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Breakfast examines farmers' fare shares

CROOKSTON In 1980, farmers and ranchers received 31 cents out of every dollar consumers spent on food. Today, that has dropped to 19 cents. The West Polk County Agri-women, along with the Crookston Chamber of Commerce, held the 15th Annual Farmer...

CROOKSTON In 1980, farmers and ranchers received 31 cents out of every dollar consumers spent on food. Today, that has dropped to 19 cents.

The West Polk County Agri-women, along with the Crookston Chamber of Commerce, held the 15th Annual Farmers' Share Breakfast at the Irishman's Shanty here Saturday morning.

Families, friends and neighbors enjoyed a buffet breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, milk, muffins and juice, paying only $1.25 per person. The meal was priced using an average meal cost of about $8, with farmers receiving only about 1 percent, or $1.25.

"At first, they started out charging the actual share (of one dollar)," said Donna Ulseth, chairwoman of the local Agri-Women Chapter. "At 25 cents per person, they lost money.

"The farmers' share keeps going down."

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The breakfast was held to help educate the community on simple farm economics, Ulseth said.

"We want to let people know that the food they eat in the U.S is the lowest-priced," she said.

"Realize how important the business of farming is," she said. "For the community and the economy of the valley."

Ulseth and her husband have been farming for more than 30 years.

"I wasn't raised on a farm," Ulseth said. "Now, you can't get me off the farm."

The most frustrating aspect of farming, Useth said, is the inability of the farmer to set their own prices.

"We have to take what the market gives us," she said. "The farmer has huge input costs to consider."

Dish out the cash

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Each dollar earned by the farmer is divided by several operating costs, including such things as labor off the farm, packaging, transportation, energy, repairs, taxes and advertising, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.

In 2004, U.S. farm policy and farm programs were allotted $14 billion of the USDA's $77.7 billion budget.

That's less than one-fourth of the total USDA annual budget. In 2003, 63 percent of farms did not participate in any farm programs, according to a 2005 Family Farm Report.

And those programs cost each American just 4 cents per meal and account for less than one-half of 1 percent of the total U.S. budget, according to the report.

Food and nutrition programs were allotted $38.7 billion and made up the largest percentage, just under half, of the USDA budget.

A good life

The breakfast had served about 250 people by about 10 a.m.

"It was good, a lot of fun," said Lori Wagner, executive director at the Crookston Chamber of Commerce. "It is good to see so many members of the community."

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Sue Tiedemann and her husband, Mike, farm near Crookston. She is the special education coordinator at Crookston Public Schools. They have three children, Bobby, 9, Ally, 7 and Catherine, 4.

Sue feels the farmers' earning share is too low, but it doesn't change her view on farming.

"It's a good life in the country with nature," she said. "Bobby goes out with his dad from sunrise to sunset."

And Bobby knows what he likes about farming.

"I like going out on the combines," he said. "I do what he tells me to do."

Reach Nagel at (701) 780-1262, (800) 477-6572, ext. 262; or anagel@gfherald.com

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