Every time I go to the grocery store or to a restaurant, I overhear people complaining about the rising cost of food. Prices for many items have increased in recent months. When the gentleman standing beside you at the meat counter begins to hyperventilate over the price per pound for beef, pork, poultry or seafood, it is not only good to know first aid, but it helps to be ready to answer some of his concerns.
It is a fact that in this country, we spend a smaller share of our income on food than Canadians, Australians or Germans. We spend less than anyone else, anywhere in the world.
The average American spends 11 percent of his/her disposable income on food. That includes food eaten out and at home. In China, consumers spend nearly 30% of their disposable income on food. In Pakistan, they spend nearly 48%.
The rising cost of energy is a major factor in the price we pay not only for groceries, but for almost everything. Increased oil prices have driven up not only transportation costs, but the prices of fertilizer, packaging and even inks used to print those labels that we hear so much about in the news these days.
Overwhelming regulations restricting the use of herbicides, fungicides, pesticides and fertilizers result in poorer crop yields. Many consumer, when polled, will say they want farmers to use less of these inputs, but when those same consumers select produce at the market, you can bet your bottom line that they will not pick up the tomato with a dark spot from disease or pepper with a worm hole.
With a shrinking land base, farmers need technology to increase crop yields to meet growing demand. Because of regulation and the cost of research and development, it takes years to bring a new input to market. Companies and eventually farmers have to invest a sizeable sum in those new and improved and more environmentally friendly products.
With their mouths full, some consumers complain about “industrial agriculture” and large livestock confinements. They will sign petitions and put signs in their yards to block expansion, while complaining about the cost of pork chops, eggs, and chicken breasts.
Drier, hotter weather in key agricultural areas in this country coupled with the government’s decision to cease water diversions to farmland to protect bait fish, has forced thousands of acres of once productive land to lay idle.
How much time and money are these complainers willing to invest in raising their own food? These people who think local produce, meat and eggs is too expensive? It’s fun for a while to have a garden until you have to hoe weeds or rescue your green beans from Japanese Beetles. (That’s awfully difficult without a little help from a pesticide.) Have you priced a canner and jars recently? Food preservation is not an inexpensive endeavor.
Printing more money to inject into the economy is not helping, either. It is not sustainable.