Jun 10, 2024
Potato Day at the Capitol highlights industry’s impact in Michigan

Michigan potato industry stakeholders welcomed state legislators, members of the agricultural industry and the public to Potato Day at the Capitol at the Michigan state capitol building on June 5.

The event celebrated Michigan’s potato sector, which contributes more than $2.5 billion annually to the state’s economy and supports nearly 22,000 jobs, according to a recent study by Michigan State University economists.

Better Made Snack Foods vice president of purchasing Phil Gusmano (from left), Sen. Sue Shink, Michigan Potato Industry Commission executive director Kelly Turner, and Jeffery Hillman, Shink’s chief of staff, at Potato Day at the Capitol. Photos courtesy of MPIC.

“The event provided an invaluable opportunity to connect with legislators, fostering stronger relationships and open lines of communication,” Kelly Turner, executive director of the Michigan Potato Industry Commission and Spudman’s 2024 Spudwoman of the Year, said in a news release. “This is crucial for advocating on behalf of Michigan’s potato industry and ensuring our concerns and priorities are heard at the state level.

“It was gratifying to highlight the significant economic impact of the potato industry in Michigan. From farming to processing and distribution, potatoes play a vital role in our state’s economy, supporting jobs and contributing to local communities.”

Michigan is the eighth-largest potato-producing state in the United States at approximately 1.9 billion pounds of potatoes annually and leads the nation in producing chip potatoes. About 70% of Michigan’s potato crop goes to the chip industry, with one out of every four bags of potato chips produced in the U.S. filled with Michigan-grown potatoes.

About 20% of the state’s annual crop goes to the fresh market, including russet potatoes, yellow potatoes, red potatoes, round whites and specialty varieties such as fingerlings. In addition, 5% of the Michigan crop goes to non-chip processing, such as canned potatoes or deli-prepared sides.

Phil Gusmano (right) answers questions about Michigan-made potato chips during Potato Day at the Capitol on June 5.

Michigan State University is home to a potato breeding program, headed by Dr. Dave Douches, and a world-class agricultural Extension that supports the industry with research.

“The event also allowed us to showcase Michigan’s leadership in potato breeding and sustainability practices,” Turner said. “Our state’s innovative approaches in these areas not only enhance the quality and yield of our potato crops but also ensure that we are moving toward more sustainable and environmentally friendly farming methods.”

Michigan chip producers including Detroit-based Better Made Snack Foods, Great Lakes Potato Chip Co. (Traverse City) and Downey’s Potato Chips (Clarkston) were also represented at the event.

“Overall, Potato Day at the Capitol was a wonderful platform to share the story of Michigan potatoes, advocate for our industry’s needs, and celebrate the many contributions we make to the state’s economy and public health,” Turner said.

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