Spuds might be halted at eastern border

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SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – Island spud prices are rising and growers can look forward to decent incomes this year, once potatoes are moved across the U.S. border.

Danny Hendricken, district director for the National Farmers Union (NFU) in P.E.I. says new Homeland Security laws enacted to protect American citizens from terrorists could delay or even halt movement of potatoes across the border.

He says the new laws requiring goods to be packaged south of the border, or more stringently labelled and inspected at their point of origin, could hurt shipments.

Most, if not all harvesting operations are completed on P.E.I., with an estimated one per cent, or 1,000 acres of potatoes, still in the ground, says Paul McPhail, potato specialist for the province.

Hendricken says he remains suspicious of the motives behind the new regulations, seeing that they were drafted in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and may be just another attempt to circumvent the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Everything from auto parts in Quebec, to fresh fruit from Ontario, to Maritime potatoes will likely come under closer scrutiny, he says.

Wayne MacKinnon, an official in Agriculture Minister Mitch Murphy’s office, says the impact of the new U.S. security measures won’t be known until trucks start arriving at the border.

Meanwhile, Paul McPhail, potato specialist for the province, says the impact is likely going to be limited to longer delays at the border as paperwork is checked.

However, the trucks should still reach their destinations south of the border, he says.

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