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Seed Sales Halted Between U.S. and Canada

A lack of national nematode surveys has led to further restrictions on the movement of seed potatoes between the United States and Canada. The first phase of the protocols – developed by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency – went into effect March 21, requiring all shipments of seed potatoes to include a phytosanitary certificate based on recent soil tests.

The restrictions are the result of last year’s identification of pale cyst nematode (PCN) in Idaho and golden nematode in Quebec. The Idaho infestation is believed to be contained at low levels in seven fields, but golden nematode has been found in about 140 fields at higher levels. Neither country has a complete survey, although the United States has partial survey data.

“The situations are dramatically different, but in the end everyone has to take the same medicine,” said John Keeling, executive vice president and CEO of the National Potato Council.

The announcement comes as seed growers are already beginning to ship seed across the border, and it caught many by surprise.

“It is really affecting our export business,” said John Könst of Dutch Potato Farm in Outlook, Saskatchewan. “It was a big surprise.”

He said the nematode problems have been known in both countries for some time, and compared the halt to Canada shutting off oil pipelines into the United States in winter.

“Why in the middle of the shipping season?” he said.

Könst already is shipping seed to U.S. customers. He said the inspection process was done quickly – it took three to four days to get the test results back from the testing facility in Ottawa.

Inspections of U.S. farms are done by state agencies, but the goal is to have a more complete survey for the 2008 season.

Originally posted Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2007

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