Farmers Earn 25 Cents from $12 State Fair Lunch

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South Dakota’s number one industry of agriculture is hurting. In addition to dealing with extreme weather during 2019 calving and planting seasons, grain and livestock prices are down. While at the same time, grocery store prices hold steady. 

To help South Dakotans who don’t work on farms and ranches gain a better understanding of the wage gap between what they pay in the grocery store and what a South Dakota farm or ranch family earns, South Dakota Farmers Union (SDFU) hosts its annual Farmer Share Lunch during Farmers Union Day at the South Dakota State Fair, Aug. 31.

Fairgoers pay only 25 cents for a lunch valued at $12.

“We fed more than 1,000 today,” says Karla Hofhenke, SDFU Executive Director. “This is our largest educational event. Farmers Union board members, who are farmers and ranchers, and staff spend a lot of time visiting with folks waiting in line, answering questions, helping them understand what the family farmers and ranchers of our state are going through right now.”

Friends, Taylor Feddersen and Savannah Krogman said they knew prices were low, but they were still surprised when they learned the farmer and rancher who raised the ingredients for the lunch, which included milk, chips and pulled pork sandwich, only received 25 cents.

“We live in a small town, and know everyone who does farm,” explains Feddersen, who traveled to the State Fair from Murdo.

“But it’s still surprising – farmers don’t make enough,” adds Krogman.

Farmer Share lunch is an annual event hosted by S.D. Farmers Union. And although there has been a large gap between what shoppers pay and what farmers and ranchers earn, in recent years the difference has become extreme.

“Farmers and ranchers are used to dealing with unpredictable weather, and somewhat volatile markets, but the recent trade war and the 2017 dissolving of governmental oversight with the closure of USDA Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) who facilitated the marketing of agriculture products, means our farmers can’t even get fair markets within the U.S.,” explains Doug Sombke, SDFU President and fourth-generation farmer.

Winner farmer, Joel Keierleber, appreciates the organization’s effort to education. “When consumers buy a pound of burger at the store and pays $4, they think I’m making $4 a pound for the cattle I raise. This simply isn’t the case. Consumers really don’t understand that most of their food dollars go to the middleman. For example, I only receive $1.73 for that pound of burger, and that is not counting how much it cost me to produce and market the cow.”

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