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Correll: Thanksgiving is a time to ponder

dfox • Nov 25, 2015 at 6:00 PM

It’s Thanksgiving and time to ponder on what you are thankful for this year? It’s a question that’s asked often as we sit down with those close to us and reflect on the blessings of the past year. 

It’s a timely question for those who make their living on the farm. In past years farmers will remember the good and bad crop or production years. Farmers have to work with a “cranky” Mother Nature, volatile markets, high inputs and low prices, lack of labor, expensive equipment and many other stresses. 

Agriculture Online recently completed a survey of farmers regarding their concerns for the future. There was one constant theme that stood out above others as they looked ahead to the winter and next year’s crop: 56 percent of those responding to the poll say an improved general economy tops their list of things for which they hope to be thankful. 

The economic downturn will likely affect how most consumers tackle the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. According to the business marketing firm IBISWorld, the number of families breaking bread at home rather than eating out will rise, due largely to increased costs.

For the past 30 years, the American Farm Bureau Federation has done an informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table. This year’s survey indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $50.11, a 70-cent increase from last year’s average of $49.41. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, they consider it an informal gauge of price trends around the nation.

Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons. The shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10.

The big-ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at a total of $23.04 this year. That’s roughly $1.44 per pound, an increase of less than 9 cents per pound, or a total of $1.39 per whole turkey, compared to 2014. According to AFBF Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson, “there were some production disruptions earlier this year due to the highly pathogenic Avian influenza outbreak in the Midwest. Turkey production is down this year but not dramatically. Our survey shows a modest increase in turkey prices compared to last year, but we’re now starting to see retailers feature turkeys aggressively for the holiday.”

Foods showing the largest increases this year in addition to turkey were pumpkin pie mix, a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, cubed bread stuffing and pie shells. A 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.20; a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.61; and two nine-inch pie shells, $2.47.

“Despite concerns earlier this fall about pumpkin production due to wet weather, the supply of canned product will be adequate for this holiday season,” Anderson said.

Items that declined modestly in price were mainly dairy items including one gallon of whole milk, $3.25; a combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour), $3.18; a half pint of whipping cream, $1.94; and 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, $2.29. A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery (79 cents) and one pound of green peas ($1.52) also decreased slightly in price.

The average cost of the dinner has remained around $49 since 2011. This year’s survey totaled over $50 for the first time. American farmers continue to provide the safest and highest quality food, year after year. We are so fortunate to live in a country with so many blessings. Let us give thanks once again for our many farmers. 

Agricultural Market Summary

Cattle Market Trends

There are very few positives if any at all with regard to cattle and beef markets. Producers should not be expecting a price resurgence before the end of the year. Forecasters predict it will probably be February or March before improvement. Feeder steers, $5 to $7 lower, $107.50-$220; Feeder heifers, $3 to $9 lower, $90-$197; Slaughter cows, $2 to $4 lower, $58-$77; Slaughter bulls, steady to $4 lower, $86-$112.

Grain Market Trends

Corn and soybeans were up; wheat was down; and cotton was mixed for the week. Corn: Cash price, $3.46-$3.91. December futures closed at $3.63 a bushel, up 5 cents. Soybeans: Cash price, $8.40-$8.94.

January futures closed at $8.57 a bushel, up 2 cents. Wheat: No cash price reported. December futures closed at $4.88 a bushel, down 7 cents.

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