Despite massive losses in Mississippi due to excessive rains, U.S. sweet potato production was up in 2009.

About 19.6 million cwt. of sweet potatoes were produced domestically last year, 7% more than the year before and 9% more than in 2007, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Sweet potato growers harvested 97,700 acres, up slightly from last year. And yield per acre — 201 cwt. — was up 11% from last year and is a new record, according to the Jan. 12 report, Crop Production 2009 Summary.

Industry leader North Carolina set records for both production and yields in 2009. The 9.4 million cwt. produced last year in the Tar Heel State was up 8% from 2008. Yield per acre, at 200 cwt., was up 10%.

Yields in the No. 2 sweet potato producing state, California, were a whopping 340 cwt. per acre, up from 295 in 2008. Production in California jumped from 4.4 million cwt. to 5.9 million cwt. in 2009.

Louisiana also saw a production increase, from 1.1 million cwt. in 2008 to 1.6 million last year.

That left Mississippi as the big exception to the rule among major sweet potato producing states in 2009. Production fell there from 3.4 million to 1.3 million cwt. last year.

The culprit was Mother Nature. Between 20% and 25% of the Mississippi crop had been harvested when rains started falling in mid-September. They continued for the next six weeks, with growers getting only one or two day breaks to get into fields.