Food prices stay steady in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation News Release

MADISON – Retail food prices at the supermarket decreased modestly during the third quarter of 2012 according to the latest Wisconsin Farm Bureau Marketbasket Survey.

“With this summer’s drought not expected to make a price impact until 2013, we are not seeing any prevailing trend when it comes to food prices,” said Casey Langan, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation spokesman.

“Energy prices are always a major driver of food prices,” Langan said. “Energy prices have been relatively high this year, but they have also been very stable. As a result, we are not seeing volatile price swings for food like we did in 2009 and 2010.”

“Much has been made of the drought’s impact on the price of crops like corn and soybeans. However their market price is just a portion of retail food prices. The majority of your grocery bill comes from the energy-intensive efforts of processing and transporting food,” Langan said.

Farm Bureau’s informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $49.60. While it marked a drop of 72 cents (or about 1.4 percent) from the second quarter of 2012, it is nearly the same price as the first quarter of 2012 ($49.55).

The cost for the survey items decreased 1.9 percent compared to one year ago.

Of the 16 items surveyed, eight increased in price while eight decreased in price compared to the prior quarter.

Items with decreases in price of nine percent or more were russet potatoes (a five-pound bag fell 20 percent, $2.40 to $1.92), vegetable oil (a 32-ounce bottle decreased 11.5 percent from $3.21 to $2.84), white bread (a 20-ounce loaf fell nine percent from $1.67 to $1.52).

Items with increases in price of nine percent or more were bacon (one pound increased nine percent from $4.12 to $4.49) and eggs (a dozen large, Grade A increased 17.2 percent from $1.28 to $1.50).

Wisconsin’s $49.60 Marketbasket is $2.30 less than the American Farm Bureau Federation’s national survey of the same 16 food items. AFBF’s survey rang in at $51.90. Despite the lower overall price, five of the 16 items recently surveyed in Wisconsin were higher than the national average: apples, orange juice, shredded mild cheddar cheese, ground chuck and bacon.

Over the last three decades retail grocery prices have gradually increased while the share of the average dollar spent on food that farm families receive has dropped. In the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures in grocery stores and restaurants. Since then that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s revised Food Dollar Series. Using that percentage across the board, the farmer’s share of this quarter’s $49.60 grocery bill would be $7.94.

Despite higher prices, the USDA says Americans will still spend approximately 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average in the world.

The Marketbasket Survey is a quarterly look at the trends in food prices in Wisconsin in relation to changing farm prices, weather and wholesale and retail food marketing. Members of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau collected price samples of 16 basic food items in 31 communities across Wisconsin in September.

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