Recently, some residents may have been receiving unsolicited seeds from China, which should not be planted or used in any way. Instead, Hillsborough County residents who received these unsolicited packages of suspicious seeds in the mail may bring the packets to the Hillsborough County Extension Service three days a week.
Extension Service staff will accept the seeds on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Residents who are unable to drop off the seeds during these times can call 744-5519 for additional instructions. The Extension Service is located at 5339 County Rd. 579 in Seffner.
The arrival in mailboxes across the country of suspicious seed packets that appear to have come from China has generated headlines and prompted an alert from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA is working closely with other federal agencies and state departments of agriculture to investigate the deliveries.
The USDA believes at this time that the packages, reportedly sometimes containing other items such as silverware and fidget spinners, are a ‘brushing scam’ where people receive unsolicited items from a seller who then posts false customer reviews to boost sales. The seeds should not be planted or used in any other way.
Seeds of unknown origin may constitute agricultural smuggling, be invasive, introduce pathogens or toxins, pose a risk of foodborne illness or threaten plant and animal health, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Residents should bring only seed/plant material packets and their original packaging to the Extension Service office. Any other items that may have been contained in the packages can be discarded. The seeds are being collected by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which is assisting in the nationwide investigation.
So far, the Hillsborough County Extension Service has been sent four seed packages from local residents.
People in possession of unopened packages or packages containing other non-agricultural items should contact the USDA APHIS Anti-Smuggling Hotline at 800-877-3835 or SITC.firstname.lastname@example.org.