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Consumers can be thankful for low holiday food prices

Consumers have a lot to be thankful for during the holidays, including some of the lowest food prices in the world. In fact, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation's 34th annual survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table, this year's feast will cost $48.91 for a family of 10 — less than $5 per person and only a 1-cent increase from last year.

Veronica Nigh, American Farm Bureau Economist, says that follows a trend at the grocery store consumers have been seeing for the last several years.

"Overall a pretty even dollar value for putting a good wholesome Thanksgiving dinner on the table," she says.

The shopping list for the survey includes all the staples, including the turkey, which costs $20.80 for a 16-pound bird. That is down 4% from last year and the lowest since 2010.

Americans continue to enjoy an economical food supply, but according to Nigh, most don't realize only 8 cents of every dollar consumers spend on food goes to farmers. She says the rest goes towards transportation, processing, advertising and marketing.

U.S. consumers can be thankful year-round, though, as they pay far less for food than developing countries, which spend 40% to 50% of their disposable income on food.

"Less than 10% of our total disposable income in the U.S. goes towards food consumption, which is pretty incredible," Nigh says.

That 10% even includes high quality protein such as meat, eggs and dairy products like milk. Parker, S.D., dairy producer Allen Merrill, who also chairs the Midwest Dairy Association, says dairy products are a great value.

"We know dairy is a price point that it is very intriguing for the nutrition it offers," he says. "Where else can you get calcium, vitamin D at a price point that you don't even think about it?"

Six years of strong U.S. and global grain and meat production have kept food prices affordable, according to Nigh. However, that also has meant depressed prices for farmers.

"We're in a time of agricultural bounty, and unfortunately for producers, high production means low prices," Nigh says. "That's why you see net farm income down 40% compared to where we were in those peak years."

So consumers can thank a farmer throughout the holiday season for the service they provide to the entire economy as they have 90% of their income to spend on other goods and services.

"So often as consumers we take for granted how safe and affordable our food is and to be able to sit down at that big feast," says American Soybean Association Vice President Bill Gordon. "here's so many places in the world that can't do that."

He says consumers should thank farmers and everyone in the supply chain that helps put food on the table during the holidays and every day of the year.

At the same time, farmers say they are thankful to be in a career they love, and they truly want to provide a safe and wholesome product for consumers.

"Ninety-five percent of the farms are family owned, and it's a huge part of our industry that families are involved," Merrill says. "They're thankful for the opportunity to do what they do day to day."

Even with this year being one of the most frustrating growing seasons and latest harvest most can remember, farmers like Doug Hanson of Elk Point, S.D., say they love what they do.

"You know it's still just a great occupation and there's just something special about being in touch with the soil and producing food and producing legacies," Hanson says.