Falling feed prices on the farm could mean cheaper food on the table

Drop in prices for grain, oilseeds should lower prices at the grocery store; Americans are eating more cheese than ever before

(Budimir Jevtic on AdobeStock.)
John Lindt
Published January 20, 2024  • 
11:00 am

CENTRAL VALLEY – Food prices may be easier to swallow soon as livestock and dairy feed commodities prices are dropping.

University of Illinois professors Nick Paulson and Gary Schnitkey, part of the university’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Economics division, estimate this year’s corn crop will sell for a season average of $4.50 per bushel and this year’s soybean crop would fetch an average of $11.50 a bushel, in line with cash bids, futures markets and projections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

“These prices represent significant downward revisions” from the $4.80 for corn and $12.80 for soybeans in crop budgets drawn up in August, the report stated.

Another report says corn futures are suffering their “biggest yearly drop in a decade while wheat and soybeans also posted steep annual declines after bumper harvests in Brazil and resilient Black Sea trade tempered concerns about weather and war.”

The most active corn contract was down 31% in 2023, while wheat was down 21% and soybeans were down 15%. The soybean industry is expanding, boosted by higher demand for the legume’s role in renewable diesel fuel. Farmers have responded by planting more soybeans driving down soybean oil futures by more than 40% from record highs in 2022. 

Robust U.S. demand for renewable diesel is incentivizing soybean oil processors in the country to expand their operations with the addition of 12 new plants and five plant expansions by 2026. Wheat has joined other key food commodities whose prices are coming down after decades long high inflation.

“Grain and oilseeds will end a run of several years of price gains linked to harvest setbacks, the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” O’Brien explained. “Record corn harvests this year in Brazil and the United States, as well as an all-time high for Brazilian soybean production, have helped offset severe drought in Argentina.”

More Cheese Please

Americans are consuming record amounts of cheese, contributing to one of the strongest years on record for U.S. dairy consumption, according to reports.

The USDA reports per capita consumption of all dairy products reached 653 pounds per person in 2022, 63 pounds above the historical average dating back to 1975 when USDA began tracking per capita dairy consumption. 

Cheese consumption set an all-time high in 2022 to reach nearly 42 pounds per person, a half-a-pound per-person increase over the previous year. For comparison, the average American consumed 32.2 pounds of cheese in 2000 and 21.9 pounds in 1980. Ice cream consumption in 2022 also edged out the previous year, while other dairy products including yogurt and butter remained consistent with recent year highs.

“Americans are turning to dairy like never before as part of their health regimen, to celebrate with family and friends, or to liven up their meal and snacking routines,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association.

Hoard’s Dairyman, a trade publication for the dairy industry, reports this is the first time per capita cheese consumption has passed the 40-pound mark. That is more than double the amount of cheese eaten by Americans in 1982. Just 40 years ago, per capita intake was 19.9 pounds per person. Twenty years ago, it was 30.48 pounds per person.

Mozzarella was the most consumed cheese at 12.55 pounds per person. That was followed by cheddar, which came in at 11.37 pounds per capita. As for the next most popular varieties, American types of cheese other than cheddar were at 4.83 pounds, and Italian type cheeses other than mozzarella came in at 3.59 pounds per capita.

Helping to boost mozzarella consumption is the popularity of pizzas. The USA takes second place for per capita pizza eating behind Norway. The average American gobbles up 40 pizzas each year.

John Lindt
John Lindt is the publisher of Sierra2theSea.net, an online newspaper covering California’s Central Valley and Central Coast.