Ralph Sanborn dries hay with a tedder attached to his tractor in Wales in November. Production of hay, often used for cattle feed, was up last year in Maine from 2021’s total. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

The size of Maine’s farmland harvest grew in acreage last year and bucked a national trend of shrinking agricultural production, according to data released last week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The federal agency reported that Maine harvested 244,000 acres in 2022, up from 227,000 the previous year. By contrast, the total number of acres harvested in the United States dropped from 298 million to 286 million.

Lance Honig, chief of the crops branch at the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, said drought conditions across many states contributed to the overall decline in acres harvested. Some farmers were forced to abandon crops such as corn, cotton and winter wheat as a result, he said.

“That was a big issue that impacted the national totals that wasn’t necessarily an issue for Maine,” Honig said.

The Crop Production Annual Summary said 2022 was the second year in a row that more than 40% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought from start to finish. Maine also experienced severe drought conditions last year, but the USDA said the nation’s worst areas stretched from the Pacific Coast to the plains and the western corn belt. Crops that took a hit included sorghum and cotton.

Honig attributed the increase in Maine mostly to a larger-than-usual harvest of hay. The state reported 134,000 acres harvested in 2022, up from 120,000 in 2021 and 104,000 in 2020.


“There has been this growing need for feed supplies, so in areas where the weather is cooperative, we have seen a push for hay acres,” he said.

Maine also produced 1.81 billion pounds of potatoes last year, a slight decrease from the 2021 total of 1.84 billion pounds but still a strong harvest. In 2020, Maine produced 1.35 billion pounds, according to the USDA.

Nationally, Honig said the potato harvest has been declining for years and hit the lowest point last year since 1989.

“In a lot of places, potatoes are competing with a lot of other crop options,” he said. “Something we’ve seen more of in recent years, producers are a lot more reactive to what’s happening across the different markets.”

Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board, told Maine Public that farmers here were again able to send potatoes to western states hit by dry conditions and heat. Farmers from Maine shipped excess potatoes by rail last winter for the first time in decades, mostly to processors in Washington state.

“They saw some real yield deficit out there,” he said. “So we had some extra potatoes out here, as it turns out, with another good year. And some of those potatoes are going West again.”


The USDA report described difficult conditions last year for potato farmers in Idaho and Washington, the two largest growers. Maine ranks eighth in the United States.

“In Idaho, the growing season got off to a delayed start of plant development due to a rainy, cold spring,” the report says. “The Idaho potato crop suffered because of it. Harvest was a few weeks behind normal schedule. A cold, wet spring in Washington delayed emergence and plant development. Harvest was a little slower because of it.”

The Crop Production Annual Summary contains year-end acreage, yield and production estimates for grains and hay; oilseeds; cotton, tobacco and sugar; dry beans, peas and lentils; and potatoes and miscellaneous crops. The report includes Maine’s production of corn, oats, barley, hay, potatoes and maple syrup.

The maple syrup results, while not measured in acres, showed Maine produced a total of 672,000 gallons – up from 514,000 in 2021.

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