What do grapefruits and bacon have in common?

Rapid recent price increases. Food costs are going up. Probably not a surprise if you are the regular shopper in your household. Over the years, I’ve roughly judged the cost of groceries by the number of bags I can fill when I spend $100. Okay, this isn’t scientific, but it gives me a sense   of price changes. I’ve been shopping for so long that I can remember when $10 could easily fill two brown paper grocery bags. (Okay, that’s a long time ago…and now, of course, I use reusable bags.)

So the rise in recent food prices? According to a recent article in 24/7WallSt.com, the cost of food rose by .4% in each of the last two months: the largest monthly gains in food prices since September 2011. Why? From the article:

Food prices are often volatile and are affected by a number of factors. While certain factors reflect human decision — such as the changing tastes of consumers and farmers’ planting choices — others are forces over which farmers have very little control. Issues such as weather conditions and diseases can cause severe supply shortages that cause the price of products to rise.

Oranges and grapefruits are in the top ten foods experiencing price increases. Citrus diseases are the prime cause. Peanut butter has gone up enough to be included in that list of ten. At the very top of the list? Bacon. Over a four year period, the cost of bacon has gone up 55%–in just the past year, it went up 13%. Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus is very likely a factor in this price increase. But in the case of beef, which was second on the price increase list, drought in the west is probably the primary cause.

I buy pretty much the same things when I go to the grocery store. Depending on where we’re at in the gardening season, there’s variation in the amount of fresh vegetables and fruits I purchase vs. grow myself, but other foods remain pretty constant: cereal, dairy, fish or meat, canned goods, and so forth.

Here’s what I’ve always wondered…can’t we come up with a better system for paying farmers a fair price that covers the true cost of raising fruits, vegetables, milk and meat without making the cost of food prohibitive for those in low and medium income families? Does the U.S. Farm Bill subsidize the farming community at the wrong points–rewarding commodity farmers at far greater rates than those who actually grow the food we eat?

I’m interested in your ideas about how we could reorganize the agricultural pricing structure…and, also, more simply, in what you’ve observed price-wise at the grocery store in recent months.

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2 Responses to “What do grapefruits and bacon have in common?”

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  1. V. Burnett says:

    I don’t know enough about agricultural pricing and subsidies to have an opinion on that but I do know that groceries are becoming more and more expensive for our family. We generally stay away from processed & packaged goods and I know that in the last year and a half or so, our grocery bill has gone up by half of what it used to be. In the last two months I have seen an even steeper increase. It worries me. We grow some of our own livestock, attempt to garden and have a cow who produces plenty of milk but our grocery store expenses are now in the top three categories in our budget. Our income puts us in the lower middle class bracket and I know many families who bring in less than we do. I’m not sure how they are getting by.

  2. Ken Hall says:

    Ellen wonders: “Does the U.S. Farm Bill subsidize the farming community at the wrong points–rewarding commodity farmers at far greater rates than those who actually grow the food we eat?” and further: “I’m interested in your ideas about how we could reorganize the agricultural pricing structure”

    In as much as the vast majority of agricultural crops are grown on/by corporate farmers one would be forced to surmise that commodity farmers actually do produce much of the food we eat especially the “processed” foods. Other than raw fruits and vegetables with perhaps a few hardy folks cracking open their nuts there are nearly no foods that are not processed by others prior to our procuring and consumption of. Unfortunately the millions and millions of small farms/farmers who obtained economic assistance via FDR’s New Deal policies, put in place during the great depression, were placed under attack during the Nixon and Ford administrations by their Secretary of Agriculture, Earl Butz (2Dec71 – 4Oct76). Butz famously told farmers to “get big or get out and to plant hedge row to hedge row. He championed policies which aided and encouraged super size corporate farms growing agricultural commodity crops and were detrimental to small farmers because they reduced the small farmers economic assistance to paltry levels while inaugurating the handing out of corporate welfare to the large and super large farmers which the elections of Ronald Reagan and the Bush father and son duo certainly augmented immensely.

    The fix for the current imbalance of aid situation in the farming community is a can do easy. All that need be done is the following:

    1. Convince the Roberts Supreme Court to reverse their decisions granting corporations and individuals the right to spend as lavishly as they may desire to lobby (brainwash) the congress and the public so as to convince them (especially the lawmakers) that creating laws which provide lavish government handouts to corporations and uber rich 1% via tax breaks and outright handouts in the form of government contracts. What could be so difficult about getting such a minor change to a U.S. Supreme Court decision accomplished?

    2. Convince the U.S. Congress that the current economic policies which consider the fabled Reagan trickle down economics as if they are a smoothly operating machine are in actuality an upside down pyramid with the paltry fortunes of the economically destitute masses being drained onto the pockets of the inordinately wealthy rather than from the wealthy to the masses. Consider this the 6 Waltons who own a combined 50% of the Wal Mart stock are worth over $110 Billion which is the estimated combined net worth of the bottom 40% of U.S. citizens or roughly 125million Americans. How hard could it be to convince the Congress and the lobbyists to roll back the corporate welfare system that has been established over the last half to three quarters of a century when these facts are made apparent?

    3. Easiest of all we simply remove from office, via the voting booth, all of the toady politicians owned lock stock and barrel by corporations and the 1% by voting to replace them with honorable, honest public servants whom actually want to improve the lot of all Americans, not just the corporate grifters, banksters and ultra rich who, while getting their overseas bank accounts filled by the government, simultaneously bemoan the government pittance which is begrudgingly handed out to the down and out that “they” are going to bankrupt” our loudly proclaimed greatest country on Earth. Can anyone see any problems with accomplishing such an easy task.