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Feb. 6 is Food Check Out Day

By Staff | Feb 5, 2008

Americans will spend less than a dime out of every earned dollar to feed their families this year, thanks to the efficiencies of today’s farmers. ‘Food Check Out Day’ is the date on the calendar which shows how long consumers have to work in this country before they earn enough to pay for their family’s supply of food yearly.

According to one area pork producer, that day has moved even closer to the start of the year thanks to the growing efficiency of today’s farmers.

Jim Boyer, who has been active with the Emmet County Farm Bureau for over 10 years, said it used to take over 45 days for Americans to pay their food bill instead of the current 37. Unfortunately, Boyer said “very few” people realize that the farmer gets only a small part of the food dollar that consumers pay when they go to the supermarket.

According to new statistics by the U.S. Agriculture Department, the average working American this year will have to only work until Feb. 6 to cover their family’s year supply of food. That makes the American farmer the most efficient in the world at raising livestock and growing grain. By contrast, workers in Indonesia would have to toil until July 20 of this year to pay for their family’s food.

Food in this country takes a much smaller percentage of our overall bills than ever before and, in fact, is often the most-affordable necessity in our household budget; consumers have to work 52 days a year to pay for health care, 62 days a year to pay for housing costs, and 77 days a year to pay for their Federal Income Taxes.

There are fluctuations in prices for food items at the grocery store, but most can be attributed to global market shifts and the increase in energy prices. Statistics show that out of every dollar spent for your food item at the grocery store, $.38 is for labor, $.24 is for packaging, transportation and advertising, and $.19 was spent by the farmer on input costs. “That’s an important reminder for Iowans who are generations removed from farming that today’s practices and methods keep their food safe and the most affordable in the world,” said IFBF President Craig Lang. “They also need to know that a $4 box of corn flakes has a nickel’s worth of corn. But a lot of work goes into making that nickel’s worth and Iowa farmers are proud to be responsible growers and do their part in feeding the nation and a growing world population,” said Lang.

Fortunately, today’s American farmer is getting smarter than ever before about marketing. No longer victim to the markets, farmers are at the cutting edge of developing value-added markets for their products, the most obvious of which are ethanol and biodiesel.

It goes far beyond that, though.

Boyer took note of a Blair, Neb., plant that is processing cornstalks into fiber for clothing and building materials. Another company is using wheat straw to make a building material similar to chipboard.

Boyer said consumers can to their part to help benefit the farmer directly by patronizing area farmers markets and lockers.

“You’re buying directly from the farmer,” Boyer said of local lockers. “They always have some meat to sell.” By buying beef directly from the producer, consumers then pay the locker for processing.

It’s a great way to benefit all parties locally — farmers, consumers, and the locker. It’s a great way too of assuring that consumers keep in touch with what’s going on with agriculture — from the hoof up!

Contact Michael Tidemann at (712) 362-2622 or mtidemann@esthervilledailynews.com and visit our photo sharing Web site at cu.esthervilledailynews.com