The state's stockpile of stored spuds is considerably bigger than a year ago at this time, according to numbers recently released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Michigan Field Office.
February potato stocks are up 21% from last year's, according to the report, which estimates Michigan's potato growers and processors currently have 5.7 million hundredweight (cwt, or 570 million pounds) of taters in storage. Last year at this time stocks were estimated at 4.7 million cwt.
Approximately 86% of stocks are round white potatoes; the remaining 14% are russets. Meaning the grocer should have plenty of the Michigan-grown potatoes.
According to Jay Johnson, director of the USDA NASS Michigan Field Office, approximately 10 million cwt of last fall's Michigan potato crop have been used as of Feb. 1.
Michigan ranks eighth nationally in potato production, with approximately 42,300 acres on 600 farms devoted to raising the ubiquitous tuber all over the state. Montcalm County leads the way by a wide margin, with 25 farms raising more than 16,000 acres of potatoes. St. Joseph County has nearly 5,400 acres of potatoes on nine farms. Kalkaska, Presque Isle, Monroe and Bay counties each boast 1,200 to 2,100 acres of potatoes.
While Michigan potatoes are readily available to consumers in grocery stores and farmers' markets, most end up as potato chips.
According to the Michigan Potato Industry Commission, Michigan leads the nation in the production of chipping potatoes—a growing market here and beyond our borders. Michigan-made chip brands include Better Made and Uncle Ray's in Detroit, Downey's in Waterford and newcomer Great Lakes Potato Chip Company in Traverse City.