Richard Guebert Jr.

Richard Guebert Jr.

Food prices high, but supply strong

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By Richard Guebert Jr.

Americans look forward to celebrating the simplest of gifts and gathering with family and friends around the table during the holiday season. It is also often a time of giving thanks as Illinois farmers mark the end of another growing season.

The past few years have confronted all Americans to pivot, adapt and learn as we navigate uncharted waters. In March 2018, American farmers were dealing with market destruction because of China’s trade wars. The May 2019 spring planting season reminded Midwest farmers that Mother Nature was in charge when many acres went unplanted. The pandemic that began in March 2020 forced all of us to pivot. Farmers continued to grow food to feed our neighbors in rural, urban and global communities.

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Richard Guebert Jr.

 

The curveballs continued in 2022 with high inflation, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and uncertainty for an already fragile economy. Farmers vividly remember the role inflation played in the ’80s farm crisis. That crisis is forever etched in farmers’ memories as historically high-interest rates reached 19%. Many farmers didn’t survive the crisis. Those who did spent many years paying off the debt created by high-interest rates.

Despite the adversity many family farms have faced over the years, 96% of Illinois farms are still family-owned.

I understand firsthand the role inflation has had inside our home and farming operation. Inflation running at 7% to 9% in recent months is robbing consumers (and farmers) of their buying power. Food price inflation is even higher. Other factors include supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine, with other countries pulling back on exports to protect domestic food supplies.

When I’ve been interviewed by news media over the past four years, the standard question is, “How will this impact consumers?” The truth is a farmer’s share of the food dollar is only 7.4 cents.

Illinois shoppers participating in the 37th annual American Farm Bureau Federation’s Thanksgiving Cost survey captured a statewide average price of $65.53 for a classic Thanksgiving meal for 10 people, a 13% increase over the previous year’s state average of $58.15. General price inflation is a big part of the increase in cost for the meal.

It is likely those high prices will continue through the remaining holidays and into the new year.

Food prices reflect many factors, including transportation, distribution and food company marketing costs. Rising costs for fuel, which have more than doubled, and fertilizer, which have tripled, are driving food prices up. As President Kennedy said many years ago, “Farmers are price takers and not price makers.”

The food we grow is shared with our family, friends and neighbors. Farmers understand the pain consumers are feeling at the checkout counter this holiday season. As we give thanks again this year for our many blessings, please know farmers will strive to provide affordable food sustainably to make sure our traditions continue.

Richard Guebert Jr. is president of the Illinois Farm Bureau

This column was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.

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