Policy

Report on farm input costs

Until recently, a brief description of the farm income crisis went like this: A mother goes to a supermarket to buy a loaf of bread. She puts $1.35 on the counter. The grocery chain, baking company, flour-milling corporation, and grain company together take $1.30. The farmer gets the remaining nickel. Then fertilizer, seed, chemical, fuel, and machinery companies take 6¢ from the farmer’s pocket. Taxpayers make up the missing penny, in the form of subsidies. The farmer’s spouse gets a job in town, to pay for groceries.

Rising grain prices have changed the narrative, slightly. Now, the mother will be made to pay $1.60 for the bread, and the farmer will get a dime. What will be instructive to watch, however, is how those fertilizer, seed, chemical, fuel, and machinery companies position themselves to take 11¢ from the farmer’s pocket— thereby continuing, uninterrupted, the farm income crisis, despite rising grain prices.

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