Ottawa officially announced Thursday $28 million in funding and increased support to assist P.E.I. potato farmers in their reintegration into the U.S. market.
The federal government will give $16 million to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to invest and help stabilize the Island's potato sector and supply chain over the course of two years.
The remaining $12 million over two years, as previously reported, will go to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to accelerate the investigation into the latest detection of potato wart — which banned P.E.I. potatoes south of the border for more than four months — and allow for full trade to resume as soon as possible.
Additionally, a Stay of Default program for outstanding potato advances from last year was also announced to provide growers the flexibility to repay an estimated $20 million in advance payments.
Growers will no longer have to provide proof of sale for both 2021 and 2022, which will allow them to repay their advances using any source of funding without incurring a penalty.
Those eligible are farmers who received support for working capital from the Prince Edward Island Federation of Agriculture 2021 Advance Payments Program and have good standing.
The P.E.I. Potato Board estimated a loss of about $2 million a week in sales to U.S. customers due to the export ban last November.
Unlike table potatoes, which were being shipped again in early April, seed potatoes are still banned in the U.S. and the rest of Canada pending the outcome of a more thorough investigation.
CFIA officials said more than 35,000 soil samples are required to complete the investigation, with hopes to collect between 18,750 and 25,000 samples this spring.
The CFIA funding will be used to speed up the process and maximize efficiency by hiring more than 35 positions to expand field and lab capacity.
The P.E.I. Potato Board has reported strong sales of at least 293 truckloads carrying 14.6 million pounds of potatoes that have entered mainland U.S. since the border reopened.
Sales to Puerto Rico in April were 73 loads, representing 3.6 million pounds.
Ginette Petitpas Taylor, the minister responsible for the ACOA, said the new investments are "another step toward full recovery and long-term sustainability for the industry."