Pac-NW Growers Blast APHIS

Published online: Dec 15, 2000
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Potato grower organizations in Washington and Idaho have blasted the USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service for lifting restrictions on potatoes from Prince Edward Island, Canada, from coming into the United States.

In a tersely worded statement by Pat Boss of the Washington Potato Commission and echoed by John Thompson of the Potato Growers of Idaho, they questioned why the agency would re-open the border into the United States when the potato wart disease remains such a threat.

Representatives from Idaho flew to Washington, DC, Friday to meet with APHIS in response to the Dec. 13 action to see if the earlier agreed upon protocol could be kept.

Boss said WSPC was aware APHIS was meeting Dec. 13 with Canadian Food Inspection Agency officials to amend the quarantine restrictions which went into effect Oct. 31 but was stunned they would reopen the border.

"We thought they would have communicated or consulted with the WSPC and other U.S. industry organizations before making such a quick decision," Boss said.

Thompson said he too was surprised that after United States potato industry representatives had "pounded on testing methods" that the action would be taken.

U.S. representatives have not been reassured by the testing methods being used by the CFIA and that they can adequately test soil during the winter when the virus is inactive.

"This decision is surprising because we do not know of any new scientific or monitoring data to justify the reopening of the border. We do not know whether CFIA met the terms of the earlier agreement with Aphis. Nothing has been communicated to us," said Dr. Andrew Jensen, director of research and technical affairs of the WSPC.

The new agreement sets up an unrestricted area outside the original contamination site and allows potatoes from the unrestricted area to move into Canada and United States.

This also comes on the heels of an announcement by potato growers in the provinces west of Ontario that they will not allow PEI potatoes to go into western Canada.

The potato wart virus is considered one of the most devastating of viruses. It cannot be eradicated from the soil. Pathologists have stated it can be transported on potatoes, equipment and even on transport vehicles.

Growers in Maine are 100 percent opposed to reopening of the borders. They believe any contamination dispersed into the United States from PEI could ruin their industry.