Jan 28, 2022
IFPA, Canadian ag minister meet to discuss trade, trucking issues

On Jan. 27, a delegation from Canada, including Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau, met with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington, D.C. to discuss the ongoing challenges with the latest detections of potato wart in PEI potato fields and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) subsequent actions to shut down the export of seed potatoes to other provinces and countries along with the export of all potatoes to the United States.

“The National Potato Council was informed that during the meeting Secretary Vilsack committed to expeditiously review the disease testing data provided by CFIA and undertake a risk analysis before a decision is made to resume the importation of PEI table stock potatoes to Puerto Rico and the continental United States,” said NPC President and Maine potato grower Dominic LaJoie. “We welcome this commitment as a necessary step to safely resuming normal trade with this important partner.”

NPC CEO Kam Quarles said that to accomplish the goal of resumed trade, NPC is urging CFIA to institute a comprehensive, transparent disease testing plan that will allow it to identify clean PEI fields for export.

“Safe exports must begin with clean fields. Over the past five years, soil testing for potato wart in PEI has dropped substantially, making it difficult to assess the spread of the disease in their production areas. Without reasonable soil testing numbers, it is impossible to know which PEI fields should be cleared for shipment with high confidence that the disease is not present,” said Quarles.

“When these comprehensive soil tests are completed and the data is reviewed, we look forward to starting the process to resume PEI potato exports to the United States. NPC thanks Secretary Vilsack, the entire team at USDA and the Canadian authorities for their work to address this serious plant health disease,” Quarles concluded.

Potato wart is not present in the United States. If it were allowed to become established in U.S. potato production areas in the future, the direct costs would likely be more than $300 million annually and billions more annually in indirect damage.

IFPA also meets with Canadian leaders

International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA) co-CEOs Cathy Burns and Tom Stenzel met with Canadian Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., to discuss supply chain issues critical to fresh produce trade.

IFPA Co-Ceo’s Tom Stenzel and Cathy Burns pictured with Canadian Agricultural Minister, Marie-Claude Bibeau at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Photo: IFPA

Among the topics explored were the very recent enforcement of vaccine requirements for non-citizen transportation drivers entering each nation, U.S. International Trade Commission investigations on the fruit and vegetable trade, as well as phytosanitary concerns like the presence of potato wart in Prince Edward Island.

Exportation of potatoes from Prince Edward Island to the U.S. were suspended in November 2021 after multiple positive tests for potato wart in PEI fields.

“Canada is a key trading partner for the U.S. industry as both an importer and export market for fresh fruits and vegetables,” Stenzel said. “IFPA is committed to global engagement with international bodies to promote free and fair trade, international harmonization of standards, and worldwide growth in fresh produce consumption.”

Burns added: “This was a great opportunity to explore areas of collaboration and cooperation to ensure the movement of produce flows smoothly so that shoppers continue to have year-round choice in the marketplace. Trade barriers don’t just disrupt supplies; they disrupt lives.”

For more information about this meeting or IFPA’s work advocating on behalf of the produce and floral industries, contact Siobhan May, director of communications and public relations at IFPA.

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P.O. Box 128
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