Declining farmer share of retail food dollar focus of National Ag Day event

More than 1,500 Farmers Gather to Highlight Need for Fair Prices-

WASHINGTON>>The nation’s family farmers and ranchers receive just pennies of each dollar spent on food at the retail level because of depressed commodity prices, unprecedented market concentration within the processing industry, and poor public policy.

The dramatic difference between prices farmers’ receive and retail food prices was the focus of today’s “Farmer’s Share Luncheon” held in conjunction with National Agriculture Day. More than 1,500 farmers and ranchers from around the country attended the event. The “price” of the meal was equal to the amount a farmer would receive for his contribution – just 39 cents for a beef sandwich, baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, milk and a cookie, a meal that would typically cost $7.00 or more on the retail level.

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and a visiting farmer were among those who addressed participants.

Rapid market consolidation in nearly every sector of the food processing industry has made it extremely difficult for farmers to get a fair, competitive price for their products. “Between depressed commodity prices and anticompetitive agricultural markets, family farmers and ranchers are being squeezed to the financial breaking point,” said Charles Linderman, a grain producer from North Dakota.

“Farmers are not the only ones affected by concentration in agriculture,” said Rhonda Perry, a Missouri hog farmer who spoke at the lunch. “In 1998, when hog prices fell to levels not seen since the Great Depression, consumer pork prices remained steady. Consumers and farmers should be working together to protect their common interests. It is vitally important that our farm policy be reworked to ensure producers earn a fair price from the marketplace and consumers have access to affordable food,” Perry stated.

Farmers typically receive just pennies on the dollar compared to the price of food sold in grocery stores. Following area few examples:
Retail Price*, Farmer’s Share*
Box of cereal, $3.71, 4.6 cents
Loaf of bread, $1.39, 5 cents
Sirloin steak (I lb.), $4.39, 6.8 cents
Cheddar cheese (1 lb.), $5.91, $1.05
Potato chips (9 oz. package), $1.99, 3.3 cents
Head of lettuce, $1.29, 9 cents
Bacon (I lb.), $3.29, 40 cents

Participants at today’s meal called on Congress and the administration to change farm policy to ensure farmers and ranchers receive a fair price for their commodities, provide a strong farm safety net for protection in downturns and ensure fair, open and competitive agricultural markets.

Today’s meal was held in conjunction with the “Rally for Rural America,” to take place Tuesday, March 21, on the Mall side of the U.S. Capitol. Nearly 40 farm, religious, labor and rural development groups have organized the rally to call for changes to federal farm policy.

*Figures based on Washington-area food prices and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.