PEI seed potato growers set out to find new markets and varieties after export announcement

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ELMWOOD, PEI — Only about a month from planting, Alex Docherty still doesn’t know what’s going on in the soil at Skye View Farms.

He knows it will be less than the usual 400 acres, but he is still figuring out what varieties he can sell and who will buy them.

The recent news that table stock and some processing potatoes can now be sold in the United States is good for many of his colleagues, but Docherty and other seed growers have to fend for themselves, he said. he declares.

“I don’t know who will be responsible for the lost stuff in Prince Edward Island. It’s not just Alex Docherty (impacted). There are many other guys like me.

Docherty is one of 93 seed growers listed in the 2020 Seed Grower Directory, which can be found in the Prince Edward Island Seed Potato Certification List and Grower Directory at the PEI Potato Board website.

“I don’t know who will be responsible for the lost stuff in Prince Edward Island. It’s not just Alex Docherty (impacted). There are many other guys like me.

– Alex Docherty

He and his team planned, plowed and prepared the fields last November.

Five months later, the fields are ready to go, but Docherty has to replan everything from choosing varieties to customers, he said.

Whatever happens after this year, however, the reputation of the industry as a whole is tarnished.

“I’m at a loss for words on this, to be honest with you, because we’ve built our reputation, and it’s taken us decades to get to this and it took (Marie-Claude Bibeau) two minutes of a stroke of a pen to destroy it – and without any science to prove it.

Perspective

Ian Petrie, writer for Island Farmer, an agricultural publication in Prince Edward Island, said opening the border will allow table cattle producers to work to restore confidence, but seed producers remain in financial difficulty.

“These are usually small, independent farmers growing high-value crops. These are the kind of farmers we want to keep in business on PEI. They harvest earlier; they can plant a cover crop in the fall; the value per acre they earn is higher.

He agreed with Docherty and other farmers who say the potato wart crisis has seemed political since the ban was announced.

Table potatoes have been caught in the middle of a fight that should have focused on seed potatoes and how to help the seed industry increase much-needed safety, he said. he declares.

“Having watched many of these diseases play out over 20 to 30 years, it just felt like a trade fight over commodities. Americans were doing it because they could.

Table potatoes have never really posed a risk to American agriculture because they are not used for growing new plants and do not come into contact with fields.

Petrie said he had heard from farmers that the new rules for table stock could have been written in November.

“What the hell has been going on for four months, that it’s taken so long?” … It’s like Groundhog Day. We are back where the (table) industry should have been back in November.


Highlights: Potato wart

• On November 22, 2021, Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau preemptively ordered a halt to table potato exports from Prince Edward Island to the United States. .

• On March 24, 2022, the United States Department of Agriculture announced that it would lift its own ban on table potatoes from Prince Edward Island in March.

• The US embargo on table stocks ended April 1, 2022, but seed potatoes will not return until a full CFIA investigation is complete (2023 at the earliest).


Compensation

Greg Donald, chief executive of the PEI Potato Board, said seed growers will need support.

“This happened (by) no fault of their own, so we expect they will have CFIA and Federal Government support in the interim until markets are restored.

Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agroscience, said she had heard demands for compensation from farmers for the closure of a market, but said it did not exist.

Instead, the business risk management AgriStability program is what producers should be looking at, she said.

“(Provincial Agriculture Minister Bloyce) Thompson and I have agreed to extend the date so that all growers can apply. Normally, they have to submit their application before the spring… We agreed to extend the program and allow producers to have an interim payment of 75% instead of 50%.

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