Saturday, October 11, 2014
I had a quick glance at this post about falling milk prices in the U.K. The factoid that gave me pause was that farmers are only paid twenty-five pence (about forty cents) for a litre of milk. It seems to me I paid close to $3.00 for the last litre I bought at the local supermarket, although not in the U.K. There is a problem when the producer of the product, the one whose labour--okay, give some credit to the cow--makes the product possible, receives such a small percentage of the price the consumer pays. After all, the cows must be fed, preferably healthy and sufficient food, and then there are vet bills and housing expenses. I realize that the supermarkets have their own expenses and then there are the trucks that transport the milk from the farm but even without knowing the particulars, I'm left with the impression that the farmer is being cheated.
My speculations led me to comparisons with the music and film industry. I've read in the past of some artists who despite earning millions from their music seemed poorly compensated. Didn't Paul McCartney end up on a farm in Scotland for several years with little to show from his Beatle years? Somehow others benefitted from his talent. In the author autobiography of the James Herriott veterinarian series, also produced on television, James Alfred Wight relates that he was regularly approached for donations to animal causes but the reality was that it took years before his royalties amounted to much. He disclosed that about 80% of his royalties was taken as tax payment and remember that the typical royalty payments to authors are only between 8% and 15% of the cover price. He was one of the few authors who maintained British residency due to this; most moved to Jersey or Guernsey or a similar more sympathetic tax regime.
Some apple farmers in the past have chopped down their trees in protest at the small share of the final consumer price their toil received when they sold their products. This problem has led to marketing boards that guarantee a price and thereby give some security to the farmer. But not everyone is pleased at this either. Shoppers cross borders to obtain cheaper products and change their eating habits. Is an apple a day still happening when apples cost a dollar each? There's no easy solution.
More on this topic next time.