Dec 16, 2021
Canadian Food Inspection Agency updates PEI potato wart situation

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency released the following statement Dec. 13 regarding the potato wart situation involving Prince Edward Island:

“The Government of Canada is standing firm in the interests of Prince Edward Island (PEI) potato farmers in discussions with the United States and is working with the PEI Government on all possible ways to resume trade and minimize the impact on affected potato farmers, including recent adjustments to ensure farmers are able to take full advantage of the AgriStability program.

RELATED: All fresh potato shipments from PEI to U.S. suspended

“In a detailed technical briefing held today with the provincial PEI Government, including Premier Dennis King, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) outlined their continued engagement with the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to advance Canada’s position that, based on the science, the trade of fresh potatoes from PEI remains safe when appropriate risk mitigation measures are in place. The technical briefing responds to the standing offer from the CFIA for transparent information sharing with the province and follows weeks of close communication and collaboration between both governments and the potato industry.

“APHIS has indicated they are seeking clear scientific data in order to be assured that resuming trade is safe. The CFIA is working with APHIS to provide the required information such as the outcome of the CFIA’s investigation and all relevant information regarding the recent detections of potato wart. APHIS has also asked for clear risk mitigation measures and an ongoing monitoring plan for a clearly-defined quarantined area. The PEI Government has an important role to play assuring regulated fields have proper restrictions in place to contain the possible spread of virus and appropriate biosecurity practices are applied. Both countries also agreed to collaborate on the review being undertaken by APHIS on their pest risk assessment, which informs APHIS decisions on pest management.

“These efforts follow the Nov. 21, 2021 CFIA suspension of export certificates for fresh potatoes from PEI to the U.S. in response to U.S. concerns. This action was made at the request of the U.S. in order to avoid the implementation of a U.S. Federal Order that would prohibit the import of potatoes from PEI, which would be very challenging to overturn. In order to resume trade, the CFIA is redoubling their efforts to work through the scientific evidence with APHIS to provide the reassurances they need.

“The Government of Canada is also working urgently to explore all avenues of support for affected PEI farmers in collaboration with the provincial government.

RELATED: NPC’s Quarles pens op-ed on potato wart situation

“The Government of Canada and the Province of PEI made important adjustments to the AgriStability program, which protects producers against large declines in farming income. Together, they agreed to allow late participation under AgriStability, which means producers who did not enroll for the 2021 program year can sign-up now and still access this important income support. Furthermore, the two governments agreed to increase the interim payments of AgriStability, so that producers can now apply for up to 75% of their anticipated payment, up from 50%. Producers have access to a suite of other Business Risk Management (BRM) programs to help them manage issues, and both governments will continue exploring all avenues to minimize the impact for affected PEI farmers.”

Said Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food: “Our Government is working diligently with the United States to resume trade for PEI fresh potatoes, and is exploring all avenues to minimize the impact on affected PEI farmers. We know how important this issue is to the lives of many Islanders, and we take it extremely seriously. We believe in the science that says the U.S. demands go beyond what is needed to manage risk, and that, with the proper measures in place, the trade of PEI fresh potatoes is safe. In order to resume trade, however, the CFIA must work through the scientific evidence with the U.S. to give them the reassurances needed. As we continue to work through challenges, these adjustments to the AgriStability program are an important step to supporting PEI farmers.”

National Potato Council statement

The U.S. National Potato Council (NPC) issued the following statement Dec. 16:

“We were pleased to sit down with Premier Dennis King and a delegation from Prince Edward Island this morning for a conversation about safely and efficiently restoring trade with this important province for both the U.S. and Canadian potato industries.

“During the meeting, the National Potato Council reiterated that this is a plant health issue, not a trade dispute, and we strongly support the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) commitment to protect the U.S. potato industry from this devastating disease. We understand that APHIS is requiring that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) provide comprehensive data indicating where potato wart resides in PEI production areas. Based on that information, CFIA and APHIS can agree on clearly defined quarantine zones, additional mitigation efforts, and comprehensive monitoring measures. We further understand that all of these requirements need to be in place to enable trade to resume safely.

“Since potato wart was detected in PEI’s seed production in 2020, soil sampling performed by CFIA has declined by 49%. This troubling decrease in testing in the face of such potentially damaging detections has left the industries on both sides of the border with uncertainties about the potential spread of this virulent disease. During the meeting, we asked Premier King for his commitment to work with CFIA to develop comprehensive quarantine, testing, and mitigation plans to ensure trade is quickly resumed.

“On behalf of the U.S. potato industry, we thank Premier King for taking his time to travel to Washington, D.C. to work towards a resolution. The ultimate solution in satisfying the plant health experts at APHIS involves aggressive testing, quarantining, enhanced mitigation, and monitoring efforts. We look forward to discussing these plans once they are provided to USDA by CFIA with the goal of resuming trade with this important partner.”

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