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State-federal plan opens way for Wisconsin seed potato exports

May 2, 2013 | 0 comments

A new state-federal program will help Wisconsin seed potato growers move their product into international markets by assuring trading partners of pest- and disease-free status.

Wisconsin is one of 12 states participating in the State National Harmonization Plan.

Harmonization refers to a common set of baseline standards to assure international buyers that they are getting seed potatoes that are free of pests and diseases, rather than a patchwork of regulation that varies from state to state.

Under the old system, each state had to negotiate market access based on its own standards.

"Seed potato exports are growing in importance for Wisconsin producers, and this new plan will help boost those exports," said Brian Kuhn, director of the Bureau of Plant Industry in the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

He added, "We've already been audited, and the results show that our state certification program exceeds the standards under the harmonization plan, and we will maintain our high standards."

Unlike most other crops that grow from seeds produced by the plants, potatoes grow from pieces of the potato itself. Through careful monitoring and removal of unhealthy plants, seed potato producers maintain healthy stock. Wisconsin has about two dozen seed potato producers.

The standards cover such factors as number of generations of field propagation from one parent stock, length of time with records of no disease, and testing and inspection of both potatoes and facilities.

Wisconsin is the nation's third largest producer of potatoes for consumption, but it is also a leader in producing potatoes for seed.

The Wisconsin Seed Potato Improvement Association joined with growers in Maine, Idaho and Vermont in 1914 to form the nation's first state programs for inspecting and certifying seed potatoes.

The Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison administers the state certification program, while the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is responsible for pest monitoring, prevention and control.

Besides Wisconsin, the other states in the plan are Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. Together, these 12 states account for 98.5 percent of all U.S. seed potato acreage.

Alaska, California and New York are completing the requirements for entry into the program.

Some other states that do not produce seed potatoes are signing on to assure their trading partners that their potato growers are using seed that meets these standards.

The harmonization plan is a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the National Potato Council, the National Potato Board, the National Plant Board, and state seed certification agencies.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is a member of the National Plant Board.

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