Montana Farm Bureau News

Fall harvest survey prices slightly decreased

   Fall is a great time to enjoy comforting casseroles with cheddar cheese and bacon and apple pie for dessert. The good news is these items are seeing slightly lower retail prices this quarter, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Fall Harvest Marketbasket Survey. The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $54.14, down $.12 or less than one percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, ten decreased and six increased in average price.

   Higher milk and pork production this year has contributed to the decrease in prices on some key foods. “Energy prices, which affect everything in the marketbasket, have been quite a bit lower compared to a year ago. Processing, packaging, transportation and retail operations are all fairly energy-intensive,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. Lower energy prices account for much of the modest decrease in the marketbasket.

   “It’s great to see that Montana prices for products like milk, bacon, apples, potatoes, flour and shredded cheese are even lower than the declining average prices in the survey,” says Montana Farm Bureau shopper Janet Krob. “It’s harvest season which is a perfect time to enjoy these great prices on delicious, seasonal food.”

   The one increase in cost was seen in eggs. “As expected, we saw higher egg prices because we lost so much production earlier this year due to the avian influenza situation in Iowa, Minnesota, and some other midwestern states,” Anderson noted.

   The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks closely 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. “Through 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 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Anderson said. Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this $54.14 marketbasket would be $8.66.

   According to the USDA, Americans spend just under ten percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 69 shoppers in 24 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in September.

   “As always, we need to appreciate the hard work farmers and ranchers do to put affordable food on our tables,” Krob concluded.