WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2022 /CNW/ - Today, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau and the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, Member of Parliament for Cardigan, met with the United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in Washington, where Secretary Vilsack provided clear direction to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to proceed expeditiously with the risk analysis of exporting PEI table stock potatoes to Puerto Rico and the continental U.S.
During the meeting, Ministers Bibeau and MacAulay underscored the importance of restoring market access for PEI potatoes for Canada and Islanders, while also emphasizing the urgency of the situation. The Ministers expressed Canada's unwavering confidence that the trade of table stock potatoes is safe with the current risk mitigation measures in place, such as ensuring potatoes are: sourced from non-restricted fields, washed, graded, and treated with a sprout inhibitor. Secretary Vilsack expressed understanding for the challenges, and reaffirmed the importance of a science-based approach in the resolution of this matter.
The Ministers advocated for the U.S. to prioritize restoring trade of table stock potatoes as a first step, in particular to Puerto Rico, as well as the continental U.S., given that this type of potato has a negligible risk of transmitting potato wart. Table stock potatoes also represent the biggest proportion of PEI's exports of fresh potatoes to the U.S.
Minister Bibeau also highlighted the extensive engagement between the two countries to resolve this issue, and spoke about the ongoing efforts by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to provide the USDA with the scientific data and information they require. The Secretary provided assurance that the information provided to the USDA will be reviewed expeditiously. Secretary Vilsack also confirmed that a decision on Puerto Rico will be rendered in under two weeks.
Ministers Bibeau and MacAulay and Secretary Vilsack agreed to remain closely engaged on the matter of PEI potatoes.
Additionally, Minister Bibeau and Secretary Vilsack took the opportunity to underscore the importance of working collaboratively to address climate change and environmental sustainability in the agriculture sector, and discussed dairy tariff rate quotas (TRQs). They committed to working together to tackle supply chain challenges, with a focus on transportation and critical infrastructure.
SOURCE Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada