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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Buyer and Seller Responsibilities

What do I need to know before buying or selling seeds online?

A person or business located in the United States that buys seed for planting from another country through an e-commerce site is considered an importer. A person or business that sells seed for planting from another country through an e-commerce site is an exporter. The unique responsibilities of buyers (importers) and sellers (exporters) are described below.

Before purchasing seed for planting from another country via an e-commerce site, the buyer (importer) must:

  1. Apply for and obtain an import permit from APHIS (See Required Documents).
  2. Request shipping labels, if required under the permit conditions (See Required Documents).
  3. Inform the seller about the labeling and shipping requirements detailed in the permit (See Required Documents).
  4. Instruct the seller to include an invoice that states the scientific name and quantity of seeds in the parcel (See Required Documents).
  5. Ensure the seller has a phytosanitary certificate from the National Plant Protection Organization of the country of origin.
  6. Instruct the seller to use labels provided by the buyer to ensure seed to be delivered to an APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine Plant Inspection Station.
Important: It is the buyer’s responsibility to make sure the seller complies with shipping and labeling requirements described in the permit.

Before shipping seeds into the United States, the seller must:

  1. Obtain an original phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin (See Required Documents) .
  2. Pack the seeds in approved packing material (see the list of approved packing material in the APHIS Plants for Planting Manual).
  3. Ensure the seeds are free from soil.
  4. Label and invoice the seeds according to all applicable requirements (See Required Documents).
  5. Include a copy of the permit (provided by the buyer/importer) in the package.

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