Today, the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (AAFC) Marie-Claude Bibeau announced $28 million in funding to support Prince Edward Island (PEI) potato farmers affected by trade disruptions. The Government of Canada says in a press release it is taking a Team Canada approach and working collaboratively with the Province of PEI and industry to support potato growers and resume full market access for PEI fresh potatoes.
Bibeau said: “Our government understands the importance of potatoes for Prince Edward Island’s economy. Many families’ livelihoods depend on this industry. Islanders are proud of their high quality potatoes, so much so that it is a part of their identity. We share that pride, and with our Team Canada partners, we are doing all that is in our power to re-open the American market and support producers.”
This funding of up to $28 million will be used to support the diversion of surplus potatoes, including help to redirect surplus potatoes to organizations addressing food insecurity and support for the environmentally-sound disposal of surplus potatoes. It will also support marketing activities and will help industry to develop long-term strategies to manage future challenges.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says it will work with the Government of PEI, the PEI Potato Board, national food bank organizations and other stakeholder groups to deliver the funding. Details on how producers can access support will be available through the coming weeks.
Producers also have access to a suite of other Business Risk Management (BRM) programs to help them manage issues. The Governments of Canada and PEI recently made adjustments to the AgriStability program, which protects producers against large declines in farming income, so that producers who did not enroll for the 2021 program year can sign-up now and still access this important income support. Furthermore, AgriStability interim payments have increased, so that producers can now apply for up to 75% of their anticipated payment, up from 50%.
In the release, AAFC says the Government of Canada stands firmly on the science that indicates that the risks associated with the transmission of potato wart from fresh potatoes remains negligible when appropriate risk mitigation measures are in place.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will continue to make science-based data and details of its investigation into the October 2021 detections available to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to highlight the strengths of Canada’s Potato Wart Domestic Long Term Management Plan. Soil sampling and soil testing processes are taking place as quickly as possible.
While this work is underway, important collaboration continues through the Government-Industry Potato Working Group. It brings together key stakeholders of the PEI potato sector to exchange information, help mitigate impacts of potato wart on the sector, and identify potential short and long-term solutions to current trade disruptions.
Fred Gorrell has been asked to be the new co-chair of the Potato Working Group. Mr. Gorrell is very well known within the sector and comes with years of experience as a former Assistant Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and leader of the Market Access Secretariat.
Said the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence “Our potatoes on Prince Edward Island are the best you’ll find anywhere in the world, and the folks involved in the potato industry here are some of the finest you could ever hope to meet. As a former potato grower myself, I understand just how tough this situation is on them. Our government is going to be there for them every step of the way, and we’ll continue to do everything we can to get our PEI potatoes back to market in the United States. Today’s announcement is a vital step in supporting our potato growers through this difficult time.”
According to Heath MacDonald, Member of Parliament for Malpeque, PEI: “This is an incredibly hard time for our province’s potato farmers. The United States has been clear that trade cannot resume until we have worked through their technical concerns. We are taking a Team Canada approach to stand up for our potato growers here on the Island and make sure we can urgently get our world-class potatoes back to market in the United States as fast as possible.”