Found it vastly alarming that according to the USDA the farmer, on average, receives 15.8 cents of every dollar that we, the consumer spend on food.
The other 80+ % is made up of marketing, distribution, wholesaling, processing and retailing.
Farming today takes money. And lots of it. Fuel prices have risen dramatically and are not going back down. Fertilizer is up along with seed. Bigger equipment means more land to make the farm profitable. And let’s face it – todays’ technology is not cheap!
According to studies between last year and this year, the farmers share of the dollar has dropped to 15.8 cents versus the 20 cents it was last year.
Here is a sampling of current prices from USDA:
Food Cost 2012
retail Bacon 5.89
retail Top Sirloin (1lb) 8.49
retail Bread 3.59
retail Tomatoes (1lb) 3.28
retail Milk (1 gallon) 4.39
*A full list can be found on the USDA website under Agricultural Prices.
** The USDA used average Safeway Grocery Store retail prices for this study
I know there are many farmers who are subsidized. I don’t pretend to know how many, or how individual farmers may apply those payments on their own farms. I don’t even know exactly how many and what kinds of programs are available to the farmers.
What I do know is that there are many, many small farms that are not subsidized. These folks go out seed their crops, buy hail insurance (absolutely not the same as a subsidy, it is like insuring your car against an accident), hope for rain, and harvest. They sell to the elevator, and if prices are down they store their grains until they rise again. We know plenty of both kinds of farmers.
There is no right or wrong way to farm. Farming is more than just trying to make a buck. It’s a way of life. It’s being a good steward of the land. It is having a love of growing things. More importantly, it is a tradition.
When I see these prices, it’s alarming. It seems that the farmer is doing an awful lot of work for small rewards. This is one of the reasons why farming has gotten so big. Most have to be huge just to survive.
There are approximately 2 million farms in the United States today. It doesn’t seem like many, when you think about how many people we have to try and feed! These numbers dwindle every year as farmers struggle to make ends meet.
So, the next time you’re at the grocery, don’t blame the farmer for the prices. The farmer does not set the prices. Glitzy packaging, delivery, food processors and the stores themselves are part of the reason the food costs are up.