How To Export Seeds To The USA

Are you a Canadian seed grower who is thinking about getting a seed contract from a US seed company? Are you a US seed company looking to tap into the fantastic network of Canadian seed growers?

But you’re wondering how to navigate the US / Canada border?

Don’t worry, it is usually easier than you think!

Let’s go over the basic steps to get a phytosanitary certificate from CFIA (the Canadian Food Inspection Agency).

Please note the information in this post refers to Canadian seed being sent to the United States. The same information does NOT apply to US seed being imported into Canada. This information does NOT apply to shipping seed from other countries to the US, either.

It should also be noted that this article is for information purposes only. Please contact your local CFIA office to confirm this information. Certain crops might have different requirements, and requirements change over time!


6 Steps To Export Your Seeds To The USA

1. Verify Requirements For Specific Crops

The steps I describe in this post refer to when all you need is a phytosanitary certificate to export seeds to the US.

If you are exporting vegetable or flower seeds and the size of your seed lots are less than the amounts listed in these tables, and your seed is clean of soil and debris, a phyto should be all you need.

Nonetheless, you should confirm this information with your local CFIA office before shipping seeds to the US or planning to grow a seed crop that is only destined to be exported.

Call or e-mail you local CFIA office, with the species name and weight of each seed lot you want to export. They will confirm whether a phyto is all you need and help you navigate any additional requirement.

It is a good idea to verify requirements on an annual basis to make requirements haven’t changed since the last time you exported seeds. Here is a full list of current requirements of importing seeds into the US.

2. Agree With Client On Associated Costs

Once you have an idea of the requirements and the associated fees make sure to contact your client and explain these costs.

It is important for the seed buyer to agree to the associated costs before you start the application process. This is even more important If you are growing a seed lot that is only destined to this buyer!

We usually charge a $25 to $45 fee to get a phyto. We determine the amount base on how many lots we need to prepare and if there any extra hoops we need to jump through.

3. Apply For Phytosanitary Certificate

Each shipment to the US will need one phyto for the whole lot. If you are shipping the same lot in multiple orders to the US, you will need a separate phyto for each order with the lot listed on each phyto.

Here’s how you apply

  • Download form CFIA 3369 from the CFIA forms catalogue
  • Fill out form CFIA 3369
  • Schedule appointment at least 2 business days from the day you submit the form
  • E-mail form CFIA 3369 to your local CFIA inspection office

Generally you won’t receive a confirmation that the form has been received unless there is a problem. Sometimes the morning of the inspection, the inspector might call to confirm the time and location of the inspection. Sometimes they just show up.


4. Get Ready For Inspection

  • Pack each lot in a transparent bag
  • Verify one last time that the seed is indeed clean!
  • Label each bag with variety name, species name, lot #, and weight.
  • Place all lots for one order in the box in which it will be shipped.

5. Have Seed Inspected By Inspector

If you’ve done everything right up to now, the inspection is the easy part!

The CFIA inspector will come into our office and look at the lots. If the seed lots are clean and have no dirt or debris; and the seed does not look adulterated by disease or treatment, it should pass the visual inspection.

Once you’ve paid the fess, the inspector will give you a phyto certificate for the order.


6. Prepare To Ship Seeds

  • Keep a copy of the phyto for your own records.
  • Attach a copy of the phyto & a copy of the invoice to the outside of package.
  • Pack original phyto & a copy of the invoice in package.
  • Indicate on custom form that the package contains seeds and their value, also indicate that a phytosanitary certificate is included in the package.
  • Ship that order!


Now you are ready to go out and export seeds to the US!

If you have want to share any experience you’ve had exporting seeds in to the US or other countries, I would love to hear from you. Please contact me directly or leave a comment on this post.


2 thoughts on “How To Export Seeds To The USA

  1. I contacted the CFIA inspector before signing any contract (so well in advance, in February). They already have a list of species and quantities that are going to be exported. That gave them time to look up some species they weren’t familiar with/weren’t listed and give approval. I’m hoping it will make the process even smoother comes November when seeds need to be shipped and arrive on time! I really want to avoid any unnecessary delays!

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