Two of the inspectors from the state Department of Agriculture recently quarantined nine boxes of potato seeds at a Lincoln True Value hardware store
The store's owners didn't have paperwork needed to prove the seeds were free of the Columbia root-knot nematode worm. That pest eats the roots of plants like grasses, legumes and cereals.
"We take seriously the need to protect our potato industry here in this state," State Ag Department spokeswoman Christin Kamm said.
Nebraska farmers grow about 20,000 acres of potatoes each year. Nebraska's potato crop is much smaller than the 345,000 acres Idaho plants as the nation's top producer.
But Nebraska's small, spread-out potato crop helps limit disease and makes the state a good seed producer, said Steven Marquardt of the Nebraska Potato Certification Association of Nebraska.
Ever since 2002, Nebraska officials have inspected potatoes that come from states known to be infected with the nematode. Those states include California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and parts of Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.
The state Agriculture Department has completed about 100 inspections this year and already found 15 batches of undocumented potatoes, said Julie Van Meter, who oversees the program.
Last year, no violations were found in 96 inspections. Van Meter said it's unclear why more violations were found this year.