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USDA, AFBF promote Food Check-Out Week
By JANE HOUIN
Ohio Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ask most farmers and he or she will be proud to say that Americans enjoy the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world - and USDA Secretary Mike Johanns agrees.

Last Wednesday, Johanns met with members of the American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee and signed a proclamation designating Jan. 29-Feb. 4 as Food Check-Out Week.

“On average, each American earns enough income to pay for his or her annual food supply in just 35 calendar days or five weeks,” Johanns said. “Our nation’s food supply is the most affordable in the world, with U.S. consumers typically spending 9.5 percent of their annual disposable income on food.”

Food Check-Week was celebrated last week to commemorate that point in the year when the typical American consumer has earned enough disposable income to pay for the food for they eat – both at home and away – for the entire year. Johanns said U.S. farmers and ranchers produce food at a level of efficiency and quality that is unmatched by other countries around the world.

“This achievement is commendable, especially in light of the significant challenges and uncertainty that they face on a daily basis, from inclement weather to damaging insects and everything in between,” Johanns said.

In what may be considered somewhat of a surprise, the percentage of disposable personal income spent for food in the United States has declined during the 35 years, due to increased standards of living. Since 1997, American families have spent an average of less than 10 percent of their disposable income on food. And it has been 23 years, in 1984, since Americans used more than 12 percent of their disposable income on food.

“Our nation’s increasing standard of living would certainly be reduced without our safe, abundant and affordable domestic food supply,” said AFB Women’s Leadership Committee Chair Terry Gilbert of Kentucky. “American farmers are proud to produce an abundance of high-quality, affordable food. The fact that it takes just five weeks for the average family to earn enough income to pay for their food supply for the entire year is truly amazing.”

USDA research contributes this increasing affordability of food to a widening gap between income growth and the amount of money spent on food - an interesting conclusion, since trends indicate that Americans are buying more expensive convenience items for preparation at home as well as more food away from home. In celebration of Food Check-Out Week, Farm Bureau members around the country are making food and monetary donations to Ronald McDonald Houses and other charitable organizations in their local communities.

The American Farm Bureau presented $2,500 to the Ronald McDonald House of Greater Washington D.C., to help provide food for families staying at the house. Ronald McDonald Houses provide a “home-away-from-home” for families with seriously ill children.

This farm news was published in the February 8, 2006 issue of Farm World.

2/8/2006