This industry classification includes establishments primarily engaged in the production of potatoes, except sweet potatoes, which are part of SIC 0139: Field Crops Except Cash Grains, Not Elsewhere Classified.
The potato, a member of the nightshade family that produces thick, fleshy tubers from underground stems, has its roots in South America. It was brought back to Europe by Spanish explorers early in the sixteenth century. Potato cultivation in colonial America started early in the eighteenth century, but potatoes did not appear in U.S. crop production data until the 1840 census, which listed 160.4 million pounds of potatoes grown.
American per capita potato consumption, which peaked in the early twentieth century at 198 pounds, dropped to about 103 pounds by 1956, and rose again at the end of the century. In 2006 the United States Department of Agriculture reported per capita potato consumption of about 130 pounds, 40 pounds more than tomatoes, the next most commonly eaten vegetable.
More than half of potato sales are typically made to processors for French fries, chips, dehydrated potatoes, frozen products, and other potato products, and the remaining sales go to the fresh market. Of the 136 pounds per capita of potatoes consumed by Americans in 2004, frozen products accounted for 57 pounds while fresh potatoes accounted for 46 pounds. Another 33 pounds per capita came from processed potatoes: chips and shoestrings accounted for 17 pounds, dehydrated potatoes for 15 pounds, and canned potatoes for one pound.
There are more than 80 varieties of potatoes planted in the United States, but six varieties dominate production: Russet Burbank, Russet Norkotah, Atlantic, Ranger Russet, Frito-Lay, and Shepody. White potatoes are the leading vegetable crop in the United States, contributing about 15 percent of farm sales receipts for vegetables. In overall produce sales, potatoes rank second only to grapes in farm sales receipts.
Acreage devoted to potato farming was decreasing annually in the early twenty-first century, falling from 1.3 million acres in 2002 to less than 1.2 million acres in 2004, and slightly more than 1.1 million acres in 2005. The harvested area of 1.09 million acres in 2005, down 7 percent from 2004, was the lowest harvested area since records were kept, beginning in 1866. Nevertheless, the average yield per acre for potatoes remains...