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New governmental committee to assist P.E.I. potato farmers


January 18, 2022
By Potatoes in Canada

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In a statement released on Jan. 7, the Government of Canada reaffirmed its commitment to restoring market access for P.E.I. fresh potatoes to the United States and supporting P.E.I. farmers impacted by trade disruptions. To that end, Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of agriculture and agri-food, announced the creation of the new Federal Ministerial Coordinating Committee on P.E.I. Potatoes, with the objective of enhancing co-ordination and collaboration across the federal government to respond to concerns and find solutions.

The committee will be an important forum to exchange information and further develop strategies to address the issue, while minimizing impacts of potato wart on the P.E.I. potato sector. It will build on and complement the work that has been done to date.

“It is a top priority for our government to reopen the American border for P.E.I. fresh potatoes and support the farmers affected by this difficult situation,” Bibeau said in the statement. “For many weeks already, my cabinet colleagues and I have joined efforts to ensure all options are explored. The formal creation of this committee helps build upon the work we are doing together across Government.”

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The committee will examine a range of issues, such as updates on the technical discussions to provide scientific assurance to the United States, the delivery of programs to support farmers, the progress of the Industry-Government Potato Working Group, and advocacy efforts to access international markets. The first meeting will take place during the week of Jan. 10.

The committee will be co-chaired by Bibeau and Ginette Petitpas Taylor, minister of official languages and minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. Members of the committee include:

  • Dominic LeBlanc, minister of intergovernmental affairs, infrastructure and communities;
  • Mary Ng, minister of international trade, export promotion, small business and economic development; and
  • Lawrence MacAulay, minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence.

“As a former potato grower, I understand how incredibly difficult this situation is for our farmers, their families, and everyone else involved in the potato industry here on the Island,” MacAulay said. “We’re going to continue to do everything we can to support Islanders who are affected, and to address the concerns that the United States has about potato wart.

“This committee is going to play an important role in doing that, and we’ll keep working together with the federal and provincial governments, our scientists, and the potato industry all pushing in the same direction.”

As of Dec. 23, 2021, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) had completed its national survey for potato wart ahead of schedule, and potato wart was not detected. The national survey conducted in fall 2021 involved soil testing across areas of Canada that grow seed potatoes (except Newfoundland) to confirm that unregulated areas of Canada remain free from this pest.

The expedited completion of the survey marks an important step in the Government of Canada’s action plan to reassure international trading partners of the safety of Canadian seed potatoes. It is also information that the United States is seeking, as part of its ongoing review of the CFIA’s containment and control of potato wart. The latest scientific evidence gathered from the national survey was provided in December 2021 to the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and should serve to provide reassurances they need that it is safe to resume the trade of fresh potatoes.

The U.S. is also looking for outcomes of the CFIA investigation into the recent detections of potato wart on P.E.I. to show that appropriate mitigation measures and an ongoing monitoring plan for a clearly defined quarantined area are key in controlling the spread of potato wart.