Feb 7, 2022
US potato orgs support APHIS assessment on UK minituber imports

The National Potato Council and 13 state potato organizations wrote to USDA APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea to thank the agency for its strong support in ensuring that science-based measures are consistently applied to both imports of potatoes into the U.S. and by trading partners when seeking market access for U.S. fresh potatoes.

In particular, the group wrote that regarding a market access request for U.K. mini-tubers, published Dec. 16, 2021, it believes the agency fairly identified the substantial pest risks involved in allowing U.K. mini-tubers to be imported to the U.S. The APHIS assessment identified eight organisms that have high likelihood of introduction to the U.S. via these mini-tubers and an additional three pests of medium likelihood.

“Should one or more of the identified pests be introduced into U.S. potato production, the phytosanitary and economic damage to the U.S. potato industry would be substantial. It is highly likely that all or a portion of the export markets that U.S. potatoes currently can access would be impaired or entirely closed. Additionally, domestic shipment of U.S. potatoes would likely be compromised as a result of necessary quarantine actions at the state level,” wrote the group.

Given that these phytosanitary risks to U.S. potato production are substantial as they “met the threshold for unacceptable consequences of introduction,” the group concluded that it believes APHIS should reject this U.K. market access request that resulted in the pest risk assessment. The full letter can be found here

FY2022 potato research submissions being accepted

In each of the last 30-plus years, Congress has appropriated funds to USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to help solve specific production and disease problems of the U.S. potato industry. Funding of proposals for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) is entirely dependent upon Congress enacting a final spending bill for the remainder of the fiscal year, after the current Continuing Resolution expires Feb. 18, 2022. Should funding be appropriated, ARS will allocate a portion of these funds via non-assistance cooperative agreements (NACAs) for cooperative research with extramural partners in state agricultural experiment stations and other institutions with active potato research programs.

While the funding level is still in question, this week ARS announced it is soliciting FY22 proposals that address potato diseases, insect pests, production and marketing issues, and post-harvest disorders of critical concern to potato producing states and the national potato industry. The deadline for receipt of proposals is March 4. For more information, contact Mike Wenkel at [email protected]

Bills aim to remove red tape for truckers

As a member of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group, the National Potato Council recently joined the coalition on letters to congressional leadership in support of two bills to modernize and increase efficiencies in processes to certify truck drivers.

The first bill, the Transportation Security Administration Security Threat Assessment Application Modernization Act, would standardize and streamline the enrollment process for individuals applying for multiple Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Security Threat Assessment (STA) programs. If enacted, the bill would relieve truck drivers of duplicative fees and redundant background checks, and empower them to meet the needs of supply chains moving hazardous materials and operating in secure facilities.

The second bill, the Licensing Individual Commercial Exam-takers Now Safely and Efficiently (LICENSE) Act, would ease regulatory burdens to help the trucking industry maintain an adequate and sustained supply of trained commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers. The LICENSE Act will make permanent two waivers that were re-issued seven times over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

“These common sense bills are perfect examples of how regulatory relief, however seemingly minor, can improve the trucking industry’s efficiency and help address our nation’s supply chain issues — all without compromising safety,” said RJ Andrus, NPC VP of Government Affairs. 

DOT launches safe driver apprenticeship pilot program website

As part of the enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) this week launched a new website for its Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot (SDAP) Program. The program will allow drivers between the ages of 18-20 to explore interstate trucking careers and help trucking companies hire and train new drivers through an apprenticeship pilot program.

While the FMCSA is not yet accepting applications for the SDAP Program, it is encouraging companies to:

  • Become familiar with the pilot program requirements by reviewing the Safe Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program Federal Register Notice;
  • If you are not registered with the U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship Program, learn how to join; and,
  • Review your safety performance data to determine if your company meets the standards.

Additional information can be found at fmcsa.dot.gov/safedriver.

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