The National Potato Council (NPC) and 11 state organizations have written a letter to United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressing their disappointment over the resumption of fresh potato imports from Prince Edward Island. The May 5 letter states the groups’ frustration stems from there not being any additional protections to prevent the spread of potato wart to U.S. farms.
In the letter the group wrote, “In reviewing the information that APHIS provided following the announcement of a resumption of trade, the U.S. industry sees no significant additional measures to protect U.S. production from this highly destructive disease.”
The group states as examples there not being any testing of individual P.E.I. fields prior to their clearance for export required, and failure to limit shipments to consumer packaging sizes, instead allowing bulk totes and super sacks which require repackaging in the U.S., thereby generating waste product that can spread disease.
In the letter the group states the only new measure was the unnecessary limitation of P.E.I. shipments exclusively to U.S. Grade Standard #1. The group notes this limitation has no phytosanitary value since high grade potatoes are just as capable of carrying this disease as lower grade.
“Had the U.S. industry been asked about this limitation, we would not have supported its inclusion. Establishing this limitation feeds into a false narrative championed by the P.E.I. leadership that the export ban was due to politically motivated factors rather than a serious effort to deal with a disease situation that appears to be growing out of control,” the letter states.
The group notes there was substantial political pressure applied to the U.S. by Canada and urges Vilsack to “reconsider implementing reasonable mitigation measures to deal with this unfortunate disease situation confronting potato production on P.E.I.” Adding this can be done without impacting trade in clean product for the upcoming season.
On April 1, table stock potato exports from P.E.I. to the U.S. resumed. A week earlier on March 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced exports would resume soon following a months long closure. Since November, potato exports to the U.S. and Puerto Rico from P.E.I. were halted after potato wart was discovered for the second year in a row on the Island. Potato exports to Puerto Rico resumed on Feb. 8.
Last April, the same group, including the NPC, wrote a letter expressing their concern about how Canada would handle future disease threats. This was following a discovery of potato wart in two P.E.I. fields in late 2020.