Update on Canada's engagement with the U.S. on potato wart and collaboration on farmer supports
December 13, 2021 – Ottawa – Canadian Food Inspection Agency – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
The Government of Canada is standing firm in the interests of Prince Edward Island (PEI) potato farmers in discussions with the United States and is working with the PEI Government on all possible ways to resume trade and minimize the impact on affected potato farmers, including recent adjustments to ensure farmers are able to take full advantage of the AgriStability program.
In a detailed technical briefing held today with the provincial PEI Government, including Premier Dennis King, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) outlined their continued engagement with the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to advance Canada's position that, based on the science, the trade of fresh potatoes from PEI remains safe when appropriate risk mitigation measures are in place. The technical briefing responds to the standing offer from the CFIA for transparent information sharing with the province and follows weeks of close communication and collaboration between both governments and the potato industry.
APHIS has indicated they are seeking clear scientific data in order to be assured that resuming trade is safe. The CFIA is working with APHIS to provide the required information such as the outcome of the CFIA's investigation and all relevant information regarding the recent detections of potato wart. APHIS has also asked for clear risk mitigation measures and an ongoing monitoring plan for a clearly-defined quarantined area. The PEI Government has an important role to play assuring regulated fields have proper restrictions in place to contain the possible spread of virus and appropriate biosecurity practices are applied. Both countries also agreed to collaborate on the review being undertaken by APHIS on their pest risk assessment, which informs APHIS decisions on pest management.
These efforts follow the November 21, 2021 CFIA suspension of export certificates for fresh potatoes from PEI to the U.S. in response to U.S. concerns. This action was made at the request of the U.S. in order to avoid the implementation of a U.S. Federal Order that would prohibit the import of potatoes from PEI, which would be very challenging to overturn. In order to resume trade, the CFIA is redoubling their efforts to work through the scientific evidence with APHIS to provide the reassurances they need.
The Government of Canada is also working urgently to explore all avenues of support for affected PEI farmers in collaboration with the provincial government.
The Government of Canada and the Province of PEI made important adjustments to the AgriStability program, which protects producers against large declines in farming income. Together, they agreed to allow late participation under AgriStability, which means producers who did not enroll for the 2021 program year can sign-up now and still access this important income support. Furthermore, the two governments agreed to increase the interim payments of AgriStability, so that producers can now apply for up to 75% of their anticipated payment, up from 50%. Producers have access to a suite of other Business Risk Management (BRM) programs to help them manage issues, and both governments will continue exploring all avenues to minimize the impact for affected PEI farmers.
"Our Government is working diligently with the United States to resume trade for PEI fresh potatoes, and is exploring all avenues to minimize the impact on affected PEI farmers. We know how important this issue is to the lives of many Islanders, and we take it extremely seriously. We believe in the science that says the U.S. demands go beyond what is needed to manage risk, and that, with the proper measures in place, the trade of PEI fresh potatoes is safe. In order to resume trade, however, the CFIA must work through the scientific evidence with the U.S. to give them the reassurances needed. As we continue to work through challenges, these adjustments to the AgriStability program are an important step to supporting PEI farmers."
– The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
"Our Government has been very active raising this issue to the highest levels of Unites States government. We are following the science and are committed to continuing to work in close collaboration along with the U.S. to get them the reassurances they need to resume trade."
– The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development
"Prince Edward Island has the best potato farmers in the world and all Islanders can be assured that our government is standing up for them every step of the way and will be there to support them through this challenging time. We will continue our close collaboration with industry, the provincial government, and supply chain partners to ensure we resume this vital trade link and encourage everyone to support our local producers."
– The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
Canadian officials have been very engaged with U.S. decision makers, Canadian/U.S. stakeholders and trading partners since October 1, 2021. The numbers below are estimates based on the high level of activity:
- At least 4 engagements with Members of Congress and/or staff and/or Governor
- 14 meetings with U.S. administration officials at USDA and USTR
- Over 40 meetings with CA or U.S. industry and labour stakeholders
- Outside of the U.S., based on export interest, letters were sent to 16 trading partners
Although CFIA's suspension of certification for fresh potatoes prevented the U.S. from passing into law a federal order, the U.S. has indicated that, as of November 22, 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection will refuse entry of all seed, table and processing potatoes from PEI, as well as ensure that used farm machinery, farm tools, and farming equipment from PEI is visibly clean and free from soil to enter the U.S.
Potato wart is a persistent fungus in soil that reduces yield on farms and can spread through the movement of soil, farm equipment, and potatoes from fields. It is a pest regulated under the Plant Protection Act, which means that its detection may trigger measures to control the disease and prevent its spread.
The first potato wart detection in PEI in 2000 resulted in the closure of the US-Canada border for all fresh PEI potatoes – including seed, table stock and processing potatoes – for six months. Since this first detection, the CFIA has surveyed for potato wart annually in PEI and implemented the Potato Wart Domestic Long Term Management Plan to prevent the spread of this pest to protect plant health and trade.
The number of soil samples for potato wart fluctuates year to year based on market demand and requirements of investigations. Soil sampling for potato wart will continue until the ground freezes. Testing continues in the lab.
Soil sampling has increased since the implementation of the CFIA's new national potato wart survey program in 2001. Under this program, the CFIA surveyed for potato wart in all of Canada's seed potato growing areas (except Newfoundland).
The Government of Canada has also created an Industry-Government Potato Working Group which brings key stakeholders of the PEI potato sector to exchange information, develop strategies to determine and help mitigate impacts of potato wart on the sector, and identify potential short and long-term solutions to current disruptions.
AgriStability protects producers against large declines in farming income for reasons such as production loss, increased costs and market conditions. The program is delivered provincially in PEI. With the recent announcement allowing late entry applications, the deadline to submit an interim application for the 2021 program year is March 31, 2022.
AgriInsurance will provide support for farms that face production and quality losses directly caused by potato wart, with coverage for up to 90% of their losses.
In addition, AgriInvest funds are immediately available for use by producers to support any need they see fit. Potato producers widely participate in AgriInvest.
- Government-Industry potato working group assembles to help affected farmers in Prince Edward Island
- Statement by the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau on potato wart in Prince Edward Island
- Statement on measures to prevent the spread of potato wart
- Ministerial Order
- Potato wart or potato canker – Synchytrium endobioticum
- Fact sheet - Synchytrium endobioticum (Potato wart or potato canker)
- Additional Information on the Potato Wart Situation (APHIS)
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