Local News

High Price Of Produce Affecting N.C. Farmers

Posted August 6, 2002

— People in North Carolina and across the country have been complaining about the high prices of some produce, but how much of the cost actually benefits the farmer?

Charles Alman loves farm life, but he said it is the return on his investment in land, equipment and labor that hurts.

"I've been personally involved with my own cattle for 14 years, and I broke even [only] one year," he said.

Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that for every dollar consumers spend on food, the average American farmer only gets 19 cents. The biggest share of consumers' food dollars, 38 cents, goes to non-farm labor. Other costs such as packaging and transportation take the rest.

"It makes you feel kind of bad, makes you feel like you are on the low end of the totem pole," Alman said.

Agriculture officials said those numbers are important to see how well America's farmers are doing, but they may also be an indicator of just how well the nation's economy is doing.

"Agriculture is an indicator, an early indicator of how the overall economy of the United States is doing, and we've been in a depressed state for about 10 years," said Peter Daniel of the North Carolina Farm Bureau.

Officials said the farmer's share of the food dollar has been consistently going down. They said an increase of only a few cents more would be a significant help. Many farmers now depend on government aid just to keep going. For farmers like Alman, there is not a lot of promise for better prices from the market.

"Well, it makes you wonder, wonder about your vocation and you do a lot of wishing," Alman said.

In 2000, Americans spent more than $660 billion on domestically produced food, which is less than what other developed countries spent on food that same year.

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