Problem A: 100-85.4 = 14.6
Problem B: 61.57-60.14 = 1.43
Problem C: 61.57 x 14.6% = 8.98
Problem D: 8-7 = $1
Problem E: 17.31-17.22 = 0.09
To me these are basic every day math problems that any adult should be able to figure out, even if they have to use a calculator for help. These math problems each tell a story. All those stories share a common point.
Story A. 100 represents 100 pennies or $1 bill. 85.4 ($0.854) is the amount of every food dollar that covers the cost of energy, packaging, transportation, advertising, legal fees, and more. That leaves 14.6. Only 14.6 cents ($0.146) of every dollar spent on food goes back to the farmer.
Story B: According to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Market Basket survey, the average cost for Thanksgiving dinner in 2019 was $61.57. The cost in 2018 was $60.14. That means that this year your meal cost $1.43 more.
Story C: $61.57 is the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner in 2019. 14.5 percent is the amount that goes to the farmer. Meaning that the farmers only received $8.98 dollars of the money you spent on your Thanksgiving dinner.
Story D: A fellow dairy farmer sold a bull calf at a sale barn for $8. $7 is the charges the sale barn subtracted from the sale price to cover beef checkoff, commission, and other fees. The farmer received a check for $1.
Story E: In 2017 the average price dairy farmers received for their milk was $17.31 per hundred weight. That same year their average cost of production was $17.22. That left the farmer with an extra 9 cents for other things like going out to dinner, a new pair of boots, or even updates to farm buildings.
Have you figured out what the common point is yet? Before I get to the point, let me put some of the information from the stories into perspective of the average middle class family. How would you feel if Story B had a difference of let’s say $10 or more? Chances are you might cut something from your traditional dinner. That’s what farmers have to do when their cost of inputs increases yet their income decreases or remains steady.
Let’s look at story D and the bull calf sale. If someone were to sell something on Ebay for only $8, but Ebay kept $7 in commission and other fees. They only received $1 for an item that they value at $125 after they have invested sweat, hard work, and money into. It is not uncommon for farmers to have $100 or more invested in a calf before they sell it. Milk replacer, medicine, and labor cost are just examples of how that investment increases quickly.
Story E refers to cost of production. This is what we spend on feed, electricity, veterinarian costs, and other costs associated with raising the animal or the grain. This is similar to a family’s cost of living. We all know that a family that only has 9 cents left over from their paycheck, can’t do much.
The point is this, the stories you read about farmers struggling financially are real. The stories shared above are all fact based. About a year ago I wrote about how when farmers struggle, the whole community struggles because of the trickledown effect in the economy. When we take the time to get to know other people we are better able to understand, support, and encourage. I share these stories so that you can develop that understanding of the farming community. As always, remember to talk to the farmer to get your questions answered, not Google.
I want to end on a positive note—a note of thanksgiving. This community does a great job supporting each and every facet of life from sports to farming to special needs students to music programs to charities. Thank you Fennimore for being a community that gives from the heart in whatever way you can to support each other. This is a great place to call home, and I cannot think of any other place I would want to raise my boys, live, or farm. Thank you Fennimore, thank you.