Dairy and Bacon Prices Down, Apples Too

Lower retail prices for several foods, including whole milk, cheddar cheese, bacon and apples resulted in a slight decrease in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Fall Harvest Marketbasket Survey.

The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 food items that can be used to prepare one or more meals was $54.14, down $.12 or less than 1 percent compared to a survey conducted a year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 10 decreased and six increased in average price.

Higher milk and pork production this year has contributed to the decrease in prices on some key foods.

“Energy prices, which affect everything in the marketbasket, have been quite a bit lower compared to a year ago. Processing, packaging, transportation and retail operations are all fairly energy-intensive,” said John Anderson, AFBF’s deputy chief economist. Lower energy prices account for much of the modest decrease in the marketbasket.

CS15_128 Fall Harvest Marketbasket SurveyThe following items showed retail price decreases from a year ago:

  • whole milk, down 17 percent to $3.14 per gallon
  • bacon, down 11 percent to $4.55 per pound
  • apples, down 7 percent $1.45 per pound
  • shredded cheddar, down 5 percent to $4.56 per pound
  • flour, down 4 percent to $2.37 per five-pound bag
  • bagged salad, down 4 percent to $2.46 per pound
  • vegetable oil, down 3 percent to $2.61 for a 32-ounce bottle
  • Russet potatoes, down 3 percent to $2.64 for a five-pound bag
  • white bread, down 1 percent to $1.69 for a 20-ounce loaf
  • chicken breast, down 1 percent to $3.42 per pound

These items showed modest retail price increases compared to a year ago:

  • eggs, up 56 percent to $3.04 per dozen
  • orange juice, up 7 percent to $3.43 per half-gallon
  • ground chuck, up 6 percent to $4.55 per pound
  • toasted oat cereal, up 3 percent to $3.09 for a nine-ounce box
  • sirloin tip roast, up 3 percent to $5.67 per pound
  • sliced deli ham, up 1 percent to $5.47 per pound

“As expected we saw higher egg prices because we lost so much production earlier this year due to the avian influenza situation in Iowa, Minnesota and some other Midwestern states,” Anderson said.

Price checks of alternative milk and egg choices not included in the overall marketbasket survey average revealed the following: 1/2 gallon regular milk, $2.21; 1/2 gallon organic milk, $4.79; and one dozen “cage-free” eggs, $4.16.

The year-to-year direction of the marketbasket survey tracks closely with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index report for food at home. As retail grocery prices have increased gradually over time, the share of the average food dollar that America’s farm and ranch families receive has dropped.


“Through the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. Since then, that figure has decreased steadily and is now about 16 percent, according to the Agriculture Department’s revised Food Dollar Series,” Anderson said.

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the farmer’s share of this $54.14 marketbasket would be $8.66.

AFBF, the nation’s largest general farm organization, began conducting informal quarterly marketbasket surveys of retail food price trends in 1989. The series includes a Spring Picnic survey, Summer Cookout survey, Fall Harvest survey and Thanksgiving survey.

According to USDA, Americans spend just under 10 percent of their disposable annual income on food, the lowest average of any country in the world. A total of 69 shoppers in 24 states participated in the latest survey, conducted in September.

Omelet Bites

Pg A5 - Recipes- Omelete bitesIngredients

8 eggs
¼ cup milk
salt and pepper
¼ cup each of “add-ins” such as peppers, green onions, mushrooms, zucchini, your favorite breakfast meat
2 oz. shredded cheddar cheese



1. Preheat oven to 350º. Spray 12-cup muffin tin generously with cooking spray.
2. Crack eggs into large liquid measuring cup (one that has a pouring lip). Add milk, salt, and pepper and beat vigorously.
3. Divide “add-ins” among the 12 muffin cups.
4. Pour egg mixture over “add-ins”.
5. Sprinkle cheese over each omelet.
6. Bake for 20 minutes.
7. Run a knife around each cup to loosen the omelet. Serve immediately.
8. Omelets may be frozen for later use. Thaw in the microwave.


Savory Cheese Puffs

cheese puffsIngredients

2 large eggs
1 (3 oz.) package cream cheese
¼ cup cottage cheese
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 (16 oz.) package frozen phyllo pastry, thawed
Unsalted butter, melted (approx. 1 cup)



1. Beat eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer for 1 minute; add cheeses and beat to combine.
2. Unfold phyllo and cover with a slightly damp towel as you work to prevent the pastry from drying out.
3. Place 1 phyllo sheet on a flat surface covered with wax paper; cut into 3 strips (12”x6” each).
4. Brush lengthwise half of each strip with butter; fold strips in half lengthwise, and brush with butter.
5. Place 1 teaspoon of the cheese mixture onto the base of each strip; fold right bottom corner over to form a triangle. Continue folding back and forth into a triangle, gently pressing corners together.
6. Place triangles, seam sides down, on ungreased baking sheets and brush with butter.
7. Repeat procedure with the remaining phyllo sheets, cheese mixture, and butter.
8. Bake at 375º for 15 minutes or until golden.


Yield: 4-5 Dozen

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

Recipe - Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole2This recipe uses leftover chicken and ham.


1 lb. pasta (penne is suggested; rotini was used in the photo)

1 cup cubed leftover cooked chicken breast

1 cup leftover cooked and cubed ham

1 1/2 cups milk

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons dried minced onion

2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste

A pinch of cayenne pepper

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/2 cup butter, melted



1. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente (follow package directions). Drain and return to pot.

2. Add chicken and ham. Toss to combine.

3. Preheat the broiler.

4. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the milk, cream cheese and minced onion over low-medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until is becomes a smooth sauce (about 15 minutes).

5. Stir the milk mixture into the pasta.

6. Add the Swiss cheese. Stir. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.

7. Transfer the pasta mixture into a baking dish and top with Panko crumbs.

8. Pour melted butter over the crumbs.

9. Broil until golden brown ( approximately 4 minutes).

Slow Cooker Corn and Jalapeno Dip


4 slices bacon, diced

3 cans whole kernel corn, drained or 3 pt. frozen or fresh (blanched) corn

2 jalapenos, seeded and dices

1/2 cup sour cream

8 oz. Pepper Jack cheese, shredded

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

8 oz. cream cheese, cubed

2 tablespoons chopped chives



1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until brown and crispy, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside.

2. Place corn, jalapenos, sour cream and cheeses into a slow cooker; season with salt and pepper, to taster. Stir until well combined. Top with cubed cream cheese.

3. Cover and cook on low hear for 2 hours.

4. Uncover and stir until cream cheese is well combined. Cover and cook on high heat for an additional 15 minutes.

5. Serve immediately, garnish with bacon and chives.


Yield: 6 Servings




Recipe from damndelicious.net

Photo courtesy: Lois Linke

Pizza Waffles


1 can Pillsbury Grands biscuits

8 slices mozzarella cheese (or 8 oz. shredded cheese)

6 oz. package of pepperoni slices (you won’t use the whole package)

2 cups pizza sauce


1. Heat Belgium waffle maker or George Foreman Grill

2. Separate dough into 8 biscuits. Cut a slit on one side of the biscuit, forming a deep pocket.

3. Place 1 slice or 1 oz. of shredded cheese into each pocket. Top the cheese with 4-6 pepperoni slices. Press dough around edge to seal each biscuit.

4. Place one biscuit on center of waffle maker or George Foreman Grill. Close lid; cook 2-3 minutes or until the biscuit is golden brown. Repeat with remaining filled biscuits.

5. Serve with pizza sauce.


Note: These waffles are good hot or cold. That is why they work well for a lunchbox sandwich substitute.

Yield: 8 servings.

New Arrivals

Rancher holding calfFebruary and March may seem like a cold and gloomy time of the year in Nebraska, but for many farmers and ranchers it’s a time of excitement, little sleep and extra care to welcome the new arrivals on their farm – calves.

Across the country there are two distinct seasons in which the majority of calves will be born. Farmers and ranchers signify them as fall and spring – even though calves can be born any day of the year. For many farmers across the country, the spring calving season is beginning, and we’ll be seeing many new calves in pastures and fields in the next few months.

After awaiting the arrival of the calves for nine months, farmers and ranchers spend extra time checking their cows when calving season arrives. Farmers often check on them multiple times throughout the night and some even set up cameras to watch the cows 24/7.

Much like a nurse, farmers and ranchers are on call to assist their mother cows in giving birth when complications arise. Farmers must take extra care with heifers, female cows that have not given birth before. Also, once the calf has arrived, farmers and ranchers sometimes need to play the role of lactation therapist to teach the calves how to eat and the cows how to nurse to insure calves get a healthy start and have enough to eat.

Occasionally, mother cows are not able to produce enough milk or are lost in the birthing process. If this occurs, farmers and ranchers bottle feed calves until they are able to eat grain and hay.

Despite the extra time and care required during calving season, farmers and ranchers know that the calves they help welcome into the world are worth the late nights and early mornings.

Learn more about Nebraska’s farmers here.


–Kassi Williams is a proud farmer’s daughter growing up on a cow/calf and grain farm in Iowa. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University, majoring in both animal science and public relations. She has been involved with agriculture from birth, working in multiple facets of the industry including the USDA and Extension. Kassi relocated to Nebraska in 2010 to work for a marketing communications agency for a multitude of agriculture clients.

2012 Farm & Ranch Recap

Farming and ranching has been a way of life since the beginning of time, and from that broad history farmers and ranchers have been able to learn from past issues and even mistakes to become better and more efficient. While we made it through the holiday season and into 2013, let’s take one last look at the notable issues and topics from 2012.


The number one issue for Nebraska and the nation in 2012 was the drought. At the Bayer CropScience exhibit during the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, 73 percent of respondents to the daily survey noted climate and weather problems as the biggest challenge experienced on their farm this year. Nebraska farmers were especially hard hit, with Nebraska being one of the most affected states in the nation according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Farmers and ranchers faced sharply reduced yields across the board from corn, to soybeans, wheat and many forage crops that pushed market prices to record levels due to the drought. These commodity price increases drove production costs higher for the beef, pork, dairy and poultry operations.


Farm Bill

 Before we get started, let’s review the process of how a bill becomes a law with Schoolhouse Rock –

Dubbed the “Farm Bill,” this bill affects much more than just farming including extensive national impact through programs in nutrition ($772 billion), crop insurance ($91 billion), conservation ($64 billion), commodities ($63 billion) and other areas. While this issue remains tied-up in Washington, D.C., the Farm Bill became urgent when programs under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 ended Sept. 30, as according to language in the 2008 Farm Bill, programs reverted back to 1938 and 1949 Farm Bill levels of funding and coverage for commodity programs, including crop insurance. This feature normally induces Congress to get its work done on a new farm bill in a timely fashion.

Prior to September, the senate approved its version of the new Farm Bill in June, with the House Agriculture Committee approving a different version in July. However, House leaders have failed to put either new version of the Farm Bill up to a vote referencing need for additional spending cuts. The continued stalling of the Farm Bill is especially frustrating as, believe it or not, the majority of Republicans and Democrats largely agree on the changes to be made.

With high costs of inputs such as seed and fertilizer to take care of the soil, farming is a risky business that has no other type of financial safety net. Crop insurance is federally regulated and current agricultural commodity programs support farmers through direct and counter-cyclical payments based both on production and market prices. While 62 percent of U.S. farms did not collect any crop insurance payments, crop insurance is major concern among farming and ranching families as experts expect the drought to continue into 2013.

Child Labor Issue

“The decision to withdraw this rule — including provisions to define the ‘parental exemption’ — was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms,” – Department of Labor

In a victory to sustaining the way of rural life, a proposed rule was withdrawn that would have applied labor laws to family farms. The U.S. Department of Labor cited public outcry as the reason for withdrawing the rule. The regulations within the proposed bill would have drastically impacted how children could be involved with and learn about the family farm.  The rule would have dramatically changed what types of chores children under the age of 16 could perform on and around American farms and  farming locations including grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions. It would have prohibited them from working with tobacco, operating almost all types of power-driven equipment and being employed to work with raw farm materials, including tasks such as detasseling corn.


Sadly, the drought and Farm Bill will continue to be issues moving into 2013. However, the noted take-away point from 2012 issues is the fact that when united, the rural and agriculture community’s voice will be heard.

Please continue to make your voice heard on issues into the new year!

— Kassi Williams is a proud farmer’s daughter growing up on a cow/calf and grain farm in Iowa. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University, majoring in both animal science and public relations. She has been involved with agriculture from birth, working in multiple facets of the industry including the USDA and Extension. Kassi relocated to Nebraska in 2010 to work for a marketing communications agency for a multitude of agriculture clients. 

FDA Guidance on Antibiotic Use and Veterinary Feed Directives

The FDA recently issued guidance documents on antibiotic use and proposed veterinary feed directives that call for greater veterinarian oversight of antibiotic use in food animals and, more importantly, the end of growth promoting antibiotics.

Dr. Scott Hurd, Associate Professor of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine at Iowa State University and former Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety, discusses this FDA ruling from a bigger-picture perspective, and says the new guidance is somewhat based on consumer fear over antibiotic use in animals, but it’s a justifiable concern. Listen more here.

Dr. Hurd also says implementing the new veterinary feed directives could burden the day-to-day requirements veterinarians currently face.

Dr. Hurd says there are  implications of the new veterinary feed directives by not using the growth-promoting products.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska by visiting www.nefb.org. And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Tour Takes Influencers Out of the City and Onto the Farm

A recent Farm Road Rally hosted by the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN) took nine “influencers” out of their offices and onto the farm in an effort to help answer questions about modern food production in order to help them make better food choices for their family. The group which was comprised of dieticians, a chef, administrative assistant and several urban consumers, made its first pit stop at the Kevin Sladky Farm south of Wahoo.

Beef: Kevin and his wife Brandy operate a third generation farm raising corn, soybeans, alfalfa, seed corn and seed soybeans. In 2004, Kevin started his beef herd becoming a first generation livestock farmer. The group discussed row-crop farming and watched them harvest soybeans, talked about the environment, input costs and economics, and heard more about the lifecycle of beef animals, including diet and health programs.

Carrie Nielsen, Linden Market Hy-Vee Dietitian in Omaha, says the tour was important in that it helped her see how agriculture has changed and evolved.

Pork: The tour’s second stop was with Jim Pillen and his daughter Sarah at the PST Danbred facility by Brainard. The group toured their breeding stock development facility while hearing about individual housing for the sows to enhance their individual care, keeping them safe, health, well-fed and comfortable in controlled environment buildings.

Dairy: The last stop of the day took the group to Surprise to visit Tuls Dairies. Attendees heard about all aspects of the dairy from the feed sheds, to barns, through the maternity ward and they were fortunate enough to witness a calf being born! They then visited the milking parlor to see the technology in moving the milk, cooling it and into the tankers to be shipped.

Nielsen says the tour provided learning opportunities that she can take home to her own children, who then interact with peers at a large Omaha school.

Farm Bureau is one of six founding partners of A-FAN. Farm Bureau funding and support of A-FAN is crucial to the organization’s success.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska by visiting www.nefb.org. And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.