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Published May 23, 2011, 09:22 AM

Farmers’ share of food dollar shrinks

Farmers have long maintained that they’re unfairly blamed when retail food prices rise.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Farmers have long maintained that they’re unfairly blamed when retail food prices rise.

Now, the Minnesota Farmers Union is trying to prove to the news media — and consumers — that farmers are getting a bad rap.

“It’s not a fair assessment of the situation,” Doug Peterson, the organization’s president, says of the perception that farmers are responsible for higher food prices at the grocery store.

To counter that perception, the Minnesota Farmers Union is sending information on the farmer’s share of the retail food dollar to news organizations across the state.

Producer’s take

Farmers are getting only 15.8 cents of every retail food dollar, down from what had been 20 cents of the retail food dollar, according to the organization’s statistics.

Food companies claim they were forced to raise their prices because of the rising cost of agricultural commodities, Peterson says.

In reality, food prices at the retail level have risen even faster than the price of ag commodities, which is reflected in farmers’ shrinking share of the retail food dollar and big profits for food companies, he says.

With many food products, farmers receive only a small portion of what consumers spend, Peterson says.

A few examples from the information provided by the Minnesota Farmers Union:

- Farmers’ share of a pound of lettuce that retails for $2.79 is 35 cents.

- Farmers’ cut of a 2-liter bottle of soda pop that retails for $1.09 is 11 cents.

- For a 1-pound loaf of bread that retails for $3.99, farmers’ share is 19 cents.

- For an 18-ounce box of cereal that retails for $4.49, farmers’ share is 9 cents.

- For a six-pack of beer in cans that retails for $6.49, farmers’ share is 4 cents.

The statistics are based on information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Glitzy packaging often is at least partly responsible for driving up retail food prices, Peterson says.

The Minnesota Farmers Union’s campaign is attracting some media attention, and the organization plans to continue its efforts to publicize farmers’ share of the retail food dollar, he says.

“We need to inform consumers about this,” he says.

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