The P.E.I. potato growers’ association is calling out the U.S. government for stopping imports of spuds from the province, saying their economic livelihoods are being threatened by the trade barriers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced earlier this year that, beginning in July, farmers would be asked to replace U.S. potatoes in dishes with Canadian potatoes in each country’s currency, “in an effort to ensure that potatoes can reach both consumer and purchaser requests at the most competitive price,” according to a statement from the trade agency.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) led the delegation of potato farm representatives from P.E.I. to present criquettes of spuds to the speaker of the House on Thursday, and to extend their thanks to U.S. lawmakers for their efforts to push back against the tariffs that will make P.E.I. potatoes more expensive in July. She told reporters she had been trying for months to get Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to reverse the decision, but had been repeatedly rebuffed.
“What is the Secretary’s excuse? Is there a specific food item on the market that the P.E.I. potato growers are unable to supply? No, there’s not,” Ms. Maloney said during a conference call from Ottawa on Thursday. “He’s holding the livelihood of the P.E.I. potato producers and the livelihood of the many families who work in the industry hostage as part of his, as you say, his obsession with China.”
The potatoes that are included in the Americans-must-replace-our-potatoes policy were grown in P.E.I. because this is where a large number of potato processors and companies are located.
Speaking to reporters, Alison Dubé, a member of the P.E.I. Potato Growers’ Association, said if other producers did not pick up the slack when the food moves over to Canada, it would be a hard blow for those families and their entire farming operations.
“We want to be able to sell our potatoes to the United States and to share our culture with the U.S. and to make sure that the potatoes and our products are on both sides of the border,” Ms. Dubé said. “How would they eat our potatoes? How would they experience P.E.I. with the potatoes that we grow?”
Ms. Maloney said the only reason that this trade negotiation could not be reached sooner was because of the U.S. Meat Export Federation’s financial backing of the tariffs in order to protect their beef farmers. She called the tariffs “a concerted and aggressive campaign to promote a system of controlled scarcity that denies farmers and consumers a choice on where they buy or sell U.S. beef or other foods.”