By Mike Barnett

Texas Farm Bureau: Price of Food Cheap…For Now

Tough economic times are forcing many Texans to cut back on a lot of things, but the constant expense we share is food. We can find ways to eat cheaper but we still have to eat.

It may surprise you that the cost of food has actually declined this year, as indicated by Texas Farm Bureau’s Grocery Watch,  a quarterly survey of food prices in the Lone Star State. But many perceive food prices are on the rise if conversations I’ve had recently are an indication.

Blame part of that perception on the economy. Many families who have lost a wage earner or fear losing a job are counting every penny. Increased scrutiny of what you spend brings increased awareness of how much things cost. Shoppers who never gave a thought in the past to how much they spent on a loaf of bread or a gallon on milk are now very aware.

The second thing to remember is much of what is in the grocery cart is not food. I was shocked the other day when I spent a hundred bucks at the supermarket. I wondered how one guy and three dogs could eat so much. I looked at the receipt to see if the checker had miscalculated. Right away I spied what the problem was. After I separated the cost of paper towels, toilet tissue, detergent, cleaning supplies, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, shampoo, deodorant, razor blades, band-aids, vitamins, dog food, light bulbs and toothpaste, I learned a valuable lesson:  don’t lump everything that is in your grocery cart to food expenditures. Just because you spend a lot at the grocery store doesn’t mean you’re spending a lot for food.

I hear more and more grousing today on television, in newspapers and on the internet about the state of American agriculture. I have a hard time swallowing the myths being slung around about how “local food” will save mankind, how “industrial“ agriculture is unsustainable, and how not eating meat  will solve the world’s hunger problems.

The fact is you spend on average just 10 percent of your disposable income on food, less than consumers in any country on earth. It takes you about 36 days to earn enough disposable income to pay for the food you eat at home and away from home for an entire year. Each American farmer produces food and fiber for you and 142 other people. One-third of that food and fiber is exported to people outside our borders.

But all of that could change. Foreign farmers could be feeding us. What you pay for food today is a pittance compared to what you may pay in the future. I’ll explore five reasons why in my next post on Texas Agriculture Talks.

 

Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
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2 Responses to “Price of food cheap…for now”

  1. Dan Dierschke says:

    Mike, once again a very excellent post. An additional projection can be made when considering some intended consequences of purchasing our food from foreign produces; namely, a worsening of our foreign trade balance which will weaken our dollar even more. Then those imported foods will cost much more than we can we can currently produce the food for in our country. Consumers will then call for more from American agriculture. but where will our producers be? Forced out of business by low prices and overly zealous regulations? Where will the best farmlands be? Under houses and pavement?

    Your title is so appropriate and reminds me of the old saying "you can pay me now or you can pay me later". What is not stated is now much higher the later cost will be.

  2. Carla Reyes says:

    Food is the essential commodity, we cannot live without, trade agreements and open markets are not necessarily always helping. Cheap products from abroad kill our farms, though I believe in true market policies I think we must watch, I consider agriculture part of our national security and should be protected as such

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