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Food Prices Up, Farmers' Share Down

Food Prices Up, Farmers' Share Down

Thirty years ago farmers received about one third of the cost consumers pay for food. Even as food prices rise, today farmers get only about 16% of the food dollar, according to Farm Bureau survey.

Retail food prices at the supermarket increased during the second quarter of 2011, according to the latest American Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey. 

The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $51.17, up $2.10 or about 4 percent compared to the first quarter of 2011. Of the 16 items surveyed, 14 increased and two decreased in average price compared to the prior quarter. The total average price for the 16 items was up about 8% compared to one year ago.

"The effects of continued raw energy cost increases are reverberating throughout the food industry and consumers are bearing the brunt of it," says John Anderson, AFBF economist. "After food leaves the farm, costs for transportation, marketing, processing and storage come into play. As energy prices continue to run up, shoppers are feeling the pinch at the supermarket."

Sirloin tip roast, Russet potatoes, sliced deli ham and bacon increased the most in dollar value compared to the first quarter of 2011. Together, these four items accounted for most of the quarter-to-quarter increase: sirloin tip roast, up 52 cents to $4.48 per pound; Russet potatoes, up 43 cents to $3.07 for a 5-pound bag; sliced deli ham, up 35 cents to $5.26 per pound; and bacon, up 32 cents to $4.18 per pound.

"Strong consumer demand for meats and dairy products continues to influence retail prices," says Anderson. "Consumer demand for meats and dairy products began to recover in 2009, continued through 2010 and is still a factor as we move into the middle of 2011."

Other items that increased in price compared to the first quarter were ground chuck, up 19 cents to $3.29 per pound; whole milk, up 16 cents to $3.62 per gallon; vegetable oil, up 13 cents to $3.01 for a 32-ounce bottle; toasted oat cereal, up 12 cents to $3.17 for a 9-ounce box; apples, up 11 cents to $1.56 per pound; orange juice, up 4 cents to $3.18 for a half-gallon; eggs, up 3 cents to $1.65 per dozen; bread, up 2 cents to $1.86 for a 20-ounce loaf; bagged salad, up 1 cent to $2.67 per pound; and flour, up 1 cent to $2.52 for a 5-pound bag.

Two items decreased in average retail price between the quarters: boneless chicken breasts, down 23 cents to $3.09 per pound; and shredded cheese, down 7 cents to $4.56 per pound.

Most items showing an increase in retail price from quarter-to-quarter also showed year-to-year increases. Compared to one year ago, Russet potatoes increased 22%; bacon rose 18%; ground chuck was up 14%; and sirloin tip roast was 9% higher.

"Further retail price increases are likely to be the new normal as we move through 2011, especially for meats. It takes time for farmers to increase the size of their herds to in order to meet higher demand," Anderson says.

The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks with the federal government's Consumer Price Index ( report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America's farm and ranch families receive has dropped.

"In the mid-1970s, farmers 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%, according to the Agriculture Department's revised Food Dollar Series," Anderson says. USDA's new Food Dollar Series may be found online at

Using the "food at home and away from home" percentage across-the-board, the farmer's share of this quarter's $51.17 marketbasket would be $8.19.

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