A Publication of WTVP

Last month, the Farm Bureau sponsored a promotion at the Kroger store on Sterling Avenue in Peoria to make consumers aware of Food Check-Out Day, which occurred on February 6th. Measured from January 1st, this date marks the day when the average American household has earned enough disposable income to pay for their annual food supply. That’s only 37 days, or five weeks, to pay for 52 weeks of groceries.

Compare that to other bills American consumers pay. Americans work longer each year to pay for their housing, federal taxes and medical care. According to the Tax Foundation, Americans work an average of 52 days each year to pay for health and medical care, 62 days to pay for housing/household operations and 77 days to pay federal taxes.

Americans enjoy the safest and most affordable food supply in the world, thanks to the innovative and efficient practices of the American farmer and the agriculture industry. According to the most recent information from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Economic Research Service, American families and individuals spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their disposable personal income for food. This is an overall decrease and is made more notable by trends indicating Americans are buying more expensive convenience foods, as well as more food away from home.

If you compare the percentage of Americans’ personal income spent on food consumed at home, it’s even less, at 7.2 percent, according to the USDA. Consumers in every other country across the globe spend more. The closest to Americans is the United Kingdom, where consumers spend 8.7 percent of their disposable income on food consumed at home. Canadians rank third at 9.3 percent, Chinese consumers spend 13 percent, Japan is at 14 percent and Mexican consumers are at 24 percent.

The percentage of disposable personal income spent for food has declined over the last 35 years. In 1970, it took Americans 14 more days to earn enough income to pay for their food supply for the year. If the timeline was 1960, Food Check-Out Day would be March 5th. In 1950, it would have been held on March 17th, and in 1930, March 31st. According to the USDA, food is more affordable today due to a widening gap between growth in per-capita incomes and the amount of money spent for food.

On average, each American farmer grows enough crops and livestock to feed 146 people for an entire year. In the year 2000, this number was 135 people. Twenty years prior to that, in 1980, 100 people were fed by each American farmer, and in 1940, only 18 people were fed. This is just another illustration of the efficiency that has taken place during the past several decades in American agriculture.

As farmers have become more efficient in producing crops for food, they have also worked hard to expand the ethanol fuel industry during the past two decades. We are fortunate that this renewable product has had a rapid expansion during the past five years. With a record 13 billion bushel corn crop in 2007 and the advancement in seed genetics, American farmers and many local economies would likely be strained if the ethanol expansion hadn’t been pursued. The ethanol industry is forecast to take a three billion bushel bite out of corn inventories in 2008. American agriculture needs that demand. IBI