South Dakota officials warn against planting ‘phantom’ seeds that people haven’t ordered

Capitol News Bureau

Several Virginia residents have informed the department that they have received packages in the mail containing seeds that appear to have come from China. In an email, the department states that the type of seeds in the packages are unknown and “may be invasive plant species.” (photos provided by the VDACS)

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — If you’ve received seeds in the mail that you didn’t order, don’t plant them.

That was the message Tuesday from the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We’re not sure (of) the intent behind this activity, but I urge the public to refrain from planting these seeds as invasive species can have devastating effects on South Dakota agriculture,” warned Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden. He is state government’s interim secretary of agriculture.

What people should do instead, according to Rhoden, is save the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label.

Then they should contact the South Dakota Department of Agriculture by calling 605-773-5425 or email a message to agmail@state.sd.us, giving your name, phone number, date received, and number of packages.

The packages reportedly have arrived by mail in various parts of United States and appear to have been sent from China containing unsolicited seeds that could be invasive species and might introduce diseases to other plants or cause harm to livestock.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also issued a statement Tuesday morning that it was working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, other federal agencies, and state-level departments of agriculture to investigate.

But it might just be a crude internet trick.

“At this time, we don’t have any evidence indicating this is something other than a ‘brushing scam’ where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales,” the APHIS statement said.

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

APHIS operates a smuggling interdiction and trade-compliance program.

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