Every year, when my family gathers for Thanksgiving dinner, we take a moment to share what we are thankful for. Coming from a family of farmers, it’s not uncommon to hear something along the lines of, “I’m thankful to continue providing a life for my family doing something that I love.” Honestly, as the president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, it’s not unusual to hear this from the member farmers I serve every day. But, even though I anticipate the statement, it still stops me in my tracks.
In my role, I see the hardships farmers across Mississippi and the United States face on a daily basis. My job is to advocate for policy in Jackson and Washington D.C. that will help them do their jobs better. A majority of the time that means I’m often in the midst of hard conversations with farmers and policy makers.
Being a farmer is a labor-intensive job that requires business sense, the ability to keep up with ever-changing technology, and the understanding you will have very little control over your income. From fluctuating commodity markets to unpredictable weather and everything in between, farmers face obstacles almost everywhere they look.
An example of one of these challenges can be found in the cost of your Thanksgiving meal. The American Farm Bureau Federation recently completed its 36th Annual Thanksgiving Cost Survey to determine the average cost of a classic Thanksgiving feast. This year, the average cost for 10 people is $53.31, which comes out to less than $6.00 per person. This is a $6.41 or a 14% increase from last year’s average of $46.90.
According to AFBF Senior Economist Veronica Nigh, several factors contributed to the increase in average cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner.
“These include dramatic disruptions to the U.S. economy and supply chains over the last 20 months; inflationary pressure throughout the economy; difficulty in predicting demand during the COVID-19 pandemic and high global demand for food, particularly meat,” she said. “The trend of consumers cooking and eating at home more often due to the pandemic led to increased supermarket demand and higher retail food prices in 2020 and 2021, compared to pre-pandemic prices in 2019.”
The problem is that despite the increase in Thanksgiving food prices, and all other products over the last 18 months for that matter, the farmer has seen little to no increase in their commodity profits.
President John F. Kennedy once said, “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.” Despite making this statement more than 50 years ago, it still rings true of the problems the agriculture industry is facing in 2021.
And that is why when I hear my fellow family members and farmers praise their jobs at Thanksgiving and say, “I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life,” it makes me stop in my tracks. Even though they face unpredictable conditions and numerous challenges, farmers do not want to do anything else. They take pride in not only being able to provide food, fiber and shelter for their families, but the rest of the world as well. Their love for this life’s mission pushes them to continue putting one foot in front of the other in order to always provide their communities with a bountiful harvest.
No matter how many times I hear it, my heart swells with pride. So, when you sit down to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal this week, I encourage you to say an extra prayer for the farmer. They are the reason we get to stuff our bellies and gather together, not just during this holiday season, but every day. May God bless you and your loved ones!
Mike McCormick is President of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation and a cattle and timber farmer in Jefferson County.