FARMERS’ SHARE OF FOOD DOLLAR AT RECORD LOW

What is “Farmers’ Share of Food Dollar?”

The Farmers’ Share of the Food Dollar is the amount of money out of every dollar that actually gets back to the farmer.  The data quantifies how much of each dollar that you spend on food is paid to the farmer for growing that food.  This data is tracked annual by the US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.

The Farmers’ Share is at a record low?

Yes.  In 2016, the farmers’ share of the food dollar fell to 14.8 cents, down 4.5 percent from the prior year and the lowest level since 1993 when this data began being collected and calculated.  This means that when you spend $1 on food, on average, the farmer is only getting about $0.15 of that dollar and the rest of it is going to transportation, packaging, marketing, etc.

In this case, the opposite is also true: non-farm related marketing associated with the food dollar (transportation, processing, marketing, etc) rose to a record high of 85.2 cents.

Is this really as straightforward as it sounds?

Yes.  In fact, if we adjust for inflation and alter all the numbers to 2009 dollars, the farmers’ share of the food dollar was just 12.2 cents.  So the actual low of 14.8 cents is even a little optimistic.

But food eaten at home and food eaten out is surely different …

Yes again.  Farmers receive more out of each dollar spent on food at home than they receive out of each dollar spent on food at a restaurant.  This makes sense … the prepared food at Chili’s is more expensive than what you can prepare at home because Chili’s has to pay waiters, cooks, overhead and more.

And the trend is for Americans to eat more meals out than at home.  So that drags the farmers’ share of the food dollar down.

What does this mean for farmers?

Pretty simply, it means that commodity prices are really low, food costs are growing, and when the general American wants to attribute that increased food cost to farmers or farm policies, they are incorrect in doing so.  Farmers are receiving less and less of the money you spend on food.  More and more of that cash is going to processors, marketers, restaurants, etc.

That doesn’t make any of this inherently bad, but it is important to understand the reality of our food system if we want to change farm policies or try to impact food prices.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

CROP INSURANCE 101

Many non-farmers don’t understand crop insurance.  It’s difficult to understand – I’ll give you that!

On the surface, the premise is just like home insurance or car insurance that most of us already understand.  But the implementation of crop insurance is pretty different.

This article from National Crop Insurance Services really helps describe how and why crop insurance is different from auto, life, and health insurance.

All insurance, from auto to life, health, and crop insurance works best when it expands the number of people it covers – a concept known as the “risk pool.” That is because the greater the participation, the more widely risk can be spread. And by spreading the chance of loss among a diverse group of insureds, premiums become more affordable for everyone involved.

Additionally, participants in all forms of insurance must pay premiums and shoulder deductibles. This gives the insured some ownership of their own protection and prevents participants from engaging in risky behavior – sometimes referred to as “moral hazard.”

In this sense, crop insurance works like other forms of insurance. However, the parallels are not perfect because agriculture is a unique kind of business that suffers unique kinds of losses. Unlike other insurance lines, agricultural losses tend to be geographically targeted and severe.

For example, there is little chance that every car in a city will be simultaneously totaled, or that every person in a state will need medical help at the same time. But a single flood, storm, or drought can cause a catastrophic loss for every farming operation in a county or region, which makes it more difficult to insure.

Because of this higher risk, the concentration of losses, and the likelihood of wide-scale disaster, crop insurance policies would be cost-prohibitive and very limited without some form of government support. Thus, America has a crop insurance system based on a public-private partnership between private insurance providers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Under this arrangement – spelled out in a contract known as the Standard Reinsurance Agreement – companies that sell crop insurance must sell a policy to any eligible farmer at the premium rate set in advance by the Federal government. In addition, insurers cannot refuse to provide protection, raise the premium rate or impose special underwriting standards on any individual eligible farmer, regardless of risk.

EARLY PLANTING PROGRESS 2018

Spring has sprung in Illinois … finally.  We’ve had snow in April which isn’t super common around here.  It ruined the flowers and kept the farmers out of the field.  And if you think these Illinois corn farmers aren’t antsy to get in the planter, you’d be very very wrong.

Thing is, according to data released last week by the USDA, we aren’t really THAT far behind in Illinois or on a national level, even though it feels like things are moving slower than a January blizzard.

As of last week, Illinois hadn’t started planting at all yet, which is a little behind average, but not much.  And we can catch up quickly with a week of good weather.

Here’s what one of our farmer leaders had to say about his start this weekend:

Jim Reed, Monticello: Got started planting corn Saturday. Had a four hour delay trying to get John Deere monitor and Kinzie planter to speak the same language but after erasing the memory of the JD and rebooting it all was well. Soil temp at 1:00 pm was 50 at 4 inch depth.

So, at least in Central Illinois, soil temperatures are warming up enough to try to put a few seeds in the ground.  Stay tuned for more updates from the field as our #plant18 commences!

#TBT: WHY I CAN’T LEAVE ILLINOIS

I live in a town where almost everyone is employed by one of two companies.

And actually, now that I think about it, we also have other large employers, but still, when I meet someone new and ask where they work, they work at one of two places most often.

corn twilightOne of those two places is shipping a lot of employees to other states.  And no, this blog post is not about the state of affair in Illinois or our lack of budget or our plethora of debt.

When one of my friends returned to my town from her new state, new house, and new job, she was telling us how much fun it has been to be out of Illinois.  How the taxes are lower.  How the schools are better.  How the political commercials hit you a little less square in the gut.  And she wondered, why would I want to stay in Illinois?

So, I thought about it.  And even after I gave her my answer, I thought about it some more.  What’s holding me here?  Why is Illinois important?  Why have I lived within a very small triangle of space my entire 38 years on this earth?!

The answer, after much debate and internal soul-searching, is exactly the same answer that came to my gut when she posed the question.

Because I’m a farm girl.

Because that dirt gets under your skin.

Because the rest of your family – even your extended family – lives near.

Because the culture, the mindset, the psyche of a farmer is to stay in one place.  To be rooted to the earth.  To know –  like a deep in your being sort of knowing – the land that you’re a steward of.

Farmers can’t pick up and move the earth that provides their living.  Even the skill set that they’ve developed, this internal intuition about how to handle every single set back that mother nature dishes out, doesn’t necessarily apply to other regions of the country.  Every bit of dirt is different, unique, and a farmer is a bit attached to his or her specific piece.

So no, I can’t imagine leaving here.  I will be a citizen of Illinois – and all the “stuff” that entails – for the rest of my life.

Lindsay Mitchell 11/14Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Manager

#TUESDAYTIPS: INTERACTIVE CORN EDUCATION

We’ve talked about Ag Mags before on this blog, mostly as a resource for teachers.

But did you know that these are great starting points for consumer education about agricultural products?

If you’re a grown adult, it might feel silly to read a magazine largely made for school children. However, ag literacy has to start somewhere and the topics covered in these editions are just as relevant and valid for adults as they are for children.

Also, several Ag Mags are interactive.  Not only can you learn information within the Ag Mag itself, there are various videos, online articles, and real-world applications that can serve as jumping off points and supplemental information for the reader.

While we *personally* love this corn edition of the Ag Mag, you can find topics that spread across the agriculture spectrum, all made available by Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom.

So what are you waiting for? Download an Ag Mag today and get to learning!

P.S. to the adults. It’s okay if you want to do the activities made for students. We recommend it (and no one has to know!)

SPRING RECIPE: LEMON CHICKEN STIR FRY WITH ASPARAGUS

With spring in full swing we now finally have some of our favorite vegetables back in season. Mine happens to be asparagus, which means I can cook it fresh from the garden. Instead of a traditional chicken and asparagus dish, I enjoy this one because of the complex flavors it introduces. Savory yet still simple to make. This recipe serves three to four people and is very filling.

For this recipe you will need:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup of chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • Lemon zest

Now to the best part, how to make it!

  • Cook asparagus and oil in a skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. When 1 minute remains, add garlic. Set asparagus and garlic aside.
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper. Increase heat to high and cook chicken until browned.
  • Set chicken aside and add soy sauce and chicken broth to the skillet. Bring to a boil for about 1 minute. Add lemon juice, water, and cornstarch and stir for about 1 minute.
  • Return chicken and asparagus to pan. Coat with sauce, top with lemon zest and serve!

This is a quick family recipe that all are sure to enjoy!

Alison Heard
Southern Illinois University

PIG FARMERS CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT

Did you know that all farmers must learn about and abide by a host of federal and state environmental regulations?  Pig farmers are no different.  They use research to understand and address the impact that large amounts of manure and using land to raise pigs can have on:

• Groundwater and surface water
• Air quality
• Animal manure management
• Land and soil quality
• Land use

Farmers are using all this research and the regulations they must abide by to fuel creative solutions to environmental concerns and to keep growing more pigs to feed more people.

Carbon footprint

American pig farmers are working hard to understand their carbon footprint and watching for opportunities to raise our food smarter.  According to the EPA, only 2.8 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in 2007 came from animal agriculture. Of that percentage, pig farming contributes just a little more than one-third of 1 percent (0.35 percent) of total U.S. GHG emissions.

Air footprint

Right now, a tool is in development to help pig farmers better understand air emissions from their farms and how they can make improvements.

Water footprint

Most of the water used on pig farms is either to irrigate the crops the pigs will eat (90%).  The rest of the water is used to give the pigs something to drink.  The best way farmers are looking to get more control over that water use is to use science and technology to evaluate animal drinking systems.  If we can water our pigs better, we can waste less.

Improvements to our farming methods are the name of the game and we are always trying to do better and trying to find small (and big!) ways to change the way we raise pigs to make less of an impact on our earth.

Thanks to https://www.pork.org/ for this important information on pig farming!