After more than 10 years of work, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and potato industry partners have launched the State National Harmonization Program for seed potatoes.
The voluntary program was developed through collaboration among the National Potato Council, the U.S. Potato Board, the USDA's Animal and Plant health Inspection Service and many of the state plant boards, says John Keeling, executive vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Potato Council.
It was needed to bring consistency to what had been a patchwork of state rules for non-quarantine pests, such as bacterial ring rot and several viruses, and quarantine pests, he says.
"A lot of them overlapped and were similar, but this takes the core components from each of those [state] programs and sets standards," Keeling says.
So far, states representing about 98 percent of the nation's seed potato production have signed onto the agreement, he says.
A section that addresses PVY, or potato virus Y, is in the works.
The standards will be applied to seed potatoes moving between states and between the United States and other countries.
The effort should strengthen the U.S. seed potato industry's position in the export market, Keeling says.
"We can say to those countries, 'wherever you get your seed from in the U.S., it will meet these minimum standards,'" he says.
The program also includes management options for many of the pests to help keep them in check.