By Alexis Dunnum, NFU Executive Assistant
Walking through a grocery store can sometimes be overwhelming. With hundreds of different foods, all with different packaging, flavors and prices, it’s hard to stick to buying only the items on your grocery list. And even if you shop on a budget and limit impulse purchases, when you finally get to the checkout line, the total price often comes as an unpleasant surprise.
Although our food seems expensive, there is a big difference between the price consumers pay for food at the grocery store and the price farmers are paid for growing that food. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmers and ranchers only receive 15.6 cents of every dollar that consumers spend on food in the United States, the lowest level since 2006. Marketing, wholesaling, distribution, and retailing account for more than 80 percent of the American food dollar, leaving those who actually produced that food with a meager paycheck to take back to their families.
For generations, family farmers and ranchers have provided the essential service of growing nutritious, safe, and tasty food for our country and countries around the world. In fact, today’s American farmer produces enough food to feed 155 people, on average. For comparison, a farmer in 1960 could only feed about 26 people – that’s an increase of almost 600 percent in fewer than 70 years! Thanks to advancements in technology, better farming practices, and a continued persistence to increase production, American farmers are producing more food today than ever before.
Unfortunately, even though farmers are producing more, they’re making less – the farm economy is the weakest it has been since the 1980s farm crisis. Net farm incomes has plummeted – in the last four years, it has decreased by half. This year, median farm household income is projected to be negative $1,400, meaning many farmers will actually lose money. If the circumstances do not improve, some families will have to make tough decisions, including whether or not they can even afford to stay on their land.
Farmers across the country are feeling pinched, but they aren’t the only ones affected – a weak farm economy will ultimately impact millions of Americans, even those who don’t farm. As farmers are forced off the land, rural communities, especially those reliant on agriculture, are at risk of losing community members, local businesses, and economic opportunities.
For generations, our nation’s farmers and ranchers have provided food, fiber, feed and fuel for the entire country and have served as the backbone of America’s rural economy. But today, the same people who work hard to ensure you have food on your family’s table are struggling to put food on their own. The first step in confronting the current farm crisis is elevating the issue to national prominence – help us raise awareness and support family farmers by sharing the Farmer’s Share with your friends and family.