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We Feed America

Written by Dennis Sun

    Food seems to be one of the big issues across America these days, and I’ve written about it lately in a couple of columns as I realized that’s what we as farmers and ranchers are all about. Most of us in America must be doing pretty good economically, or we wouldn’t be so shook up over antibiotics, GMOs, hormones and all of the false scares we can think up to accuse them of poisoning our food. I think America is spoiled as they don’t realize what an abundance of food we have, the low cost we pay for it and the quality of our food.

Watching the news this past week as our President visited Cuba and seeing the conditions the Cuban people are living in, it would be a thrill to take some into one of our supermarkets for them to see all of the food available. Do you think GMOs would be on their mind?

Everyone wants safe, nutritious and flavorful food, and we have it in abundance in America at a reasonable cost. The American Farm Bureau Federation has just come out with their Spring Picnic Market Basket Survey where they showed the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals. This would be a banquet in Cuba. The cost for the 16 items was $53.28, down about 59 cents or about one percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 10 decreased and six increased in average price from last year.

They said egg prices soared in the latter half of last year but are working their way back down as increasing production has started to catch up with demand. Avian influenza was the cause of that price increase.

They had two beef items, ground chuck and sirloin tip roast, and as you can guess, they were down. One reason was that beef prices were record high early in 2015, and now, with a combination of increasing beef production, weaker exports due to a stronger dollar and lower competing meat prices, we’ve seen some modest price declines.

Dairy product prices were also lower. Most cheeses are at their lowest prices since 2012. Whole milk, although prices rose almost three percent in the third quarter of last year, was the lowest in the survey since 2010. The whole milk price remains well below the 2015 first quarter price.

Apples are up 12 percent from last year, but they are still below 2011-12 prices. Last year, apples faced a really tough export environment with all the labor disruptions at the West Coast ports and the strong dollar.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture statistics, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world, and you can thank our American ranchers and farmers for that.

Through the mid-1970s, farms and ranchers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent. Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across the board, the rancher’s and farmer’s share of this $53.28 market basket would be $8.52 today. Yet, they are still providing the best and safest food in the world.