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Potato wart crisis: Govt of Canada says it ‘stands firm in the interests of Prince Edward Island potato farmers’

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says in a press release that 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.

CFIA says it outlined its continued engagement with the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in a detailed technical briefing held on Dec 13, advancing 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.

CFIA says in its press release that APHIS has indicated they are seeking clear scientific data in order to be assured that resuming trade is safe. CFIA says it 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,” CFIA says in its release. “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 November 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.

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.

According to the Honourable 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.”

The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development says: “Our Government has been very active raising this issue to the highest levels of Unites States government. We are following the science and are committed to continuing to work in close collaboration along with the U.S. to get them the reassurances they need to resume trade.”

According to the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, “Prince Edward Island has the best potato farmers in the world and all Islanders can be assured that our government is standing up for them every step of the way and will be there to support them through this challenging time. We will continue our close collaboration with industry, the provincial government, and supply chain partners to ensure we resume this vital trade link and encourage everyone to support our local producers.”

Source: The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Original release here
Photo: APHIS

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