Marketing Bill FAQs

Questions and Answers

Q: Why replace the marketing bill series?

A: ERS's marketing bill series was replaced by the food dollar series because this new approach to assessing what our food dollars pay for is superior to the former approach in several key ways:

  • The quality, timeliness, and completeness of the new source data ensure that a complete accounting of the entire food system is derived from a single consolidated data source;
  • A precise approach to measuring and reporting the cost components of the entire food dollar in the new series avoids the potentially confusing divisions of the previous marketing bill series; and
  • The new food dollar series provides a more complete accounting of the modern global food system.

Q: How does the marketing bill series differ from price spreads data?

A. The marketing bill data series answers the question, "what is the average price received over a calendar year by farmers for the farm commodities produced for a typical $1 consumer food purchase, and how has this average price changed over time?" The series provides an average across all food and beverage products combined and includes both purchases in retail food stores (such as supermarkets) and purchases in foodservice establishments (such as restaurants). Statistics are reported in both a current-year (nominal) price series and a real price series that holds all prices constant at their reference-year levels, with the current reference year being 2009. Because all food purchases from domestic production are considered, the mix of products represented, or the market basket, changes from year to year.

The Price Spreads from Farm to Consumer data product also compares prices paid by consumers for food with prices received by farmers for corresponding commodities, but comparisons are for a variety of foods sold only through retail foodstores. Prices are reported as a calendar year average, and comparisons of farm and retail prices are made for individual foods and groupings of individual foods—market baskets—that represent what a typical U.S. household buys at retail in a year. The retail costs of these baskets are compared with the money received by farmers for a corresponding basket of agricultural commodities. Food groupings currently include dairy, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, processed fruits and vegetables, and field crops, with each food group encompassing two or more individual food items.