Asgrow Seed Co. v. Winterboer, 513 U.S. 179, 14 (1995)

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192

ASGROW SEED CO. v. WINTERBOER

Opinion of the Court

that the only seed sellable under the exemption is seed saved for the farmer's own replanting, sought to achieve some limitation upon the quantity of seed that can be sold for reproductive purposes by adopting a "crop-by-crop" approach to the "primary farming occupation" requirement of the proviso. "[B]uyers or sellers of brown bag seed qualify for the crop exemption," it concluded, "only if they produce a larger crop from a protected seed for consumption (or other nonre-productive purposes) than for sale as seed." 982 F. 2d, at 490. That is to say, the brown-bag seller can sell no more than half of his protected crop for seed. The words of the statute, however, stand in the way of this creative (if somewhat insubstantial) limitation. To ask what is a farmer's "primary farming occupation" is to ask what constitutes the bulk of his total farming business. Selling crops for other than reproductive purposes must constitute the preponderance of the farmer's business, not just the preponderance of his business in the protected seed. There is simply no way to derive from this text the narrower focus that the Federal Circuit applied. Thus, if the quantity of seed that can be sold is not limited as we have described—by reference to the original purpose for which the seed is saved—then it is barely limited at all (i. e., limited only by the volume or worth of the selling farmer's total crop sales for other than reproductive purposes). This seems to us a most unlikely result.

* * *

We hold that a farmer who meets the requirements set forth in the proviso to 2543 may sell for reproductive purposes only such seed as he has saved for the purpose of re-planting his own acreage. While the meaning of the text is by no means clear, this is in our view the only reading that comports with the statutory purpose of affording "adequate encouragement for research, and for marketing when appropriate, to yield for the public the benefits of new varieties." 7 U. S. C. 2581. Because we find the sales here were un-

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