Maine farmers were not affected by the severe drought that affected the Midwest this summer, and Maine potato producers are harvesting "a quality crop" this season, according to state agriculture officials.
With 80 to 85 percent of the crop already harvested as of last week, growers are having a successful growing year and are storing a good crop of potatoes, according to Don Flannery, Maine Potato Board executive director. "We're looking at a crop that is good quality and somewhere close to average yield," reports Flannery.
In Maine, 65 percent of the crop is sold for processing, with preseason contracts; 20 percent is sold as seed potatoes, primarily to East Coast producers; and the remaining crop is sold as fresh. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (ACF) works with Maine potato farmers by certifying seed potatoes, inspecting and evaluating fresh market and processed potatoes, and certifying them according to state and federal regulations. As of September 2012, a total of 11,444 acres of seed potatoes, managed by 121 growers, was certified. The most common varieties were Frito-Lay propagated varieties, Russet Burbanks and Atlantics, according to ACF's Animal and Plant Health Division.
"Maine has approximately 380 potato farmers, and although the majority of family-owned potato operations are in Aroostook County, commercially, potatoes are grown statewide," says Walter Whitcomb, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry commissioner. "They are Maine's largest agricultural crop and a huge economic boost to rural Maine." Maine potato growers planted a total of 59,000 acres of potatoes in 2012. The potato industry employs 2,650 people directly and 2,400 indirectly.
Flannery said this year's crop is expected to be a yield in keeping with the 12-year average of 290 hundredweight per acre. The final amount won't be known until about six months from now, after the entire crop is sold, he said. "Right now, there appears to be an adequate supply of fresh potatoes," Flannery said. "We expect everything to store well."
Last year, there was a storage issue because there was so much rain, but this has been a drier year, he said.