Here’s something to consider now that the area’s barley harvest is under way:
A North Dakota farmer who grows barley mentioned to me recently that one bushel of barley provides enough of the crop for 570 cans of light beer. At current malt barley prices, barley accounts for about a penny of the cost of a can of light beer, he says.
His larger point, of course, is that farmers typically receive only a fraction of what consumers pay for most food products.
Some beer drinkers are complaining that the price of the beverage has risen.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which keeps tabs on lot of things besides labor, says the price of bottled beer and ale rose an average of 5.1 percent between April 2010 and April 2011. In the same period, the price of canned beer and ale rose 3.5 percent. (The figures come from the producer price index, which measures average changes in prices received by domestic producers for their output.
Malt barley, for its part, is fetching around $5 per bushel at area elevators surveyed weekly by Agweek. A year ago, the average price was about $2.15 per bushel.
It might seem easy to blame farmers for higher beer prices. But a prominent area farm group has research showing that farmers’ share of what consumers spend on beer and several other food items amounts to only pennies of each item’s cost.
Further, farmers’ overall share of the retail food dollar actually is shrinking, the farm group says.
You can read my article of the farm group’s findings in the May 23 issue of Agweek.