Monday, April 12, 2010

Agricultural economics of strawberries

This year, cold weather in Florida delayed the strawberry harvest, so the berries came to market at the same time as California berries. With both sources of strawberries on the market at the same time, the price dropped to levels so low that some Florida farmers tore up their strawberry fields.

Steve Osunsami and colleagues at ABC News described this news in outraged tones (sorry about the ad in the clip below). Neighbors complain about the misuse of environmental resources. Soup kitchen participants rail against the crime of wasting food in a hungry world. The farmer in the interview is on the defensive.

Bobbie O'Brien at NPR takes a different perspective. The NPR story notes more prominently that Florida farmers tore up worthless unusable strawberries to get an early start on planting melons. The plain-spoken farmer in the interview astutely summarizes the relevant agricultural economics.

The two versions of the story offer a lot to think about for readers who care about local and national food sourcing, fresh and processed/preserved food, and the tension between farmer incentives and the public good.

One very small and partial solution, which is also fun and yummy, is to buy some strawberries this week and make some jam. It makes great gifts. In my house, in past years, my daughter has been my partner in this project.


The Almond Doctor said...

Its frustrating to see the lack of understanding when it comes to agriculture. Yes-- it is a business - the growers live off the profits of selling the crop. They do not receive money from the government (with the exception of certain commodities) to maintain their standard of living, pay off the loans on the land, and buy crop insurance just in case of of an unforeseen event. They have families who need clothes, transportation, and food.

Knowing this, how can we call a farmer selfish for not harvesting when the labor for harvesting will cost him more than the money he is paid for the berries -- let alone the money he is already out for the plants, soil prep, fertilizer, etc. What people are asking him to do is similar to asking a car salesman to sell a car for less than the cost of manufacturing.

The grower made the right call.

Medical Billing Software said...

There is a point in saying wasting food is a crime...they must not pluck and throw it...they can do a bit of charity like some farmers in Florida who are allowing anyone to pick them up.But thinking about what would fetch them money is not a crime.