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U.S. revises rules for Alta. seed potatoes

Seed potatoes from Alberta may soon be allowed into the U.S. if Canadian officials can prove the province is clear of potato cyst nematode (PCN).

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said Friday that the Canada-U.S. Potato Committee has put forward a resolution as the basis for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) revised import rules.

The revised U.S. import requirements “intend” to allow the import of Alberta seed potatoes, once CFIA completes an ongoing PCN delimiting survey in Alberta and all results are negative.

But if PCN is found in CFIA’s delimiting survey samples, “appropriate regulatory actions will be taken,” CFIA said. If that happens, CFIA would meet with USDA officials to “establish the response and conditions” for further exports of seed potatoes to the U.S.

Seed potatoes from all other Canadian provinces, except Alberta and any regulated areas, are still eligible for export to the U.S. as long as PCN surveys are carried out and all results are negative, CFIA said Friday.

USDA’s newly revised import requirements also call for soil samples associated with tuber samples of 500 tubers or less to be completed by December 31, CFIA said.

CFIA is “taking all actions necessary to fully comply with the newly revised U.S. import requirements,” the agency said. It “has also taken measures to expedite the analysis of all PCN soil samples and has prioritized analyses associated with the ongoing delimiting survey in Alberta.”

The U.S. border has been closed to Alberta seed potatoes since November 2007, when the plant pest golden nematode was found on two seed potato fields. Each property turned up just one positive sample out of several hundred taken from the two fields in question.

Many U.S. potato growers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho have been known to rely on Alberta seed potatoes in previous years.

Golden nematode and pale cyst nematode are both considered quarantine pests because they can reduce yields of host crops, such as potatoes and eggplants, by up to 80 per cent and can survive dormant in host soil for decades.

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