt from state seed laws wends its way through the current session of the state Legislature.

"We have changed our procedures to comply with the law," said Carla Powers, manager at the Duluth Public Library. "Basically we are loaning out seeds that we purchased from commercial suppliers rather than seeds that were donated by local gardeners."

The seed library was launched last year and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture soon took interest, saying the library needed to follow state law by purchasing a $50 seed-dealing license, documenting where all its seeds come from, listing what percentage of seed is contaminated with weed and determining what the germination rate is for each seed lot.

That's more than the library was willing to take on for its simple sharing system.

A change in the law, authored by state Sen. Roger Reinert of Duluth, would make "sharing" programs exempt from the state law. Current language in the law includes "giveaway" programs among those required to adhere by the strict rules.

"Some language is being included in ... agriculture bills that will exempt seed libraries and interpersonal seed exchanges from any labeling, testing and permitting requirements," Powers said. "Once the bills pass we should be able to start operating the seed library as we had originally envisioned it."

The change was introduced by Reinert and now sits with the Senate's Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. After hearing from those with some questions about the exemption — commercial seed sellers and the MDA — language was worked out to satisfy all parties, Reinert said. The House has yet to place any change in its ag bill. Reinert said a conference committee among members of both houses following Senate passage probably would result in the change mirrored in both omnibus bills.

"It's a green-light go," he said.

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