by Marion Nestle
Aug 25 2014

More money in food: USDA’s food dollar

While I’m thinking about the role of money in food, take a look at USDA’s new food dollar series.

Farm and agribusiness get 11.8 cents on the dollar.

The real money is in adding value through processing (18.6 cents) and food service (33.7 cents).

When farmers complain that it’s hard to make a living, they aren’t kidding.

Screenshot 2014-08-20 09.50.54










  • yes yes cvosa!

  • As a farmer, will be picking veggies and fruits and headed to farmers market tomorrow afternoon. When customers buy from me there, I earn 100% of their food dollar. And local chefs will be there, too, sourcing local, again cutting out the middleman. We are looking for ways to encourage more folks to come out, to buy from us first before the grocery. We have a SNAP matching benefit, through private funds.
    So, consumers can choose for more of the food dollars to stay local, and support their farmers directly. Takes a little extra time, but you can know the ones growing your food!

  • George Glass

    Farmers take on the biggest risk and arguably the toughest work, but margins are generally thin across the supply chain, including food service. While many would like more home-cooked meals prepared with fresh ingredients and hard-working producers to be compensated fairly, few are willing to pony up their own time and money to make this happen. Thank goodness for Soylent and startups geared at scaling bug farms – we, the consumer, certainly deserve it.

  • Stewart Smith, (U of Maine, ret.) calculated farm share from which the input share (Monsanto, John Deere) had been removed. For 1997, (his last year of data,) while USDA had a 21.4% farm share, Smith had 7.7% (36% of 21.4) as his true farm share. If USDA still calculates in the same way, that might be something like 4.2% farm share today (36% of 11.8).

    We had 8 of the lowest 9 corn and soybean prices in history, 1997-2005, (adjusted for inflation,) with the ending of minimum price programs, and similar for other commodity crops (the biggest farm bill losers). 2005 was the lowest, but then farmers got $10 billion in subsidies, which would move it up to 5th lowest. The highest recent corn price, 2012, “skyrocketed” to just lower than the 50% mark. Today corn is about half that, and if it were a yearly average, it would rank about 15th from the bottom.

    Smith’s numbers project on a trendline to zero farm share by 2020. Farmers need the support of the Food Movement to restore adequate minimum price floor programs, (where no subsidies were/are needed).

  • Lorraine Lewandrowski

    The food movement has to go beyond lecturing farmers on “sustainability” and aggressively pursue policies that will result in farmers share being sustainable for farmers. Of course, more cheap food is on the way with enhanced global shipping, deeper ports, wider canals, bigger boats. Is the food movement up to the challenge of looking beyond farmers markets and their own plates to actually tackle powerful forces of consolidation and control?

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