U.S. Potato Industry Responds to USDA’s Decision to Resume PEI Imports

Trade resumes without protections to prevent spread to U.S. farms.

On behalf of the U.S. potato industry, NPC and 11 state organizations wrote to Secretary Vilsack to express disappointment over USDA’s recent decision to allow for the resumption of Prince Edward Island (PEI) fresh table stock potatoes imports without additional protections to prevent the spread of potato wart to U.S. farms.

The group wrote, “In reviewing the information that APHIS provided following the announcement of a resumption of trade, the U.S. industry sees no significant additional measures to protect U.S. production from this highly destructive disease.”

Examples cited include not requiring the testing of individual PEI fields prior to their clearance for export; and failure to limit shipments to consumer packaging sizes and instead allowing bulk totes and super sacks that require repacking activities in the U.S., thereby generating waste product that can spread disease.

The only significant new measure was the unnecessary limitation of PEI shipments exclusively to U.S. Grade Standard #1. This limitation has no phytosanitary value since high grade potatoes are just as capable of carrying this disease as lower grade. “Had the U.S. industry been asked about this limitation, we would not have supported its inclusion. Establishing this limitation feeds into a false narrative championed by the PEI leadership that the export ban was due to politically motivated factors rather than a serious effort to deal with a disease situation that appears to be growing out of control.”

While recognizing the substantial political pressure that was applied to the U.S. by Canada, the group urged Secretary Vilsack to “reconsider implementing reasonable mitigation measures to deal with this unfortunate disease situation confronting potato production on PEI,” which can be done without impacting trade in clean product for the upcoming season. The full letter can be found here