OpEd: Let’s Talk Turkey

Let’s talk Turkey…

 

As South Dakota families gather to enjoy Thanksgiving meals this holiday weekend and we express gratitude for countless blessings, the South Dakota Corn Growers Association (SDCGA) offers this Kernel of Truth: Americans enjoy the cheapest food supply in the world and we have farmers to thank for providing the safest, most economical food source available.

 

Unfortunately, food companies with greedy ‘gimme gimme’ attitudes are taking an uninvited bite out of most Americans’ budgets this season while gorging themselves on fat profits. Meanwhile, food companies are trying to pin blame on agriculture for higher food prices.

 

To deflect attention from their own actions to keep food prices high, America’s large food companies are misleading the public by blaming increased use of corn for ethanol production for the higher cost of Thanksgiving dinner. However, only 1.4% of the price for the typical holiday meal for 10 this Thanksgiving can be attributed to the U.S. ethanol industry’s demand for corn, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

 

If the proof is in the pudding, the pudding in this case is the reality that corn prices today are less than half of what they were at their peak. Input costs for food processors are way down but the prices they charge grocery shoppers continue to climb. Prices for virtually everything consumers buy – gasoline, airline tickets, clothing – dropped in October, except food prices.

 

The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 23rd annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $44.61, a $2.35 price increase from last year’s average of $42.26.

 

The cost of a 16-pound turkey, at $19.09 or roughly $1.19 per pound, reflects an increase of 9 cents per pound, or a total of $1.46 per turkey compared to 2007. This is the largest contributor to the overall increase in the cost of the 2008 Thanksgiving dinner. When corn is $4, there is 18.2 cents worth of corn in each pound of turkey. So the value of corn in that 16 pound turkey is just $2.91…leaving $16.18 attributed to labor, marketing, transportation, and profits for big food companies.

 

While the price of Thanksgiving dinner is higher this fall, the price of corn isn’t. A bushel of corn has decreased 21 percent from $4.28 on Nov. 21 last year to $3.39 on the same day this year (Dec. 2008 futures). If corn prices have decreased since last November, how could they possibly be responsible for the increase in the price of Thanksgiving dinner?

 

In addition, with fuel prices down during this holiday season, it will cost travelers less to take in the turkey. Ethanol is actually keeping gasoline prices even lower than they would otherwise be, up to 30 cents lower according to an Iowa State University’s study.

 

So as it turns out, ethanol’s biggest economic impact on this Thanksgiving season is the money saved for travelers to join their families for Thanksgiving this weekend.

 

I am thankful to be a farmer in the greatest nation raising food for the world. But I am also a consumer who is impacted by higher food costs like everyone else. As a producer who knows precisely how much my product impacts the prices of the food I buy or the fuel I use, this consumer trusts agriculture as the base of this nation providing affordable food and contributing to energy security through ethanol. Choosing ethanol is a way for all consumers to drive that message home to the food companies artificially stuffing their pockets with profits.   

Bill Chase

Wolsey, SD

 

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