Farmers feeling market’s squeeze

Associated Press

KENNEWICK — While American consumers stuff themselves with Thanksgiving turkey, dressing, potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie, the people who grew the commodities have a bellyache.

The American Farm Bureau’s annual national price survey found that the average cost of preparing a Thanksgiving meal for 10 declined 4 percent from last year, to $32.37.

What’s good for consumers is galling to the state’s farmers, who are getting squeezed by high production costs.

"What we are seeing is a fairly large supply of pretty much every commodity," Farm Bureau economist Joe Miller said. "It doesn’t matter which commodity you talk about. Almost all have low prices, from cranberries to turkeys to grains."

Washington farmers are getting less for their crops, but paying more in property taxes, fuel, labor and maintenance.

Things are so bad in the Yakima Valley that the Roza Irrigation District recently decided not to increase assessments for next year despite increased costs to run the district.

"With commodity prices down, it’s been a tough year for farmers to make a go of it," irrigation district spokesman Joe Schmitt said. "Hopefully, this will help out."

Fresh potato growers are particularly hard hit.

While Americans are expected to consume 55 million pounds of Thanksgiving potatoes, what Washington growers got for their spuds was break-even or worse.

A large crop across North America has flooded the market with fresh spuds and driven down prices.

"Fresh growers are barely getting enough returns back to pay the shipping and packing," said Dale Lathim, executive director of the Potato Growers of Washington in Othello. "Today, some growers are getting less per hundredweight than they were in 1900."

While the vast majority of Washington’s potatoes are processed for french fries, about 20,000 acres are grown for the fresh market.

In some cases, farmers could lose more than $1,000 an acre, the difference between what it costs to grow the potatoes and what they sell for.

Instead of fresh potatoes, the Farm Bureau’s average Thanksgiving meal includes sweet potatoes, which cost $1.94 per 3-pound bag, down 23 cents from last year.

Dairy products such as milk and whipping cream also are cheaper.

The average price of a gallon of whole milk, for example, is $2.56, down 39 cents.

"I find it ironic that we are talking about how cheap Thanksgiving dinner is when we have a very robust economy in the I-5 corridor," said Debbie Becker, executive director of the Washington State Dairy Federation. "But out in the rural communities, we have people worrying about if they are going to be able to have those dinners, when you look at the price of milk they received."

Farmers are getting less than $12 per hundred pounds of milk, the lowest prices in decades, Becker said.

Nationally, lower prices also were found by Farm Bureau shoppers. A 16-pound turkey was down $1.71 from last year, fresh cranberries were down 16 cents, pumpkin pie mix was down 7 cents and frozen green peas were down 7 cents.

"There is typically a lag between consumer prices and what the farmers have been seeing," the Farm Bureau’s Miller said. "We’ve seen low prices at the farm level for two or three years now. Those dropping prices are just now starting to reach the retail level."

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A few weeks before what could be her final professional UFC fight, Miranda Granger grimaces as she pushes a 45-pound plate up her driveway on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Her daughter Austin, age 11 months, is strapped to her back. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Daily Herald staff wins 5 honors at annual journalism competition

The Herald got one first-place win and four runner-up spots in SPJ’s Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest.

Panelists from different areas of mental health care speak at the Herald Forum about mental health care on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At panel, mental health experts brainstorm answers to staff shortages

Workforce shortages, insurance coverage and crisis response were in focus at the Snohomish forum hosted by The Daily Herald.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Report of downed hot air balloon turns up farmer’s tarp near Snohomish

Two 911 callers believed they saw a hot air balloon crash, leading to a major search-and-rescue response. It was a false alarm.

People gather for a color throw at Stanwood and Camano’s first-ever Pride celebration on Saturday, June 4, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘We’ve at least come a little ways’: Snohomish to host first Pride event

A 10 a.m. parade on First Street will be followed by a pop-up market with 60 vendors, a downtown wine walk, queer cabaret and more.

The site of a former 76 gas station and a handful of century old buildings will be the location for new apartments buildings at the corner of Pacific and Rucker on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Old gas station demolished for apartments in downtown Everett

A 200-unit apartment complex between three and seven stories tall is proposed at Pacific and Rucker avenues.

Kamiak High School is pictured Friday, July 8, 2022, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Kamiak football coach fired amid sexual misconduct investigation

Police believe Julian Willis, 34, sexually abused the student in portable classrooms on Kamiak High School’s campus.

Police: Marysville man fist-bumped cop, exposing tattoos of wanted robber

The suspect told police he robbed three stores to pay off a drug debt. He’d just been released from federal prison for another armed robbery.

People begin marching down First Street with a giant balloon “PRIDE” during Snohomish’s inaugural Pride celebration on Saturday, June 3, 2023, in downtown Snohomish, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
GALLERY: Snohomish hosts first official Pride celebration

Scenes from the parade and other events celebrating LGBTQIA culture and people in downtown Snohomish.

Cat killed, 9 people displaced after duplex fire in Everett

None of the people were injured in the fire reported around 1:15 a.m. in the 11500 block of Meridian Avenue S.

Most Read