Feds Could Bar Kentucky From Exporting Ginseng

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Exports of wild American ginseng could be
cut by some 20 percent if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bars
Kentucky from selling the medicinal herb internationally.
Kentucky, the nation's leading producer of ginseng, may have
jeopardized its right to export the highly prized roots by not
adequately policing their harvest and sale, said Pat Ford, a Fish
and Wildlife Service botanist who oversees the nation's ginseng
program.
Touted as a cure-all for everything from headaches to sexual
dysfunction, ginseng is protected under the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species, which requires the
federal government to ensure the roots being exported have been
acquired legally.
But in Kentucky, federal agents have found widespread violations
of U.S. ginseng laws. Last year, they charged 17 ginseng dealers
with illegally purchasing the tiny roots, each of which weighs a
fraction of an ounce. Special agent Bob Snow said those dealers had
purchased roots from undercover officers during the spring and
early summer months when digging is forbidden.
So far, 10 of the people charged have paid fines totaling
$35,000. They also forfeited up to $200,000 worth of roots. None
have been sentenced to jail. Seven others have pleaded guilty and
are scheduled for sentencing in U.S. district court in London on
July 6.
Mac Stone, head of the ginseng program in the state Department
of Agriculture, is urging legislators to toughen state laws against
violators in an effort to convince federal authorities that
Kentucky is serious about regulating the harvest and sale of the
rare plant. Stone told lawmakers this week that inaction could
jeopardize Kentucky's wild ginseng trade, which generates $5
million to $8 million a year in supplemental revenue for rural
families, primarily in impoverished eastern Kentucky mountain
communities.


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