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Potato wart situation was ‘mismanaged,’ says Prince Edward Island farmer

A potato farmer on Prince Edward Island’s North Shore in Canada is wondering how the situation with potato wart got to the point where the U.S. border is closed to fresh potatoes from the Island. Klaas Nieuwhof told CBC’s Island Morning he was packing potatoes when he got a phone call and learned the border was closing.

“There’s a lot of things that led up to that long beforehand that none of us were ever made aware of,” he said. “Somewhere along the way the wheels came off the wagon.”

The border closure shuts down a market estimated to be worth $120 million, and puts farmers in the position of having to destroy hundreds of millions of pounds of potatoes that can’t be sold.

Nieuwhof is all too familiar with the position P.E.I. potato farmers are in. He remembers running potatoes through the snowblower in 2000, following the first discovery of potato wart on the Island, and the closure of the U.S. border then. Nieuwhof’s children remember the stress of the last time the border was closed. Because of it, he said, they were reluctant to take up farming, though one son eventually did.

“[It’s] really disheartening for me as a dad to see your kids having to go through stuff like that, but also as a producer to see all my fellow producers struggling,” he said. “We will be forced to put potatoes through the snowblower again like we did back in 2000. It will help offset the cost of that.” The only real solution, he said, is to get the border open again.

Source: CBC. Read the full story here
Photo: This photo from 2001 shows potatoes going through the snowblower so that they will be exposed to cold and not be a source of infection for any disease in the coming year. Courtesy Mary Kay Sonier/PEI Potato Board via CBC News

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