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Seed relabeling still common, according to new Farmers Business Network report

Companies commonly sell the same variety under multiple brand names.

Seed relabeling – a practice in which the same variety is sold under multiple brand names – is still common in the corn and soybean seed industry, according to a report released this morning by Farmers Business Network (FBN).

“There’s still a large percentage of companies that are selling seed that’s the same genetic profile under different [branded] products,” says Brad Roberts, FBN senior product marketing manager.

By itself, FBN officials note that relabeling is neither good nor bad. Instead, it’s the lack of price transparency it creates that can fuel two negative outcomes, say FBN officials.

  • Farmers may be overpaying for seed. Since companies sell the same variety under different brands at different prices, farmers may be paying more for seed without realizing that other brands consisting of the same variety may be priced lower. 
  • Farmers may end up with lack of genetic diversity. A variety sold under multiple brands can result in a farmer unknowingly buying and planting the same variety. This nixes plans to spread agronomic risk by planting several different varieties across a farm. 

Report Highlights

This is the fourth FBN seed relabeling analysis since its first one debuted in 2017. FBN officials say these reports pierce the traditional opaque world of corn and soybean seed pricing. In the first edition, FBN collected 8,000 seed tags for 4,200 unique seed products sold by 155 seed companies from its 7,000 farmer-members. FBN cross-matched variety IDs from the seed tags with its seed data base. It found 45% of corn and 53% of soybean seeds analyzed were sold by multiple companies.

In one case, one corn hybrid was sold by 15 companies. FBN also found 6% of farmers who submitted seed tags bought the same variety from multiple brands. 

The 2021 report covers a wider scope. FBN members contributed 35,000 seed tags of more than 8,000 predominantly corn and soybean seed varieties sold by 270 seed companies.

To contribute data, FBN members could use the FBN mobile app to take a picture of the seed tag and submit it to FBN. “The more data we have, the clearer picture and more insights we can provide to members,” says Roberts.

The FBN report found that:

  • 49% of corn seed products are relabeled.
  • 57% of soybean seed products are relabeled.
  • 21% of corn acres are planted to relabeled genetics.
  • 24% of soybean acres are planted to relabeled genetics.
  • 73% of FBN members planted relabeled seed products
  • 6% of FBN members bought the same seed from multiple companies.
  • 99% of FBN members bought seeds from companies that relabel.

Relabeling also occurs for seed varieties that feature new traits. The FBN report found that the relabeling rates for the following respective traits are:

  • 44% for corn products with the Qrome trait. *
  • 80% for soybean products with the Enlist E3 herbicide-tolerant trait.
  • 75% for soybean products with the LLGT27 trait.

The FBN report also found relabeling was prevalent for new seed companies that included:

  • Zinesto soybeans, 100%
  • Brevant corn, 75%
  • Apex soybeans, 95%

The report also breaks down the maximum observed dollar-per-bag difference for the average price on an identically relabeled seed product in 10 states. Price differences widely varied between states. In Wisconsin, price differences tallied just $3 per bag of seed corn. The range was much wider in Indiana, where an $83-per-bag difference resulted. In soybeans, the price range difference was just $2 per bag in Wisconsin. However, a $24-per-bag price difference occurred in Kansas.

Making Better Decisions

Roberts adds FBN reports like this aren’t possible without its members contributing data into the network. “That information helps our data science team to provide insightful reports like this,” he says.

Roberts adds this information is aimed at helping FBN members make better decisions. “We want to provide information to customers and put information at their fingertips that they can use to make the best decision possible,” he says. “The seed purchase decision is probably the most important, if not the most important decision that they’re going to make in, in the next season.”

Farmers who want to join FBN may sign up here. 

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