Food for thought on the importance of farming

CHAMPAIGN — Egg casserole, blueberry muffins, fresh fruit platter, plus something to drink.

Ordinarily, a breakfast like that would cost $7.50, according to Champaign County Farm Bureau Manager Brad Uken's calculations.

But folks attending today's Field to Plate breakfast at Parkland College had to spend only $1 for it — a little less than what the farmers who produced the food would get for it.

The breakfast, sponsored by the Agribusiness Committee of the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, aims to help folks understand the role of U.S. agriculture in supplying the nation with food.

"We try to remind people that food does not originate from the grocery store, but comes from the farm," said Dennis Riggs, a Champaign County farmer who was the designated speaker for the breakfast.

Citing statistics from the National Farmers Union, Uken said only 15.8 cents of every dollar spent on food at home and away from home goes to the farmer.

The rest goes for transportation, packaging, advertising and labor associated with processing.

For a $7.50 breakfast, only $1.20 would go back to the farmer — but in order to avoid making change, the committee decided to charge breakfast-goers only a flat dollar.

Riggs said every farmer in the United States feeds not only himself but about 154 other people throughout the world.

Farmers make up about 2 percent of the U.S. population, he said.

"We're probably one of the most misunderstood minorities because people don't get a chance to interact with us very often," Riggs said.

The U.S. has about 3 million farms, with "98 percent of them family-owned, just like mine," he said.

Riggs, who farms 300 acres 6 miles south of Sidney, is the fourth generation to farm the land, which has been in the family since 1854.

He also is a sales representative at Champaign Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram. Plus, he operates the Dairy Barn in Sidney, as well as Fix-It, a shop in Sidney that refinishes and repairs furniture.

"Farming is an industry with no secrets," Riggs said. "We need the support of our consumers, and we want people to be happy in partnership with farmers."

Dollars and cents

Here are typical prices for various foods and the amount of that price that goes to farmers, according to the National Farmers Union:

— 18-ounce box of cereal: $4.19, of which farmers get six cents.

— A dozen eggs: $3.09, of which farmers get $1.10.

— A pound of bacon: $6.06, of which farmers get 82 cents

— A pound of boneless ham: $3.99, of which farmers get 82 cents.

— A gallon of fat-free milk: $4.69, of which farmers get $2.

— A pound of bread: $2.69, of which farmers get 15 cents.

— Five pounds of flour: $3.49, of which farmers get 75 cents.

Sections (2):News, Business
Topics (3):Agriculture, Economy, Food

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pattsi wrote on March 20, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Great experience. More ought to attend the next Field to Plate opportunity. As much as I have learned about farming, as being from a non farm family, there is more to learn. Reasons to fight to save our treasured agriculture land and minimize sprawl were underlined over and over again this morning. Working together will help us apprciate even more the great economic engine that agriculture is for this county.