Marsha Daughenbaugh: What the farmer gets
January 16, 2010
You are in the grocery store buying a cart of items to get you through the next few days. You get into the line, put your wares on the belt and watch the checker scan everything. Your pen is poised over your checkbook, but you nearly have a coronary when you hear the total.
It happens to all of us, and quite often we bemoan the price of groceries. There are a number of factors that equate into that bill. First, how many non-food items did we purchase? Was the cart loaded with paper goods such as toilet paper and paper towels? Did we get paper plates, napkins and plastic ware for a special event? Are cigarettes included?
What does the processing of our food products add to our bill? It is estimated that from the time a commodity leaves a farm until it is purchased, 10 people make a living on it. There are pickers, truckers, processors, warehouse workers, inspectors, container manufacturers, marketers and retailer employees involved in our food chain.
That gets us to the farmers. Just how much did they receive for their product? The following chart identities a variety of retail food products and the farmer's share of the sales price.
Product: Retail; Farmer
Flour (5 lbs.): $2.49; $0.50
Wonderbread (1 loaf): $2.99; $0.10
Wheaties (15 oz.): $3.99; $0.07
Milk (1 gallon): $3.39; $1.14
Russet potatoes (10 lbs.): $3.00; $0.36
Lays chips (13.5 oz.): $2.99; $0.09
Cheddar cheese (1 lb.): $3.99; $1.35
Boneless ham (1 lb.): $4.99; $0.40
Bacon (1 lb.): $2.79; $0.40
Top sirloin steak (1lb.): $6.99; $0.80
1 dozen eggs (AA-L): $1.99; $1.01
Fresh carrots (2 lbs.): $1.98; $0.81
Lettuce head (2 lbs.): $1.29; $0.75
Cola (corn, 2 liter): $0.87; $0.06
Miller Lite (six pack): $5.99; $0.11
The retail prices are based on store brands, except where noted, from Safeway in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1, 2009. The national average of farm prices was obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture/National Agriculture Statistics Service for the month of December. This information was compiled by National Farmers Union.
The American farmer and rancher provide the most abundant and safest food supply in the world. They contend with weather, consumptive land use, high equipment and fuel costs, government regulations and labor issues. They are willing to work from dawn to dark because of their love of agriculture. They work in the only business that asks, "What will you give me for my product?" rather than say, "This is what it will cost you."
So, as you pay for your groceries, say a silent prayer of thanks.
Thanks for a grocery store that was more than adequately stocked.
Thanks for food that is clean and safe to eat.
Thanks for a variety of products to choose from regardless of the season.
And thanks for the men and women who continue to grow our food.
Daughenbaugh is president of the Northwest Colorado Farmers Union.