On Thursday, many of you will be gathering with your loved ones around a Thanksgiving table filled with a bounty of delicious foods. Green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie – even the turkey – all brought to you by America’s farmers and ranchers.
In what might be our most mouth-watering episode to date, Groundwork spoke with Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), to talk about Thanksgiving dinner.
More specifically, to discuss NFU’s annual study examining the farmer’s share of the Thanksgiving food dollar.
This year’s study showed that farmers take home just 12.1 cents from every dollar that consumers spend purchasing food for Thanksgiving.
“[Consumers] assume that a big chunk of the price that they’re spending on food goes to the farmers and really that’s not the case. That’s why we’ve been publishing this data for many, many years. It is to try and educate folks about the share that the farmer gets on the food dollar,” Johnson explained.
The Thanksgiving Farmer’s Share revealed that the farmers who work hard to put food on our tables are, in some cases, receiving just pennies on the dollar for the crops they produce.
Johnson told Groundwork listeners that a farmer receives just $0.19 of a bag of cranberries retailing for $2.99, putting the farmer’s share at $0.06 of a dollar. The farmer who raised the turkey will receive $0.69 of an 11-pound turkey that retails for $16.39, or $0.04 of a dollar. And the wheat grower who supplied the essential ingredient for our dinner rolls will receive just $0.04 of a $2.69 package of rolls. That’s a paltry penny of the food dollar.
Johnson says that consumers should appreciate the great deal that Americans receive on food.
An annual survey conducted by the American Farm Bureau Federation found the average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 this year adds up to just $48.91, or less than $5.00 per person.
In fact, the USDA calculates that in 2018, the average American spent only 5.0% of their disposable income on purchasing groceries. That’s the lowest percentage spent on food costs of any country in the world. And this number has fallen dramatically since the 1960s as the amazing efficiency of our farmers has allowed them to produce more with less.
But an ongoing rural recession has left many farmers in financial crisis, watching their debts mount, incomes fall and equity erode.
Johnson noted that if farmers were to see even a 20% increase in their share of the food dollar – amounting to only a couple of cents per dollar – it would make a huge difference to the rural economy.
“It wasn’t that many years ago, we had that number. And that would do a lot to heal up a lot of the finances of farmers,” Johnson said. “[NFU] is making sure that folks understand how difficult the economic conditions are in agriculture right now. There’s an awful lot of stress.”
Now, more than ever, we must do everything we can to ensure America’s farmers and ranchers have the resources and risk management tools they need.
The farm safety net is critical to ensuring that farmers can survive these tough times and continue providing our nation with the safest, most abundant, most diverse and most affordable food supply in the world.
From all of us here at Farm Policy Facts, we hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebrating this year’s blessings – and don’t forget to thank our farmers.