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Q: Size distribution of US potato growers ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: Size distribution of US potato growers
Category: Business and Money > Economics
Asked by: needtheinfo-ga
List Price: $200.00
Posted: 18 Apr 2006 14:52 PDT
Expires: 18 May 2006 14:52 PDT
Question ID: 720332
I need information on the size of US potato growers, in terms of
pounds of potatoes produced per year per grower.  According to the
USDA, about 50 billion pounds of potatoes are produced each year in
the US.  The US potato council reports roughtly 5500-6000 potato
growers in the country.  Since some are likely very small and some
very large, I can't simply divide the pounds of potatoes by the number
of growers.

What I'd like to know is how many growers produce 
<5 million pounds/yr 
5-9.99 million pounds/yr 
10-29.99 million pounds/yr 
30-59.99 million pounds/yr
60+ million pounds/yr.

Answer should therefore be 5 values, along with appropriate refs. 
(Looking up by SIC does not work well, since many potato producers
list themselves under other categories; the totals don't add up to the
USPC numbers.  USPC may be a good source.)

Request for Question Clarification by czh-ga on 25 Apr 2006 20:29 PDT
Hello needtheinfo-ga,

I have been researching your question and I?m not sure that the
information you?re looking for will be available. Here are my
preliminary findings.

The 2002 Census of Agriculture shows 3,074 potato farms.

The 2004 Potato Research and Promotional Plan from the USDA
Agricultural Marketing Service shows that there are 6300 producers of

The 2004 Potato Quick Facts from the National Potato Council shows
there are approximately 5,500 potato growers in the U.S.

It appears that some potato farms have multiple producers/growers. I
don?t know which figure you want to use.

Next, it appears that the information you?re looking for should be
available from the 2002 Census of Agriculture but the tables I?ve
found online do not provide it. You may have to contact the Census
Bureau to get exactly the information you?ve specified.

Getting a breakdown of potato growers as you specified is difficult.
Please explain further the context of your question so that I can try
alternate search strategies to get you the information you seek.
Alternately, can you change the parameters of your question to make it
more manageable?

I look forward to your clarification.

~ czh ~

Clarification of Question by needtheinfo-ga on 03 May 2006 06:50 PDT
Hi czh,

Thanks for taking a stab at this.  You're right: I have found the info
you listed, but like you, I have been unable to find the breakdown.  I
even contacted the NPC (they would have the info, since they support
their activities by collecting dues based on potato sales), but they
were hesitant to give me the info.  Their first concern was with
confidentiality, so I suggested removing the names (at this point, raw
data is enough), to which they replied that the information was not in
a concise format--which I find difficult to believe...
Unfortunately, I don't think there is much more I could say that would
clarify the question.  The breakdown I outlined is the actual data I
need.  (Working on agricultural offering that would only benefit
growers of a certain size--simply not economical for very small
farms--so I want to know my market before charging ahead.)

What question parameters do you think I should change?  I'm certainly
open to suggestions.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 03 May 2006 07:15 PDT

I've also been looking into this question, as it seemed reasonable to
suppose that data like this would be out there...somewhere!  But like
you and czh-ga, nothing's turned up yet.

However, I have come across several types of size data (acres, sales,
etc) for broad categories of crops (e.g. 'vegetables', 'grains').  If
you assume that potato growers are distributed pretty much like
vegetable growers in general, you could make some reasonable estimates
along the lines of:

(I'm making these up)

--12% of potato growers are small farmers

--77% are mid-range

--11% are large farmers

It might be possible to estimate the pounds of potatos belonging in
each category as well (e.g. the 11% of large farmers grow 63% of the
potato crop).

Would something like that be useful at all?  Let me know what you think.


Clarification of Question by needtheinfo-ga on 03 May 2006 08:04 PDT

I like your thinking, but potato growers are not like other
farmers--they're distributed differently by geography (climate) and by
size (because their relationship with customers--and the customers
themselves--can vary greatly).  But... that is the type of answer
format I'm looking for.

Clarification of Question by needtheinfo-ga on 03 May 2006 12:07 PDT

I realize I didn't answer one of your questions:
"It appears that some potato farms have multiple producers/growers. I
don?t know which figure you want to use."  The total production would be great.

Subject: Re: Size distribution of US potato growers
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 03 May 2006 13:11 PDT

Well, what do you know!

I contacted the USDA, and they steered me right to the source of data
that -- for whatever reason -- I couldn't find by a direct search.

You can see it excerpted here: 

and can access the full report (for just about any major crop of interest) here:

The USDA contact for potato crop data is Cathryn Scherrer:

I trust that does the can organize the size data into as
many categories as you care to.

But if there's anything else you need -- or if you'd like me to crunch
some of the numbers for you --  just give me a holler.


Request for Answer Clarification by needtheinfo-ga on 03 May 2006 13:32 PDT
Thanks, pafalafa!  Did you find out what the unit was on the "quantity" data?

Request for Answer Clarification by needtheinfo-ga on 03 May 2006 13:38 PDT
Actually, it would be very helpful if you could clarify other elements
in the table, for eg: are the number for "farms" the number of farms? 
(Sounds obvious, but it doesn't add up to what I found in other
sources, so I want to confirm.)  Also, is the top row supposed to be a
total (again, doesn't add up)?
What's the difference between 'irrigated land/farm' and 'farm'?


Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 03 May 2006 17:02 PDT
I'm glad these numbers look like they will do the trick.

The potato crop data is given in units of hundredweights (cwt) -- a
traditional crop measure -- as specified right next to the word

The total shown is 451,405,823 cwt, which is the same as 45.1405 billion pounds.

As you noted in your question, the US potato crop comes in at about 50
billion pounds per year, so this number seems right on target.

>>Are the number for "farms" the number of farms?<< 

An important always pays to be clear on what is and
isn't being counted.

The full text of the 2002 Census of Agriculture can be seen here:

and it includes this explanation of 'farms':


The census definition of a farm is any place from which $1,000 or more
of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would
have been sold, during the census year. The definition has changed
nine times since it was established in 1850. The current definition
was first used for the 1974 Census of Agriculture and has been used in
each subsequent agriculture census. This definition is consistent with
the definition used for current USDA surveys.

Though I can't be certain, it may well be that the inclusion of such
small farming units ($1000 worth of crop, less than an acre of land)
in the survey might be the reason the numbers are so much higher than
what you expected.  If you factor out the under-one-acre farms from
the numbers, then you get down into the 5000-6000 range, which is
consistent with the data from the Potato Council that you mentioned.

>>Is the top row supposed to be a total (again, doesn't add up)?<<

Yes, the top row is the total for all farms.  I'm not sure what you
think isn't adding up here, but if it's still unclear after reading
this post, just let me know in a bit more detail what the confusion

>>What's the difference between 'irrigated land/farm' and 'farm'?<<

This is just the subset of farms using irrigation, showing the number
of farms that do so, along with acreage and quantity harvested.

Hope that clears things up, but if there's anything else you need,
just give me a holler.

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