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Midwest farmers struggle through the worst drought in 25 years

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 16th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The next time you're in the supermarket, you could be in for some serious sticker shock - food prices are sure to climb as farmers in the Midwest are fighting through the worst drought in 25 years. The drought has already negatively impacted supplies of corn and soybeans.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Furthermore, the summertime drought will impact everything from milk to meat. It's all contingent on the weather in the coming weeks, and if Mother Nature decides to gift farmers with some rainfall in the coming months.

"We're at the cusp of seeing how severely this is going to impact consumer prices," Darrel Good, professor emeritus of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says.

The current drought and high heat has "already done permanent damage to the crops, but our concern is the outlook for the weather is not very good and we're expecting a further deterioration.

"Prices will go up ever higher and have more severe and long-lasting impacts."

However, it must be noted that prices in the next few weeks for certain products may end up being major deals due to the drought.

Prices for beef and pork are expected to drop in the next few months as farmers slaughter herds to deal with the high cost of grains that are used as livestock feed. Shawn Hackett of the agricultural commodities firm Hackett Financial Advisors says that everything from milk to salad dressing is going to cost more in the near term, and eventually the meat deals will evaporate as demand outstrips supply.

The arid weather is expected to hurt corn crops which will in turn impact retail prices in the weeks ahead. The full impact of the drought won't be felt until early August or September, said

"We don't yet know what's going to happen and we don't yet know how severe the drought will be and the amount we end up getting at the end of the corn harvest," Richard Volpe, research economist for the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

Volpe wouldn't provide specific projections based on conditions now, but he did say price increases for milk, that were expected to be flat or decline this year, could head up "if there's a major jump in feed prices."

"There's been enough damage that we know we're not going to have a record crop in field corn. Now the question is, how far below the record crop is this going to fall? What happens in next two weeks will drive what happens to corn and that will have an affect on all food prices."

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