(Dec. 23) Signs are good that the presence of the mop top virus in U.S. and Canadian potatoes will not disrupt trade of seed and table potatoes in the two countries.

U.S. and Canadian officials met the week of Dec. 15-21 to hammer out an agreement in which mop top would be lifted from quarantine lists and potatoes could be shipped without regulatory roadblocks. One participant in the discussions, John Keeling, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Potato Council, Washington, D.C., was hopeful that an agreement was in sight.

“I think it’s fair to say that at this point, it appears APHIS (the Animalized and Plant Health Inspection Service) believes that mop top is a pest with minimal economic consequences and that it would therefore be inappropriate to take regulatory action,” Keeling said.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we will reach a resolution with Canada by Christmas.”

An APHIS survey commissioned to determine the extent of mop top in the U.S. is 85% complete, said Meghan Thomas, an APHIS spokeswoman. She would not comment on which states, if any, had tested positive for mop top. But Keeling said that so far, Maine was the only U.S. state that had tested positive. The virus was found on a Maine farm in August. State potato commissions in Washington and Idaho, the two top U.S. potato producers, both have reported that their states are mop top-free.

By contrast, Keeling said anecdotal evidence from Canadian farmers indicated that five Canadian provinces have tested positive for mop top.