A Hot (Potato) Debate

Mar 29, 2022

Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Potato warts might be crossing the border… 

The USDA reportedly ended its trade spat last Thursday after Canada had previously halted exports of Prince Edward Island potatoes to the U.S. for consumption and planting in November 2021. Prince Edward Island potatoes have been plagued with a nasty-looking wart fungus that is (yep, you guessed it) highly contagious.  

How contagious? It’s been found on Prince Edward Island for eight of the past 10 years and in 33 potato fields since 2000. Let’s just say it’s serious. So serious that after the recent finds in October 2021, Canadian authorities restricted seed potato movement from Prince Edward Island to other provinces immediately. 

And now they’re headed to the U.S. “under certain conditions that will pose little risk of introducing the disease into the United States” according to the USDA. But if the disease hits American soil, the impact would be felt instantly. Not only would there be domestic costs to growers and the industry, but the U.S. would lose access to all international fresh potato markets to the tune of more than $225M in annual exports (not to mention the billions in indirect damages). 

With Canadian potatoes from untested fields on their way, U.S. potato growers are nervous.

What’s next? The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will process remaining samples associated with fresh detections and expand surveillance of nonregulated fields in Prince Edward Island along with its national surveillance program.