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Farmers’ share of food dollar is shrinking

A decade ago, farmers received 17.6¢ of each $1 spent on food by Americans.

A decade ago, farmers received 17.6¢ of each $1 spent on food by Americans. Their share now is barely above 14¢ while processors, retailers, and others in the food chain take a larger share, according to USDA economists, who have tracked the farmer/marketer relationship for a quarter century.

Their “food dollar series” says the farmer’s share of the food dollar has averaged 16.4¢ over the long term and the marketing share has averaged 83.6¢. The farm share is highest during periods of strong commodity prices and lower when commodity prices weaken. The share fell below 15¢ in 2016 and was 14.3¢ in 2019, the most recent year in the database.

“For every $1 spent on food, only 14¢ goes to farmers,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on social media. “Now is the time to transform our food system to create a fairer, more transparent system, so at the end of the day more of that dollar ends up in a farmer’s pocket.”

In the past, some analysts said the marketing share grew in part because of Americans’ preference for prepared and ready-to-eat foods, which reduced time spent in the kitchen.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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