John Block: Bounty of Food

I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving this year. The celebration of Thanksgiving dates back to our ancestors who settled this country. They didn’t have any of the comforts that we take for granted today. They were just thankful to have a roof over their head and food to eat.

Even today, there are people starving in other countries. In many of the African countries, they use 50 percent of their family income just to put food on the table. We used to spend 30 percent, then 20 percent, now less than 10 percent of family income to feed the family.

How much do you think this year’s Thanksgiving dinner will cost? Probably less than $5.00 per person. That includes more than just the turkey. It includes stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls, peas, cranberries, carrots, celery, milk, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. According to Bob Stallman, President of the American Farm Bureau, that delicious bounty of food costs less than it did last year.

I’m looking at a Thanksgiving dinner chart going back 25 years. The inflation adjusted cost is actually less than it was in 1986.

According to the Economic Research Service (USDA), the nation’s food price index has risen less than 1 percent this year.

The severe drought that we experienced last year pushed up our food prices but they are back down now. Global grain reserves are up by 13 percent. Course grain reserves that include corn are up by 30 percent.

There are a lot of reasons why food is such a bargain in the U.S. We’re just better at producing than we used to be. When I was 10 years old, one farmer produced enough food to feed 15 people. By 1964, one farmer was feeding 26 people, and today, one farmer supplies food for 155 people. That is a 10-fold increase. And, we do it with less crop acres.

I know we have many reasons to be thankful, but one big reason is that we are not hungry. Thanks to the American farmer.

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.

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