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Food Economics and Your Food Dollar

While U.S. consumers spend less of their income on food than ever before, farmers are continuing to get less and less of the consumer food dollar and are going out of business at alarming rates. Meanwhile corporate agriculture profits are continuing to increase.

Consider the following:

  • Corporate agribusiness profits increased 98 percent during the 1990s; meanwhile, in 2002 farmers earned their lowest real net cash income since 1940.
  • Modern industrial agriculture is making farming unprofitable for many. For more than 60 percent of farm households in 1998, farming actually lowered the household?s before tax-income.
  • Taxpayers provided $22.9 billion in subsidies during the first three years of the “Freedom to Farm” law (1996-98), but 10 percent of the recipients (144,000 participants) collected 61 percent of the money.

What can you do?

  • Buying food directly from local farmers reduces the portion of your food dollar going to corporate agribusiness and ensures that farmers get their fair share of your food dollar. Buy local whenever possible.
  • Local farmers will reinvest more of your food dollar in your region. Buying local food increases the circulation of your food dollars locally, in effect “creating” money and economic prosperity in your region.
  • Buying fair trade products ensures that farm workers and producers elsewhere get a decent wage and enjoy safe living and working conditions. Look for the fair trade label and buy fair trade products whenever possible.

Farmers Markets Could Generate Tens of Thousands of New Jobs with Modest Federal Support, New Report Finds
Union of Concerned Scientists – Aug 4, 2011
WASHINGTON – Over the last several decades, thousands of farmers markets have been popping up… (more…)

New Reports Dispel Notions of a Booming Farm Sector
Farm Aid – Apr 11, 2011
WASHINGTON – Two critical reports released today contradict the prevailing notion that family farmers are earning record incomes and describe a shortage of credit available to farmers. (more…)

Other Articles on Food Dollar

Library Documents

Eating up the Earth: How Sustainable Food Systems Shrink our Ecological Footprint

Diana Deumling, Mathis Wackernagel, & Chad Monfreda – Jan 1, 2005
Using the Ecological Footprint concept, this policy brief address three fundamental questions: 1) What does it currently take to feed us? 2) How can we avoid the clash between expanding human demand and limited ecological capacity? 3) What will it take to feed us well for years to come?

Why Worry About the Agriculture of the Middle?

Fred Kirschenmann, Steve Stevenson, Fred Buttel, Tom Lyson and Mike Duffy – Feb 11, 2004
Over 80% of farmland in the U.S. is managed by farmers whose operations fall between small-scale direct markets and large, consolidated firms. These farmers are increasingly left out of our food system. If present trends continue, these farms, together with the social and environmental benefits they provide, will likely disappear in the next decade or two. The â??public goodâ?? that these farms have provided in the form of land stewardship and community social capital will disappear with them.

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