Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation: Retail food prices decrease for second consecutive quarter

Contact: 608-836-5575

MADISON – Wisconsin’s retail food prices have fallen by over 3 percent since the end of 2008.

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s ‘Market Basket’ quarterly survey found the average cost of 20 basic food items totaled $55.85 in the first quarter of 2009. That was a $2.06 decrease from the survey’s average price of $57.91 in the fourth quarter of 2008. It marks the survey’s second straight quarterly decrease, as prices fell in the last quarter of 2008 by nearly 2 percent.

Wisconsin’s largest farm organization tracks the retail price of 20 food items in 26 communities across the state.

Prices for dairy products all saw significant decreases in the first quarter of 2009. A pound of butter was $3.31, almost 8-percent less than the fourth quarter of 2008. A pound of mild cheddar cheese dropped 20-cents (4.9 percent) to $3.95 in the same time period and a gallon of whole milk dropped 34-cents to $2.90, nearly 11 percent less than Q4 2008.

The dairy price decreases were expected based on recent supply and demand forces. Worldwide demand for dairy products has dropped off with the economic crises impacting food choices. A year ago Wisconsin farmers were increasing production to take advantage of the strong market. With that market weakened, higher production levels combined with lower demand hit dairy farmers hard. February 2009 was the first month where milk production decreased from the previous year as farmers worked to align supply with demand. In February 2009, the price paid to farmers, for milk, dropped nearly 50 percent from a year prior.

Other items decreasing in the Market Basket survey were Red Delicious apples, down 18-cents per pound (11.5 percent) to $1.44; a 10-pound bag of Wisconsin potatoes decreased over 9 percent to $3.90 and a pound of bone-in ham was $1.89, 43-cents (18.4 percent) less than Q4 2008.

Price increases were modest with the largest increase seen in a loaf of store brand bread. The survey average price of $1.47 per loaf is an increase of 23-cents from the last quarter of 2008

Farmers receive about 19 percent of every dollar spent on food at home and away from home. Applying that number to the Market Basket total shows that of the $55.85 total for Q1 2009; the average farmer would get $10.