Farmer's share of retail food dollar hits new low
WASHINGTON – For every dollar consumers spend on food, the farmer receives just 14.8 cents, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The figure represents a 5 percent decrease from the previous year’s data and the lowest “farm share” since USDA began reporting the figures in 1993.
National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson noted that new low speaks to the state of the farm economy, corporate control of the food system, and the importance of prioritizing family farm agriculture in national policy making.
“This figure strikes a chord with family farmers and ranchers who are dealing with the sharpest decline in net farm income since the Great Depression,” said Johnson. “The prices that farmers have been receiving for their products aren’t paying the bills, and too many are being forced to give up farming. Our nation needs a dramatic, progressive movement towards ensuring family farmers can receive a fair price from the marketplace. Otherwise, we’re going to continue to lose too many of the family farmers and ranchers who feed, fuel and clothe our country, steward our nation’s land, and power our rural communities and economies.”
NFU reports monthly on the “Farmer’s Share of the Retail Food Dollar,” which tracks USDA’s farm share for 15 popular food items. The latest NFU Farmer’s Share shows that beef producers receive just $2.01 for 1 lb. of beef that costs $8.99 at the supermarket. Wheat farmers average a meager 12 cents on a loaf of bread that retails for $3.49. And dairy producers receive only $1.34 from a $4.49 gallon of fat free milk.
Johnson noted that the farmer’s share does not always correlate with food prices, and that the disconnect between the two should not confuse consumers.
“While the farmer-to-consumer divide is shrinking in many places due to new markets, it is ever-widening with the country as a whole,” he said. “Most consumers do not fully realize the volatility and risk associated with farming or the economic despair many family farmers are enduring right now. However, when you consider that what you’re paying at the grocery store continues to drop, and you see the ‘Farmer’s Share’ continue to drop, you can imagine that it’s hard to earn a decent living in agriculture right now.”
To demonstrate the decline in net farm income over the past five years, NFU produced an infographic comparing NFU Farmer’s Share figures in April 2014 to those in April 2018. The comparisons show the Farmer’s Share declining by up to 50 percent for five popular food items, including:
- Beef producers earning just $0.22 on the retail food dollar in April 2018 compared to $0.44 on the dollar in April 2014.
- Wheat farmers’ share dropping by 25 percent from 2014 to 2018.
- Dairy farmers receiving just $0.30 on the retail food dollar in April 2018 compared to $0.51 in April 2014.