I didn’t really expect that big of an announcement when the federal government stated they were putting in place a Ministerial Order suspending all exports of Prince Edward Island potatoes to the United States due to the recent potato wart discovery.
I had turned on my work computer that Monday and saw an email from the federal government announcing a presser that morning on the recent P.E.I. potato wart discovery. I had been following the issue and knew there had been a lot of rumblings about it lately, but didn’t think much of it besides that. I quickly rescheduled some other interviews and meetings so I could tune into the presser.
As the presser started and the announcement was made, I found myself shocked. I knew potato wart had been found the previous year and there hadn’t been such a big hullabaloo. I understand ag trade issues and expected this discovery would be handled the same way. But boy was I wrong, and I later learned most of the Canadian potato industry had thought the same as me.
As the issue dragged on and I watched several heartbreaking news conferences out of P.E.I., I knew this issue was huge and as one of the few national Canadian potato magazines I needed to give it a thorough look. The result of this is “P.E.I. Potato Growers Face Piles of Potato Wart Problems”. I wanted to lay out the facts and show how this is affecting the potato industry in P.E.I.
I also knew I needed to take a closer look at the trade relationships and groups being vocal on this issue — on both sides of the border. Thank you to both the P.E.I. Potato Board and the National Potato Council for taking the time to have a frank discussion and fully explain their thoughts on the issue with me.
I also want to say thank you to John Visser for taking the time to talk with me about how his own farm and those of his neighbours are being affected by the export ban. It’s never easy doing interviews like these as they can be heartbreaking to a business and devastating to the community. When I do have to work on these stories, I appreciate it immensely when people like John take the time to share their story with me and trust me to report it.
This issue is huge, and it won’t be solved overnight. My heart goes out to all those in P.E.I. affected right now. I know your counterparts across the country are watching warily what is happening and I hope as an industry we can learn from this and hopefully not see something similar happen again in the future. But as an ag journalist I know trade issues like this happen all the time and at the end of the day it’s the farmers who grow the food we all need that lose out the most when they happen.