This section is from the book "The Potato: A Compilation of Information from Every Available Source", by Eugene H. Grubb, W. S. Guilford. Also available from Amazon: The Potato: A Compilation Of Information From Every Available Source.
The control and eradication of all disease human, animal, and vegetable - is a problem in which all of the people in a country or a state are vitally interested. Consequently, laws designed to accomplish this must be made by the highest legislative bodies. No matter how well the individual grower may do his part, unless there is concerted action, enforced by the law, little headway can be made in preventing or combating contagious diseases.
As an industry gains prominence either by its growth or the ability and public-spiritedness of the men interested in it, it is better able to secure such laws as are necessary for its protection.
An example of this is the result of the work of the Commissioner of Horticulture in California. The men interested in the fruit industry in this state demand protection from foreign insect and fungous pests that may be introduced to be a menace to the fruit interests of the state, and inspectors are stationed at every port of entry to inspect importations.
The potato industry in various sections needs similar protection. The Colorado beetle has not yet been introduced west of the Rocky Mountains. The states or parts of states that are now free from this pest should take steps to prevent its introduction.
A very bad pest is now prevalent in Europe the wart disease (black scab). There should be a law to prevent this from getting a foothold in America. The following letter was written by the senior author to Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson from London, England, May 28, 1910:
I am getting along very well, and am securing information invaluable to the American potato grower about the various stages of potato production.
There is little or no manufacture of farina from potatoes in Great Britain; all waste and low priced potatoes are cooked and fed to meat making livestock, but I have information that Germany is making flour from potatoes, and later I shall visit there.
I am in very close touch with the Department of Agriculture here, the seed potato breeders and growers, the commercial growers, and the market men.
I am sending you a leaflet from the Department of Agriculture of Great Britain on the black scab disease of potatoes. Some of the office men tell me that it is inconsequential, that the disease has been prevalent for fifteen or twenty years, and it has affected potato growing to but very little extent. Some of the field men tell me that it has been developing very rapidly in the last two years, but especially so the last year. They regard it as a very dangerous,if not the very worst,menace that the potato industry has ever had.
We spent a day with the potato work at Sutton & Sons, Reading, England, with Mr. Lasham, a Scotchman. He has been their expert and potato specialist for thirty years. They are doing more in the way of breeding new types and growing more seed potatoes, and selling and exporting more, than any other firm in the world.
Mr. Lasham showed us samples of potatoes in the various stages of black scab disease. When I looked at the potato and then when they were cut open it made me shudder with horror. Mr. Las-ham considers it more damaging and far reaching in its results to the potato industry than anything of its kind that has ever appeared. He says it takes eight years of grass crops to eradicate it from the soils when the fungus once invades it.
Mr. Rogers of the Department of Agriculture in London says they do not regard it as very serious, as it is not breeding very rapidly, but calls the attention of the potato growers in the bulletins of the Department of Agriculture of Great Britain to the heavy penalties for not reporting it to the Department. There are penalties for shipping any such diseased potatoes, however. Mr. Rogers admits that they have it in Newfoundland, and that it is developing quite rapidly the last year or two in Germany, Belgium, Roumania, Hungary, and other potato districts of Europe. A few instances are known in Scotland, but it is the worst in Wales. .
Mr. Rogers very kindly invited me to go with their experts throughout the infected districts during the month of August, when the disease makes its greatest development.
In my judgment it has not been given very wide publicity in Europe, as it would endanger the export trade. I believe the disease is much more malignant than we have a knowledge of, and that it will be a greater menace to the American farmer if once established in the United States or on the farms of our country than any of the infectious or contagious diseases of the livestock industry. Steps should be taken before this year's crop is harvested to prohibit the importation of potatoes to America from any of the infected districts of Europe. All of the vessels plying between Europe and the United States use foreign grown potatoes, and it would be very easy for those potatoes to get ashore, and it is also easy for emigrants to take seed stocks with them.
I feel that I am your personal representative over here in the potato industry, and I am sure that with this full information you will do all in your power to protect the American potato grower from the chances of the introduction of this disease, just as you have protected the 'livestock grower from the animal diseases of the countries of Europe."
Following up this important work the senior author brought the matter to the attention of Senator Guggenheim of Colorado, who, on April 6, 1911, introduced the following bill in the Senate of the United States:
To enable the Secretary of Agriculture to more effectually suppress and prevent the spread of diseases of potatoes known as black scab and wart disease, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That in order to enable the Secretary of Agriculture to effectually suppress and extirpate diseases of potatoes known as black scab and wart disease, and to prevent the spread of such diseases, the Secretary of Agriculture is hereby authorized and directed, from time to time, to establish such rules and regulations concerning the importation from foreign countries to the United States and transportation into and through any state or territory of the United States, including the District of Columbia, as he may deem necessary, and all such rules and regulations shall have the force of law. Whenever it shall appear to the Secretary of Agriculture that any potatoes grown in an infested country, district, department, or locality, outside of the United States, are being or are about to be imported into the United States, or the District of Columbia, and such potatoes are infested by wart disease or black scab, he shall have authority to quarantine against such importations from said country, district, department, or locality, and prevent the same until such time as it may appear to him that any such wart disease or black scab has been exterminated, when he may withdraw the quarantine.
Sec. 2. That when any shipment of potatoes imported or brought into the United States is found to be infested with wart disease or black scab the entire shipment shall be destroyed in such manner as the Secretary of Agriculture may direct.
Sec. 3. That upon complaint or reasonable ground on the part of the Secretary of Agriculture to believe that any potatoes grown within the United States and likely to become subject to interstate commerce are infected with wart disease or black scab, the Secretary of Agriculture shall cause the same to be inspected by a qualified expert, and, if need be, placed under quarantine until such infection is removed.
Sec. 4. That the Secretary of Agriculture shall have authority to make such regulations and take such measures as he may deem proper to prevent the introduction or dissemination of black scab and wart disease in potatoes from a foreign country into the United States or from one state or territory of the United States or District of Columbia to another, and to seize, quarantine, and dispose of any potatoes so infected coming from an infectd foreign country, district, department, or locality to the United States, or from one state or territory or the District of Columbia in transit to another state or territory or the District of Columbia whenever in his judgment such action is advisable in order to guard against the introduction or spread of such diseases.
Sec. 5. That any person, company, or corporation knowingly violating the provisions of this Act, or the orders or regulations made in pursuance thereof, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction shall be punished by a fine of not less than one hundred dollars nor more than one thousand dollars, or by imprisonment of not more than one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
Sec. 6. That the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars, to be immediately available, or so much thereof as may be necessary, is hereby appropriated, out of any moneys in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, to carry into effect the provisions of this Act."
It is a sad commentary on American legislative affairs that this bill was not made a law. The part which applies to potatoes was attached to an omnibus bill covering all parts of nursery stock.
The bill was opposed by importers of nursery stock, who do not want to be bothered with an inspection that will protect the American grower from foreign pests.
As drawn up by the attorney for the Department of Agriculture, a trifling mistake occurred - so that when it was read Congressman Mann of Illinois made a funny speech calling attention to this error. The bill was then held up, and the American potato grower is without protection.
The legislative end of farm affairs has been badly neglected in the past, but with increasing interest in agriculture this should be remedied in the immediate future.
Following up this matter during the winter of 1911-1912, further consideration was secured in Congress, and a bill prohibiting the importation of all kinds of diseased farm produce and nursery stock has been introduced.
During this past winter, however, many millions of bushels of potatoes from Europe have been imported, and a bulletin has been sent out warning against the use of these foreign potatoes for seed.