While in the US in general, prices of fruits and vegetables have increased for both consumers and for wholesale buyers, the prices that farmers receive for these same products has not kept up. Worse: according to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the prices that farmers receive have even gone down in some cases.
"Our New York farmers are facing a produce-pricing crisis," she said. "Throughout the state, fresh fruit and vegetable growers are hurting because the prices they get for their produce have stayed flat, and in some cases have even gone down, while the middlemen who move the produce from farmers to grocery store shoppers have seen the prices for the same produce increase. Despite this, the USDA has not reviewed the fruit and vegetable industry in decades."
New York consistently ranks as one of the top agricultural states in the nation. However, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and National Agricultural Statistics Service shows that the prices paid to farmers for many of the state's specialty crops -- including apples, snap beans, cabbage, and broccoli -- lag behind the terminal prices, the prices that the middlemen who move these same crops from farms to grocery stores receive.
Structural changes to the fruit and vegetable industry in recent decades, such as new farming technology, nutrition science, and consumer behavior, have left farmers facing uncertainty, according to Gillibrand.
As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Gillibrand issued a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), urging officials to conduct a study of the industry to identify which factors contribute to price discrepancies. Gillibrand is also calling for the USDA to use new technology to ensure that farm sales reporting data is updated in real time.