The province's recent decision to stop potato truck disinfection was based on budgetary measures and good science, says P.E.I. Agriculture Minister Alan McIsaac.

The government announced Monday that it will close the disinfection station in Borden-Carleton and will take mobile units off the road by the end of the year.

Under the program, trucks transporting potatoes are sprayed to protect against bacterial ring rot (BRR).

McIsaac said the cost to producers was $10 per truck, but the government was paying $32.

The province wanted to increase the cost to producers to $30, saying the fees had not changed in 18 years.

Province wanted 60-40 split

But the industry voiced concerns and asked for a compromise.

In the end, a deal could not be reached.

"We wanted to share [the cost] more evenly, I guess you might say, because of the constraints in our department and so we asked them to split it 60-40," said McIsaac. "We thought that since the rate hadn't changed in 18 years we could share it a little more evenly."

McIsaac says the majority of the trucks are used for table-stock potatoes and disinfection is not really required.

"We checked with an internationally recognized scientist to make sure that this was the case. And he indicated that BRR was functionally eradicated in the province," said McIsaac.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency scientist told the province there have been five cases of BRR recorded on potato seed lots in Canada in the past eight years, he said.

Employees affected

"The only concern that was needed was possibly to continue with the seed sectors. So there are about 800 trucks in seed. So there was no need to continue the full function of the Borden depot."

He said the department will help set up and help fund seed producers who want to disinfect on-farm.

The minister notes other provinces do not pay for disinfection services.

The savings to the province will be $375,000, said McIssac.

The government is willing to work with seed producers to help them set up their own disinfection services, he said.

One full-time employee and several seasonal employees are affected.

Meanwhile, the P.E.I. Potato Board said it's very disappointed the province has decided to discontinue the service and that it puts the health of the province's potato industry at risk, especially the seed industry.