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Maine VS. Idaho Potatoes In Production

Q:

I’m from Maine and I recall that my grandparents always told me our state produced more potatoes than any other. Can you shed some light on when we lost the crown as the largest potato state in the USA to Idaho?

A:

Idaho is the top producing state for potatoes in any form, and took the honors from Maine in 1957. We’ve never been surpassed, although the state of Washington has made great strides in the increased volume for frozen French fries. We are still on top for fresh potato sales and lead the nation in the production of the Russet Burbank variety although we grow several brown russet varieties now as well as reds, yellow and fingerlings.

A little history, Idaho versus Maine production in 1937 when the Idaho Potato Commission started: With only 130,000 acres harvested in 1937 and a yield of 135 cwt* the value of Idaho’s potato crop was about $7 million, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Maine, which had a higher yield back then at 171 cwt* from its 163,000 harvested acres and was valued at more than $17 million.

And probably more important:

Idaho had no price premium at the time, either. The state’s potatoes sold for about 40 cents per cwt., much lower than Maine’s 62 cents.

This year, Idaho growers harvested 322,000 acres of potatoes with an average yield of 405 cwt* and a little over one third of the fall potato crop in the USA, while Maine harvested 50,500 acres at 320 cwt per acre.

A fun 1937 potato history lesson can be found at this link when Idaho tried to wrestle the attention away from Maine after their Governor sent Maine potatoes to every states governors. Idaho struck back by sending potatoes to Washington DC restaurants, journalists and members of Congress.

http://history.house.gov/Blog/Detail/15032428950

By the way, the United States is fifth in World Potato Production, trailing China, India, the Russian Federation and the Ukraine.

*This antiquated measurement of a 100 pound equivalent or hundred weight (cwt.) per acre actually followed an earlier practice of measuring the potatoes in bushels weights since potatoes were harvested by workers carrying bushel baskets into the fields.