WASHINGTON — The American Farm Bureau Federation’s Marketbasket Survey shows that the total cost of 16 food items that may be used to prepare a meal during the fourth quarter of 2009 was $42.90, down $3.13 from the third quarter of 2009 and $7.31 lower, or about 15% less, compared to one year ago. Of the 16 items surveyed, 11 decreased, four increased and one remained the same in average price compared with the third quarter. Compared with one-year ago, none of the items in the survey increased in retail price.

Russet potatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, deli ham, flour, bacon and boneless chicken breasts declined the most in dollar value from quarter-to-quarter. Potatoes dropped 47c for a 5-lb bag to $2.18; shredded cheddar cheese dropped 43c per lb to $3.65; sliced deli ham dropped 40c per lb to $4.35; flour dropped 38c to $2.10 for a 5-lb bag; bacon dropped 37c to $3 per lb; and boneless chicken breasts dropped 37c per lb to $2.71.

"The 2009 U.S. potato harvest set a yield record for the sixth consecutive year," said Stefphanie Gambrell, an economist with the Farm Bureau. "As a result, processors paid lower wholesale prices to potato farmers, which in turn benefitted consumers as grocers dropped retail prices. Sluggish consumer demand, particularly for meats and dairy products, also played a role in the lower retail grocery prices reported this quarter."

The four foodstuffs that went up slightly in price compared with the prior quarter include milk, up 17c to $3.04 per gallon; eggs, up 11c to $1.55 per dozen; white bread, up 6c to $1.82 for a 20-oz loaf; and ground chuck, up 4c to $2.69 per lb. Toasted oat cereal remained the same in price compared with the prior quarter, at $2.95 for a 9-oz box.