Officials receive reports of Oklahomans being mailed unsolicited seeds from China, warn not to open packages
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched an investigation after reports of individuals receiving unsolicited seeds from China came flooding into the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry, and many other agencies across the nation over the weekend.
Morgan Vance, the Public Information Officer for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food and Forestry (ODAFF), said the department began receiving reports of Oklahomans being mailed seeds from China that they did not order this weekend.
The number of reports received has not been disclosed at this time. However, Vance said the reports have been coming from every area of Oklahoma. The seeds are sent in packages typically stating that the contents are jewelry.
Vance said the USDA and APHIS, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, are taking the issue very seriously, but are still early on in their investigation and much of the situation is still unclear at this time.
“Our ultimate goal is to protect agriculture producers in the state, so we’re taking it seriously too and I expect to have a better grasp of the situation in the next couple of days,” Vance said.
This type of activity is known as agricultural smuggling. According to the USDA, the United States bans imports of certain agricultural and wildlife goods that may pose unique risks to the environment or the agricultural economy.
Unsolicited seeds could be invasive, introduce diseases to local plants or be harmful to livestock. Anyone who receives seeds in the mail that they did not purchase should not plant them, and should avoid opening the packaging.
ODAFF is also asking that individuals report receiving unsolicited seeds to the USDA and maintain the seeds and packaging until the USDA provides instructions on what to do with the packages. The items may be needed as evidence.
The USDA Antismuggling Hotline is 800-877-3835 and their email is SITC.Mail@aphis.usda.gov. According to ODAFF, the USDA will make every attempt to protect the confidentiality of any information sources during an investigation within the extent of the law.
For the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture’s records, individuals are asked to send an email explaining their location and any additional information about the package and seeds to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
For additional information, contact ODAFF by calling Kaci Hubbell at (405) 522-5971 or Joe Rackley at (405) 205-2709.
“We just started receiving these reports over the weekend from Oklahomans, so we should have more information in the next couple of days,” Vance said. “The USDA is really quick on any kind of invasive species or any kind of pest reports, they take it seriously.”