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3668Ratification Number: 561Act Number: 488Introducing Body: HouseSubject: To provide for actions against seed dealers when the seeds they sell do not produce or perform as represented by their labels
(A488, R561, H3668)
AN ACT TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTIONS 46-21-260 AND 46-21-270 SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR ACTIONS AGAINST SEED DEALERS WHEN THE SEEDS THEY SELL DO NOT PRODUCE OR PERFORM AS REPRESENTED BY THEIR LABELS AND TO CREATE AN ARBITRATION COMMITTEE TO ASSIST FARMERS AND SEED DEALERS IN DETERMINING THE VALIDITY OF COMPLAINTS AND TO SET DAMAGES IF ANY.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:
Farmer may file complaint
SECTION 1. The 1976 Code is amended by adding:
"Section 46-21-260. (1) When any farmer is damaged by the failure of agricultural, vegetable, or flower seed to produce or perform as represented by the label attached to the seed, as required by Sections 46-21-210, 46-21-220, and 46-21-240, he may make a sworn complaint against the dealer from whom the seeds were purchased, alleging damages sustained. He shall file the complaint with the Commissioner of Agriculture within twenty days after defect or violation becomes apparent and send a copy of the complaint to the dealer by registered mail. The requirements for filing a complaint must appear legibly typed or printed and attached to the analysis label on the package containing the seed at the time of purchase by the farmer. A filing fee of twenty-five dollars must be paid to the Department of Agriculture with each complaint filed. Within ten days after receipt of a copy of a complaint, the dealer shall file with the commissioner his answer to the complaint and send a copy to the farmer by registered mail. Any seed dealer against whom a complaint is filed for failure of seed to perform as labeled may request an investigation by the investigation committee.
(2) The commissioner shall refer the complaint and the answer to the arbitration committee provided in Section 46-21-270 for investigation, findings, and recommendation on the complaints. Upon receipt of the findings and recommendation of the arbitration committee, the commissioner shall transmit them to the farmer and to the dealer by registered mail."
SECTION 2. The 1976 Code is amended by adding:
"Section 46-21-270. (A) The commissioner shall appoint an arbitration committee composed of five members and five alternate members. One member and one alternate must be appointed upon the recommendation of each of the following: the Dean of Extension, Clemson University; the Dean of Agricultural Research, Clemson University; and the President of the South Carolina Seedsmen's Association. Two members and two alternates must be appointed by the commissioner in his sole discretion. One of the members and one of the alternates appointed must be a farmer who is not connected in any way in selling seeds at retail or wholesale. Each member and each alternate shall serve for a period of one year and until his successor is appointed and qualifies. The committee shall elect a chairman and a secretary from its membership. The chairman shall conduct all meetings and deliberations held by the committee and direct all other activities of the council. The secretary shall keep accurate and correct records of all meetings and deliberations and perform other duties for the committee as directed by the chairman.
(B) The committee shall assist farmers and seed dealers in determining the validity of complaints made by farmers against dealers and recommend cost damages resulting from alleged failure of seed to produce as represented by the labels on the seed packages.
(C) The committee may be called into session by the commissioner or the chairman to consider matters referred to it by the commissioner.
(D) When the commissioner refers to the committee any complaint made by a farmer against a dealer, the committee shall make a full and complete investigation of the matters complained of and at the conclusion of the investigation report its findings and recommendation of cost damages and file them with the commissioner.
(E) In conducting its investigation, the committee or any member may examine the farmer on the farming operation of which he complains and the dealer on his packaging, labeling, and selling operation of the seed alleged to be faulty, grow to production a representative sample of the alleged faulty seed through the facilities of the State under the supervision of the commissioner and Clemson University when the action is considered necessary, hold informal hearings at a time and place directed by the chairman upon reasonable notice to the farmer and the dealer, and seek evaluations from authorities in allied or any other agricultural disciplines, when considered necessary.
(F) Any investigation made by less than the whole membership of the committee must be by authority of a written directive by the chairman and the investigation must be summarized in writing and considered by the committee in reporting its findings and making its recommendation.
(G) The members of the committee shall receive no compensation for the performance of their duties but must be reimbursed for actual travel expenses when they attend a meeting or perform a service required by this section."
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect upon approval by the Governor.