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LANSING, MI -- Michigan's potato growers are known around the world for a high-quality, nutritious product, and the state's growing potato industry is creating more jobs than ever. On Wednesday, Nov. 4, the Potato Growers of Michigan, Inc. (PGMI) teamed up with the Michigan Potato Industry Commission (MPIC) and showcased these benefits for policymakers during "Potato Day at the Capitol."

"Right here in Michigan, more than 75 family farms are growing potatoes in 40 Michigan counties," said Dennis Iott, a farmer from Kalkaska County, in testimony to the Michigan House Agriculture Committee and House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. "Potatoes play a vital role in our state's agricultural economy, creating more than 320 million dollars in economic activity on an annual basis – and the good jobs we create across the supply chain benefit people in rural and urban parts of our state."

Mike Wenkel, executive director of the MPIC, emphasized the nutritional value of potatoes, especially for children and families, as the organization showcased a new partnership to provide salad bars in Michigan schools.

"Potatoes are a great source of potassium and many other important nutrients, and one potato only adds 100 calories to a plate, making it a great addition to a balanced meal," said Wenkel. "In particular, potatoes are an excellent addition to school lunches, as research has shown a potato added to other healthy foods encourages kids to finish their lunch. That's why our potato growers have teamed up with Michigan school districts and United Fresh to provide healthy salad bars in schools across the state."

Wenkel said the new public-private partnership will put more than 150 salad bars in schools statewide, and share healthy potato recipes that meet school nutrition standards. A Texas A&M study released this fall showed that school lunch entrees paired with potatoes and other healthy vegetables experienced the least amount of overall waste.

"Every year, Potato Day at the Capitol provides an opportunity to connect Michigan's potato farmers with work happening in Lansing, and share information about our industry with policymakers," Wenkel said. "We appreciate the opportunity to share our story at the Capitol, and the close partnership between Michigan's potato industry and agricultural leaders in the Michigan House and Senate."

More information about Michigan's potato industry is available at www.mipotato.com.

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