That smiling visage to the left belongs to me, the new editor of Spud Smart. It is my pleasure to contribute the From Our Desk feature along with a number of other articles for this, our spring 2013 issue—but first, let me take a moment to introduce myself.
I’m a veteran journalist with decades of experience as a news reporter, writer, editor and producer for magazines, newspapers, television and the Internet. I am passionate about writing and editing, and before joining Spud Smart, I was a regular contributor to a national agricultural magazine, among others. I also love learning and talking to people, and I’ve done plenty of both in my initial months with Canada’s potato industry magazine.
One thing I’ve learned is that Canada lacks a defined Plant Pest Response (PPR) plan, which would provide a framework for all stakeholders (federal, provincial/territorial, municipal governments and growers) within agricultural sectors to work together to respond to the incursion of new pests in our country or the spread of existing quarantine pests—both of which can have a devastating impact on crops. Such plans exist in other nations like Australia and New Zealand, but Canada lags far behind.
Recognizing this gap, the Canadian Potato Council, a sub-group of the Canadian Horticultural Council, set up the PPR Working Group to study the issue over the past year. Assisted by both Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, which provided partial funding for the project under the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the working group was among those called on to update CPC members gathered in Ottawa for the CHC meetings in March. Its project summary outlined how representatives from the Canadian potato and greenhouse vegetable sectors have joined forces to help lay the groundwork for the development of a comprehensive PPR plan.
The group acknowledges that while CFIA does respond quickly to contain the spread of serious pests, the “ad hoc” nature of the responses and the lack of a defined compensation program for growers adversely affected by pest outbreaks have been long-standing concerns. For this reason, the CPC was eager to explore successful PPR planning efforts in other parts of the world and how a comprehensive system might be established in Canada.
“Early detection and reporting of pest issues is crucial in containing and hopefully eliminating or eradicating the pest,” says Joe Brennan, the newly elected chair of the CPC, adding that early reporting also lessens the economic impact. “We want to bring more certainty to growers and to all the other stakeholders so that the issue can be dealt with quickly and effectively. The global nature of trade and travel increases the probability of pest incursions into Canada and North America, and we need to be ready to respond immediately.”
The first phase of the initiative has been to identify countries with the best PPR plans and best practices within them. The next step is to incorporate these best practices into a solid PPR plan that’s tailor-made for Canada and is accepted by all levels of government and industry. Brennan maintains the CFIA and Ag Canada are both on board “so we’re ready to go to the next level on this.” The CPC hopes to initiate that next phase of work in 2013/14.