Entries in Crops (4)


Food Prices Could Rise 5 Percent in Next 9 Months

Jupiterimages/Pixland/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The cost of filling grocery carts in America is going up. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that it is projecting as much as a five percent price hike for some food items over the next nine months.

“Of course I’m concerned,” said shopper Barbara Webb. “I’m concerned for the people who can’t afford it.”

Behind the expensive jump is the drought, now covering 60 percent of the United States, pushing up prices for feed that translate into higher prices for beef, pork and chicken products.

Beef prices will see the biggest hike, up four to five percent, according to the USDA. That means the ground beef purchased last year for $2.77 per pound will cost consumers $3.04 per pound next year.

Dairy product prices will increase by 3.5 to 4.5 percent, bumping a gallon of milk from $3.57 in 2011 to $3.84 in 2013.

The price of eggs will also go up by three to four percent, making a dozen eggs $1.95 per dozen in 2013, compared with $1.77 in 2011.

If USDA’s economists are correct, a family who spends $150 per week on groceries will now be spending $160 by next year, bumping their annual food budget up more than $500.

Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart magazine, has a few tips for families trying to keep their grocery bills down, despite the anticipated hike.

"The best thing you can do is if all you’re doing is clipping coupons in newspapers -- go online!” Freeman said. “There are literally hundreds of coupons online and if you’re not tapping that, you’re missing out on a huge resource for savings.”

Freeman also recommends buying store brands in supermarkets, joining warehouse clubs and even shopping at dollar stores to save the most money.

"Things are changing and the dollar stores are now carrying brand name items,” Freeman said. “Prices can be up to one-third cheaper at the dollar store than at the supermarket.”

The 2013 food price forecast projects an overall food price hike of three to four percent, higher than the normal annual grocery inflation of 2.8 percent.

The recent announcement is also the USDA’s first projection to factor in the drought.

David Lobell, writes studies for Climate Central, monitoring global warming. He says farmers should prepare for tougher growing conditions and higher prices in the future.

"This year is very emblematic of the type of thing we worry about with climate change,” Lobell said. “The new normal for agriculture is going to be frequent episodes of very high temperatures. Temperatures at which pretty much any crop does not do very well.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Prices On the Rise as Drought Strikes the Corn Belt

Ablestock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- About 60 percent of the American corn belt is now trapped in a drought. Wide sections of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio aren't seeing rain. This has left nearly one third of the corn crop in these states in poor or very poor condition.

The price of corn -- which is used in everything from cereal to soda to livestock feed -- rose more than 30 cents on Tuesday alone, and over the last month prices have jumped by 30 percent.

Experts say the first supermarket items most likely to be affected by the price jump are dairy products, beef and chicken, because they all rely on animals fed with corn.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sweltering Heat May Wreak Havoc on Corn Crops

Ablestock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The blistering heat behind the bone dry soil is creating major problems for farmers across the corn-belt states.

“We’re in a critical point, could be the beginning of the end,” said Dave Kestel, a farmer.

In Manhattan, Ill., where Kestel is a fourth-generation corn farmer, they are praying for rain. His plants are almost two feet shorter than they should be at this point in the season and the next two weeks are critical.

During the next 14 days, Kestel’s corn plants begin the pollination period. Without the right amount of moisture, his corn crop will be lost.

“If heat and dry weather continue…kernels will just die,” Kestel told ABC News.

It was supposed to be the best corn harvest in decades, but now farmers fear a repeat of the 1988 drought that wiped out millions of acres of corn and caused billions in crop damage, the worst crop setback since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

Experts say consumers could end up feeling the pinch in their pocketbook. As much as 75 percent of the products in your grocery store use corn as a key ingredient. Things like cereal, peanut butter and soda could all be affected in the coming months.

“That’s going to raise the price of corn,” said Ricky Volpe, a U.S. Department of Agriculture research economist, “which is immediately going to raise the price of feed, of grains that goes into producing a lot of other foods, a lot of our meat and dairy, and so on and so forth. And that’s going to translate into an increase in the price of retail.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


A Bit of Cold Weather, the Sweeter the Orange?

Wayne Eastep/Getty Images(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- While Florida prepares for freezing temperatures Tuesday night and Wednesday, some say there may be a bright spot amid the heavy coats and chattering teeth: sweeter oranges.

“It is true that a little bit of cold weather is good for the citrus crop,” said Lisa Lochridge, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association. “It’s not just citrus. It’s the same with blueberries and strawberries. It’s something that goes on in the fruit itself.”

Although the cold isn’t expected to stick around for long, AccuWeather senior metereologist Alex Sosnowski told ABC News Tuesday night would be the coldest with multiple hours of temperatures below the freezing mark -- 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

He said that temperatures in the lower 20s and middle 20s could damage the fruit, but that the state’s orange groves were farther south on the peninsula and less subject to the deep freeze.

Fruits and vegetables in central and north central Florida will be at risk, however.

According to Sosnowski, a light frost sweetening the oranges was common information.

“It has to do with the seasoning of the fruit. Anytime you partially break down the structure of the fruit, you tend to sweeten it,” he said. “As long as the [temperatures are] not too severe and totally doesn’t damage the fruit. The slight freeze elevates the sugar content.”

Fred Gmitter, a professor of citrus breeding and genetics at the University of Florida, told ABC News Tuesday that he was not aware of any data proving this theory and that he believed it was a “sort of wives’ tale.”

“Whether they get sweeter or not,” he said, “that’s kind of questionable in my opinion.”

He did say that damage done to an orange’s skin by the cold weather could lead to water evaporation and a greater concentration of sugar in the fruit, as seen in the case of rust mites.

The Florida association’s Lochridge said the state’s citrus growers were watching forecasts and protecting their crops. Right now, harvesting is at its peak for the state’s $9 billion citrus industry.

“Growers are used to temperatures dipping. They use low-volume drip irrigation around the base of the tree,” she said. “The water keeps the base of the tree warm.”

Sosnowski said growers also would spray water on their citrus fields and use smudge pots and even wind machines powered by propane to stir the air and keep the cold air from sinking.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in December that this season Florida would produce 150 million boxes of oranges, including Valencias, navels and temples.

The retail price of orange juice -- a gallon is now about $6 -- has not been easing, according to Dr. Tom Spreen, a professor of food and resource economics at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

He said a major freeze event -- similar to the one that occurred around Christmas 1989 -- in which 15 percent to 20 percent of the crop was lost would make prices move. That is not expected to occur Tuesday night or Wednesday.

Spreen said, however, that few orange groves remained north around Orlando and Tampa and that growers had learned to make their groves less vulnerable.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio