Why farmers only get 7.8 cents of every dollar Americans spend on food

Our take: Restaurant-based eating habits affecting supply, cost of food | ------------

For every dollar consumers spend on food, only 7.8 cents goes to farmers — a record low that reflects shifts in how Americans eat, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Where once consumers cooked most of their meals at home, they’re now buying just as many at cafes and restaurants.

And while shoppers were once content to husk their own corn and slice their own apples, they now buy those foods – and thousands of others – pre-husked, pre-sliced and otherwise processed.

Economists say those trends, coupled with low commodity prices, caused farmers’ share of consumer food spending to fall 1.2 cents in 2016, reaching the lowest point, adjusted for inflation, since USDA began the measure in 1993. (It’s the latest year for which data is available).

While falling share doesn’t hurt farmers, necessarily, it does expose the long-term, macro trends that shape the supply and cost of food.

Even a simple food, like an ear of corn, takes a long journey to get to consumers’ plates.

Before that corn is planted, farmers buy seeds, fertilizers and farm equipment to get it in the ground.

Once the corn is grown, it must be picked, packed, sorted, stored and shipped to...

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