Fresh potato trade with the United States in P.E.I. has been suspended for four weeks.
Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture, has launched a $28 million plan to help P.E.I. farmers affected by a fresh potato trade embargo with the United States.
On Monday morning, Bibeau made the announcement at a virtual news conference with the Island’s four MPs.
“Today, I need to send a message to farmers: We are here for you,” she stated.
“We understand that farmers are looking for answers about what to do with their excess produce.”
On November 22, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) halted fresh potato exports to the United States. The decision was made in reaction to American worries after the discovery of potato warts in two P.E.I. farms last October.
Some potatoes will be wasted.
Part of the $28 million will go toward getting potatoes to food banks. Farmers that need to get rid of surplus potatoes will also be able to get money.
“We know we won’t be able to reroute all of these potatoes,” Bibeau said, “and a considerable portion will have to be disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.”
“There is only a way to do that is to do it during the winter.“
To reduce the possibility of illness spreading, potatoes will need to be destroyed over the winter.
According to Bibeau, the United States will not accept P.E.I. potatoes until they have the scientific assurance that there is no risk of potato warts spreading to American farmers. CFIA officials told a P.E.I. legislative committee on Friday that the agency’s inquiry may take until 2023 to finish.
According to Bibeau, representatives from the Department of Agriculture will meet with the P.E.I. Potato Board this week to discuss eligibility for the new programme.
The Premier is grateful for the help.
Premier Dennis King of Prince Edward Island congratulated Ottawa for the announcement, saying the funds will be “essential” in getting the potatoes to those in need and averting their destruction.
In a statement, King added, “These types of inventive solutions are exactly what we need to do in the meantime to move our excess potatoes until the U.S. market is reopened.”
While the province is still waiting for further information, such as the fund’s eligibility requirements and how it will be administered, the premier expressed his satisfaction that Ottawa is taking the problem seriously.