LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – As Michigan temperatures begin to dip, potato crops in Michigan are projected to increase by 3% this year according to the US Department of Agriculture. 

“Michigan has the most diverse agricultural profile in the country among states and also has the advantage of consistent access to fresh water, and potatoes are a huge part of it,” said Dr. Kelly Turner, Executive Director for Michigan Potato Industry Commission in an email to Michigan News Source. “Potatoes rank second in Michigan among specialty crops in terms of value and production behind only apples.”

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There are roughly 80 commercial potato growers and processors, including farms all the way from the Western Upper Peninsula to near the Indiana and Ohio borders according to Turner. 

“While the crop itself is worth more than $200 million annually, the overall economic impact when factoring in processing, employment, and related sales exceeds $2.5 billion,” said Turner in the email. 

In 2022, there were 46,000 planted acres, but this year there are 2,000 more projected harvested acres. According to Turner, Michigan falls between the seventh and ninth places overall for potato production in the U.S. states, but is a national leader in the chip department. 

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“We rank first among all states in producing potatoes that supply the potato chip industry, however,” she said in the email. “Seventy percent of Michigan’s potato crop goes to chip makers not only in Michigan but around the country. One out of every four bags of potato chips (averaging 28% annually) produced in the U.S. is filled with Michigan potatoes.” 

She also highlighted the potato breeding program at Michigan State University and researchers at the Michigan State University Extension for creating new varieties of potato as well as helping growers keep up with the latest growing information. 

“Twenty percent of the total Michigan crop goes to the fresh market, including russets, reds, yellows, round whites, and specialty potatoes,” said Turner in the email. “Five percent goes to non-chip processing, such as deli-prepared sides and canned potatoes. The remaining 5% is grown as seed potatoes.” 

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Despite estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dr. Turner expressed some reservations about counting the spuds before they sprout. 

“Saying that we have a 3% increase in yield is premature,” she said in the email. “Some potatoes are still in the ground, hoping to be harvested this week. Though yields have been favorable, we also lost acreage due to heavy rainfall and flooding at the beginning of harvest season. In all likelihood, these losses may negate any increase in yield when averaged across the state.” 

According to the Michigan Potato Industry Commission, more than 3,000 jobs come from potato production and processing.