Idaho Seed Growers Question Alberta Growers

Published online: Jul 09, 2004 PGI
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Ray Hess, president of the Seed Potato Growers of Idaho, said today that the attempt by the seed potato growers of Alberta to block dissemination of information on a bacterial ring rot outbreak there is risking the reputation of the entire Canadian seed production system.

Hess said it is a suspected attempt by Potato Growers of Alberta to block release of any information regarding its testing and certification of the farm in question as meeting supposed zero tolerance for BRR.

"This is a suspected attempt by PGA to protect its growers from the consequences of a seed potato inspection system that is inadequate," Hess continued.

The PGI official said the Canadian seed potato industry is risking its reputation and future by failing to require adequate safeguards to protect its customers, yet severly restricts shipments of either commercial or seed potatoes having higher standards of qualilty and production from the U.S. into most provinces.

Idaho, Washington and other pototo-producing states have been adamant in demanding that the U.S. counterpart to CFIA, the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, require independent, third-party shipping-point inspections of all loads so that they can check for quality, lot identification and disease before crossing into the various U.S. states to be planted.

Hess said the BRR issue in this case is the main reason why PGI has been so adamant in its demand. It apparently is also one very big reason why Canada has been so reluctant to agree.

Hess says this kind of problem can jeopardize the fragile relationship the U.S. is developing with Mexico as an important market for U.S. potatoes.

"The Mexican government has put the U.S. industry on notice that our potatoes have to be disease free, or they will close the borders to our exports all over again."

Hess wonders if PGA's suit to block release of information in an indication of a possibly more widespread problem with disease than anyoe in Canada has yet acknowledged.

"At the very least, the transparency of the Canadian system has some serious problems that our neighbors to the north should reconsider and address rather than trying to bury their problems in their court system.

Meanwhle PGI strongly urges growers to begin lining up seed commitments now for next spring from U.S. sources. Growers need to protect themselves until this very serious threat is adequately resolved.

"If Canadian seed growers are going to use the courts to keep U.S. growers from making informed buying decisons, then growers have no choice but to take action to protect their own interests," said PGI Executive Director Keith Esplin.

PGI called on the entire U.S. potato industry, APHIS, the U.S. trade negotiating team and Congress to ensure that the U.S. industry in protected. PGI believes this is best accomplished by requiring independent, third-party shipping-point inspections for each and every load of seed potatoes, identifying quality, variety, lot and grower that crosses U.S. state borders.

PGI also calls upon the Canadian industry to set aside their own agenda and join with the U.S. in establising a transparent, fair, and responsible system to protect the North American potato industry.

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