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Friday, July 27, 2012

Thanks to This Stupid Drought, Food Prices Are Expected to Rise in 2013

Posted By on Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 8:00 AM

It costs money to feed your food.
  • It costs money to feed your food.

Yeah. There's still no rain. Sure, the sky tantalizes us from time to time with dark clouds and even distant thunder and lightning and everybody gets all excited, but does it ever deliver? It's such a tease. So we're all hot and sweaty and gross and our lawns are all brown and this misery is expected to continue indefinitely. Like, really indefinitely. Like, into 2013.

That is because when there's no rain, crops don't grow. When crops don't grow, there's less food to feed us, not to mention less corn and grain to feed the cows and pigs and chickens who also feed us. And, if you remember the most basic law of economics: If, on an open market there is less of something, and people want it (try living without having to buy food, just try it), the price of it will go up. And it's already starting to happen.

The USDA released its annual food pricing forecast on Wednesday, as it does every July. It predicted that food prices will rise between 3 and 4 percent in the coming year. Which isn't much different from this past year, when prices rose 3.7 percent (a smidge higher than the predicted 3.5 percent). But between July, 2010, and July, 2011, they only rose .8 percent.

But that prediction could go way off, and not in a good way, unless we get some rain very soon.

"[The prediction is] a moving target; it's changing every day," USDA economist Richard Volpe told St. Louis Public Radio. "Until we get that first heavy rain, we're not going to know for sure."

We're going to need more than just one heavy rain, too. Metoerologists say we'll need about nine inches before we're out of drought conditions. In the past month, we've had precisely .53 inches.

You can get a good idea what's going to happen based on the results of last summer's drought in Texas. By the end of 2011, beef prices had gone up 10.2 percent; beef now costs 6.9 percent more than it did last year at this time. (On the bright side, the cost of pork is down, but the USDA warns that won't last long because feed prices are rising.)

And, lest we forget, the recession lumbers on. Start reaching into your pockets and digging deep.

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