The real news, however, is this:
The CPI for all food decreased from August to September 2009, was unchanged from July to August, and is now 0.2 percent below the September 2008 level. For the first time since 1967, the food CPI is below the previous year's level as declines in meat, dairy, and produce prices have pushed the food CPI to negative levels—a phenomenon that has not been seen in 42 years.The analysis goes on to say that rising energy costs will likely put an end to this "deflationary period." Also notable is that the foods that have decreased in price are the unprocessed foods in the "food at home" category, in other words, meat, eggs, dairy, and fresh fruits and vegetables. This data supports what we already know: farmers, especially those who rely solely on selling their goods on the wholesale market, are having a really hard time right now. Another USDA data set on farm to consumer price spreads suggests that farmers generally receive about 15 to 30% of the consumer food dollar. So in recent months, farmers have been receiving a small portion of a shrinking number, since the cost of unprocessed food has fallen.
On the other hand, I've heard anecdotally that farmers with direct-to-consumer sales strategies, for instance those who sell at farm stands and farmers markets, are doing better than ever. I'm interested to see the results of the research the USDA is doing on the value that different types of farms add to their goods.