Ottawa supports besieged potato farmers in Prince Edward Island

Ottawa has announced $ 28 million in support for PEI potato growers affected by the export ban due to potato wart.

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said on December 20 that the funding would also help redirect potatoes to food banks and other organizations as well as support the environmentally friendly disposal of surpluses.

She said officials will work with the PEI Potato Board and others to determine how the money will be distributed.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency enacted the ban in late November after the fungus was found on two farms. Since then, farmers and the province have protested, taking bags of potatoes to Ottawa to argue that the potatoes are safe to eat.

But Bibeau said the federal government had to enact the ban, otherwise the United States would have put its proposed ban into effect and made it nearly impossible to reverse. She said Canada made the responsible decision to ban seed potatoes from other provinces and countries.

“But what we said out loud is that fresh potatoes can be exported to other provinces and to other countries with the right mitigation measures in place,” she said. declared at a press conference.

The United States did not follow through on the federal order, but directed border services to prevent potatoes from PEI. to enter the country.

“The point is, the United States will not accept shipments of fresh potatoes until it has the scientific assurances it needs,” she said.

About 300 million pounds of potatoes are said to be affected by the ban. If they are not used, they will need to be destroyed and this should be done in cold weather.

Bibeau said farmers also have access to business risk management programs. About 80 percent of the province’s potato growers are registered with AgriStability and AgriInsurance for production, and quality losses of up to 90 percent are covered.

She said potato growers are heavily involved in AgriInvest and there are average cash balances of around $ 90,000.

The minister appointed Fred Gorrell, former Assistant Deputy Minister of Agriculture and head of the Federal Market Access Secretariat, to co-chair a potato task force.

She said the CFIA is working on soil sampling and testing and is providing results in the United States. The agency said it could elapse into 2023 before work is complete.

When asked if Canada was considering a trade dispute against the United States, Bibeau said the government had considered all options, but the United States had scientific reasons to suspend potato imports in the affected regions.

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