Today, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau announced $28 million in funding to support Prince Edward Island (PEI) potato farmers affected by trade disruptions. The Government of Canada is taking a Team Canada approach and working collaboratively with the Province of PEI and industry to support potato growers and resume full market access for PEI fresh potatoes.
This funding of up to $28 million will be used to support the diversion of surplus potatoes, including help to redirect surplus potatoes to organizations addressing food insecurity and support for the environmentally-sound disposal of surplus potatoes. It will also support marketing activities and will help industry to develop long-term strategies to manage future challenges.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will work with the Government of PEI, the PEI Potato Board, national food bank organizations and other stakeholder groups to deliver the funding. Details on how producers can access support will be available through the coming weeks.
Producers also have access to a suite of other Business Risk Management (BRM) programs to help them manage issues. The Governments of Canada and PEI recently made adjustments to the AgriStability program, which protects producers against large declines in farming income, so that producers who did not enrol for the 2021 program year can sign-up now and still access this important income support. Furthermore, AgriStability interim payments have increased, so that producers can now apply for up to 75% of their anticipated payment, up from 50%.
The Government of Canada stands firmly on the science that indicates that the risks associated with the transmission of potato wart from fresh potatoes remains negligible when appropriate risk mitigation measures are in place. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will continue to make science-based data and details of its investigation into the October 2021 detections available to the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to highlight the strengths of Canada's Potato Wart Domestic Long Term Management Plan. Soil sampling and soil testing processes are taking place as quickly as possible.
While this work is underway, important collaboration continues through the Government-Industry Potato Working Group. It brings together key stakeholders of the PEI potato sector to exchange information, help mitigate impacts of potato wart on the sector, and identify potential short and long-term solutions to current trade disruptions. Fred Gorrell has been asked to be the new co-chair of the Potato Working Group. Mr. Gorrell is very well known within the sector and comes with years of experience as a former Assistant Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and leader of the Market Access Secretariat.