BOISE, Idaho (AP) — One of the owners of an Idaho seed company has pleaded guilty to mislabeling seeds as organic even though they contained fungicides and pesticides.
Roza Saul, co-owner of Saul Farms, marketing as Bliss Seeds, pleaded guilty last week to the single misdemeanor count of selling a product that was misbranded.
Saul's 180-acre farm in Bliss, Idaho, grew alfalfa seed, malting barley, corn seed and beans, according to the plea agreement. Between 2010 and 2015, the company applied for and secured organic certifications from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture and Nature's International Certification Services to produce and handle organic alfalfa seeds.
During that period, organic alfalfa seed sold for more than $1 more per pound than non-organic seed.
In 2010, the farm bought about 66,400 pounds of non-organic alfalfa seeds and resold it to customers as organic seeds for about $182,000, the agreement said. The company bought about 305,000 pounds of non-organic seed in 2011 and resold it as organic for about $891,661, the agreement said.
The company continued this practice of buying non-organic seed and reselling it as organic each year until 2015. The company defrauded their customers by about $1.9 million, the agreement said.
On Feb. 23, 2015, Saul Farms sent an interstate shipment of "organic" alfalfa seed to Wisconsin, but on Feb. 12, 2016, the shipment tested positive for fungicides and pesticides, the agreement said.
The penalty for the charge of misbranding a food product is a maximum of one year in prison, probation of up to five years and a $1,000 fine.
The plea agreements states that Saul must pay $1.9 million in restitution.
She is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Boise on Tuesday for a plea agreement hearing.