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Kentucky Ginseng Dealer Pays $15,000 Fine for Federal Violation


November 20, 2007


Tom MacKenzie, 404/679-7291
Bob Snow, 502/582-5989 x29

Jim Gale, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Southeast Region, announced today that on November 20, 2007, Donny Blankenship (Brandenburg, Kentucky) was sentenced in United States District Court, Western District of Kentucky in Louisville, for engaging in the interstate commerce of unlawfully purchased wild ginseng. Blankenship was sentenced to pay a $15,000 fine for a violation of the Lacey Act.

The Lacey Act makes it a federal violation to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any fish, wildlife or plants, taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State.

The investigation, conducted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, in cooperation of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, documented a 95 percent violation rate with the 30% of Kentucky’s ginseng dealers investigated. The most common violations were ginseng dealers buying ginseng outside the established state ginseng season and
the submission of false documents to conceal those out of season purchases. The Kentucky ginseng digging season opens August 15th of each year and the selling season opens September 1. The digging and selling seasons are closed during the spring and summer months. Seasons are established to ensure that ginseng plants reach maturity each year and produce seeds prior to being harvested; thereby ensuring the sustainability of the wild ginseng population.

The wild ginseng trade in Kentucky is a $5-8 million industry. Kentucky is the largest supplier of wild ginseng in the United States, averaging approximately 16% of the national harvest annually. The average wholesale value of wild ginseng to a root digger varies between $300 and $500 per pound; although this past fall, in part due to the late freeze last spring and the dry summer, prices have reached $900 per pound.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture implements the ginseng management program in Kentucky, which is required by Federal regulations in order for Kentucky’s ginseng to be eligible for export from the United States. A high percentage of Kentucky’s ginseng is exported to Southeast Asia where it is used in the medicinal trade.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.


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