Potatoes from Canada’s Prince Edward Island, where the highly destructive potato wart disease has been detected, will now be allowed back into the U.S. before soil testing on PEI was completed, according to an announcement from the USDA.
National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles says they are dismayed to learn USDA is allowing this.
“The standard that was rolled out in this announcement from USDA indicates that effectively it encourages a farmer not to test his fields. Because if you’re aware that the disease is there, then you have a penalty. But if you don’t test, you can tell everyone you didn’t know it was there and keep on shipping. And, that is a bad place to get to.”
This, Quarles says flies in the face of common sense. “To us, the fastest way that you get to that answer is to test your fields. You don’t want to plant in a field that is infested with this disease, but their position was we want to plant, and we’ll deal with the consequences later. And, unfortunately, USDA and CFIA, that’s where they came down.”
Quarles says this is not the answer. “What we have told them over and over again is as difficult as this is for the PEI growers, if it gets into a production area in the United States, it’s exponentially worse.”
So, would U.S. potatoes be allowed into Canada if the roles were reversed?
“Not a chance! Not only is it theoretically would they not allow it to happen, look back in history, they didn’t allow it to happen. They said deal with your pest issue. Prove to us that your operation is clean and then you can get back to business. And that’s exactly what we did. PEI didn’t have to deal with that this time around, but we think this was the right position to be in and we’re going to stay at it.”
Quarles says they’ll be talking with USDA about the issue.