Michigan potato industry celebrates state's spuds with Potato Day at the Capitol

News Category: National News
Potato Day at the Capitol swag

LANSING, MI – Members of Michigan’s potato industry converged in downtown Lansing on May 9 for the annual Potato Day at the Capitol event.

The event, co-sponsored by the Michigan Potato Industry Commission (MPIC) and Potato Growers of Michigan Inc. (PGMI), is a chance for state legislators and their staffs to mingle with members of the state’s potato growing and processing industries, all while enjoying potatoes.

This year’s Potato Day at the Capitol featured plenty of potato chips, as well as three types of potato salad from Morton’s Fine Catering – asparagus potato salad, classic potato salad, and a loaded ranch potato salad. Attendees also got a chance to grab recipe books, nutritional information, and Michigan Potatoes-logoed swag, such as tumblers and potato peelers.

Michigan is home to 80 commercial potato farms that plant 45,000 to 48,000 acres of potatoes each year, which produces close to 2 billion pounds of potatoes. Seventy percent go to the potato chip industry, 20% to the fresh potato market, 5% to processing – such as deli-prepared potato salad and canned potatoes – with the remaining 5% being grown as seed. Michigan ranks eighth in potato production among U.S. states.

PDAC attendees with potato salad

“Our potato growers and processors not only provide healthy, nutritious food for millions of people each year, but the potato industry is a big part of our state’s economy,” said Kelly Turner, the executive director of MPIC and manager of PGMI. “It’s important for our policymakers to understand how the industry functions, the great strides we are making in research, as well as the challenges we’re facing.

“We’re very grateful to everyone who joined us for Potato Day at the Capitol.”

Sen. Roger Victory (R-Hudsonville) represents Michigan’s 31st district, which includes most of Ottawa County and portions of Kent and Allegan counties.

“I was honored to attend Potato Day at the Capitol. This is a great way to recognize and celebrate the importance of Michigan’s potato industry,” Victory said. “Potatoes not only significantly contribute to our state’s overall economy, but they are crucial in maintaining and advancing Michigan place as a diverse and thriving agricultural leader."

A major focus of Michigan’s potato industry is potato chips, as Michigan produces more chipping potatoes than any other state. One out of every four bags of potato chips produced in the U.S. are filled with Michigan potatoes.

Chips were well-represented at Potato Day at the Capitol, as Detroit-based Better Made Snack Foods Vice President Phil Gusmano and Downey’s Potato Chips General Manager Kali Bagley (Waterford, Michigan) were in attendance, handing out samples of their product and engaging with legislators. In addition, Traverse City-based Great Lakes Potato Chip Company sent numerous flavors of their kettle chips to be enjoyed.

“It is always an exciting day at the Capitol when Michigan Potatoes celebrates their annual legislative day in Lansing,” said Sen. Kevin Daley (R-Lum) of Michigan’s 26th district, which includes portions of Genesee and Tuscola counties. “There I had the privilege of meeting with Kali … of Downey’s Potato Chips – they are one of the many great businesses that grow and operate exclusively here in Michigan!”

Headquartered on Gratiot Avenue in the city of Detroit, Better Made has been producing potato chips since 1930. Gusmano is the current chair of the Michigan Potato Industry Commission.  

“It was a great event that informed legislators about the importance of ag in our state, and the importance of ag in urban areas,” Gusmano said.

PDAC attendees
Attendees sort through swag during Potato Day at the Capitol. 
Phil Gusmano Better Made
Phil Gusmano of Better Made Snack Foods is all smiles during Potato Day at the Capitol. 
PDAC Downeys Brad Slagh
Kali Bagley of Downey's Potato Chips chats with Michigan Rep. Brad Slagh during Potato Day at the Capitol on May 9.