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USDA: Drought could mean higher food prices for years

Get ready to pay more at the grocery store checkout. That’s the word from the U.S. Department of Agriculture today as they released their forecast for food prices in 2013.

The agency is predicting a drought gripping half the U.S. will help push food prices up by 3 percent to 4 percent next year.

Beef prices are expected to see the biggest jump, at 4 percent to 5 percent. Dairy product prices are expected to climb 3.5 to 4.5 percent, and poultry prices are expected to rise 3 percent to 4 percent.

Meat and poultry are the most affected because feed prices represent the biggest part of their cost of production. Prices for processed food prices are less affected.

Of course, that means a price hike at grocery stores here in eastern Idaho.

Prices are on the rise. Corn, wheat and soybean crops are dying in the Midwest, thanks to little rain and triple-digit temperatures over the past two months. Some grocery shoppers in eastern Idaho are already feeling the pressure from the high food prices.

“We keep buying the fruits and vegetables, things we eat a lot of, but we cut back and kind of cut back on other things,” said Kristine Bennion, a grocery shopper in Rexburg.

As food prices rise in stores nationwide, local farmers in Idaho haven’t seen the severity of the drought conditions taking place in the Midwest, according to Personal Finance Educator Luke Erickson with the University of Idaho extension.

“If you go to the farmers market, you may get a better price on a locally grown fresh or organic product than you would at the national market,” said Erickson.

But even then, the best advice on dealing with the higher food prices is to never spend as much as you make.

“That means you got to compensate it for something else. That means maybe a little less entertainment, a little less on transportation, on housing those are long term plans. You can’t say ‘Well this week I’m going make the change, and that’s going to make the difference.’ No it’s got to be a long-term change,” said Erickson.

Grocery shopper Kristine Bennion always makes sure she budgets her money around food shopping so her family can have the freshest food.

“I think it just makes us more cautious in other ares of our life, to make sure we’re budgeting enough. everyone has their own principles as to where it is that they’re going to put their dollar. For us, it’s our nutrition. So we’re just going to have to budget a little bit more to make sure it’s there so we can pay for those things that we want to spend our money on,” said Bennion.

The federal government predicts consumers could be feeling the effects of the drought in our food prices over the next several years.

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