Farmers on Prince Edward Island were given the green light by the US Department of Agriculture on Friday to send some of the world’s most famous table potatoes across the Canada-US border again.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued its final federal regulation on PEI potato imports, paving the way for exports to resume after a crippling four-month hiatus for island producers.
“Glad to see our premium PEI potatoes ready to be exported back to the US,” tweeted Liberal Rep. Lawrence MacAulay, a former Secretary of Agriculture.
Canada wants to resume exports of PEI potatoes to the United States
Canada stopped sending potatoes to the US in November, a decision to forestall a sweeping ban after wart fungus, an otherwise harmless disease that mars potatoes and reduces crop yields, was found in several fields on the island last fall.
Seed potatoes, which make up about 10 percent of the island’s annual production, are still banned in the US pending the outcome of a more thorough USDA review that could take years.
To qualify for export, federal regulation requires table potatoes and the seed potatoes used to grow them to come from fields not known to be infested with potato warts. They must also be washed clean of soil and treated with a sprout inhibitor while still in PEI and graded to US Standard #1.
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The order also requires shipments to be tracked “from the manufacturing facility to packaging and export” so they can be tracked and recalled if necessary. In addition, after washing, they must be “officially examined for freedom from pests”.
Canada and the US last week announced an “understanding” on potatoes, about four months after concerns about the soil-borne fungus initially blocked one of the province’s most famous exports from its single most important market.
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Growers say the disruption has forced them to destroy or otherwise dispose of valuable crops, and they believe the industry has lost more than $50 million in revenue.
In an interview last week after the announcement of the first Canada-US agreement, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said she had asked early on for ware potatoes and seed potatoes to be assessed separately.
She also defended the decision to proactively halt exports, saying that without those two steps, all PEI potatoes would have faced a ban for months or years.
The DC-based National Potato Council has opposed the resumption of exports, ostensibly because of the risk of the fungus spreading to US fields – a risk Canadian growers have been insisting for months.
The council also accused Canada’s Food Safety Agency of holding US growers to a higher standard of soil testing to export their goods to Canada than the USDA does for Canadian growers who want to sell their potatoes in the US.
© 2022 The Canadian Press
https://globalnews.ca/news/8730044/pei-potatoes-united-states-clears-export/ US approves ‘world-class PEI potatoes’ for re-export across border – National