Reducing the bottom line

Food Check-Out Week highlights farmers', ranchers' contributions

— Less than 10 percent of an average American's disposable income pays for food, the American Farm Bureau Web site reported.

More than a bottom-line figure, that number points to America's abundant and inexpensive food supply, said Wayne Counts, a local farmer and Moffat County Farm Bureau board member.

Farm Bureau, which is governed by farmers and ranchers, designated Feb. 6 as Food Check-Out Day. By that date, most Americans have earned enough money to pay for a year's food supply, according to the organization's Web site.

"According to the most recent statistics compiled by the Agriculture Department's Economic Research Service, American families and individuals spend, on average, just 9.9 percent of their disposable personal income for food," Farm Bureau reported.

"Applying the current statistic to the calendar year means the average U.S. household will have earned enough disposable income - the portion of income available for spending or saving after taxes are paid - to pay for its annual food supply this week."

That figure includes costs incurred at both grocery stores and restaurants.

Bureau representatives credit American farmers and ranchers with helping create the availability of inexpensive food.

"As food producers, we remain concerned that some Americans are not able to afford to buy the food they need, but we are proud of the part U.S. farmers play in ensuring our food supply is affordable overall," said Terry Gilbert, Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Committee chairperson.

Gilbert attributed recent food price increases to growing energy costs that raise transportation, processing and packaging expenses.

In recognition of the day, Bureau representatives donate funds to Ronald McDonald Houses, which shelter families of ill children checked in at area hospitals.

The Bureau's Moffat County branch also pitched in, raising $181 at its annual meeting last week for the Ronald McDonald House in Denver, board president Shirley Lawton said.

Food Check-Out Day also spotlights the work of local farmers and ranchers, Counts said.

It's a work Counts started when he began raising wheat on his father's farm at age 15.

He recently continued that calling and became a 2006-07 Colorado Association of Wheat Growers board member.

An average American consumes less than 200 pounds of wheat per year, he said, adding that, at current wheat prices, that amount adds up to $22.

"The main thing we want people to realize is how little they pay for their food : compared to other countries," Counts said. "I don't think people understand that."

Bridget Manley can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com

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