Higher food prices could be the next result of a sweltering summer that has set temperature records nationwide and led to a drought that created the largest disaster area in the nation’s history.
Farmers across the country are seeing their crops wither in the summer heat and most widespread drought since 1956, the Christian Science Monitor reported. With the US Department of Agriculture lowering crop expectations for corn by 12 percent, higher food prices will soon follow, the report said.
Corn has been one of the hardest hit crops, the report noted, and is a main ingredient for a number of foods both for humans and cattle. Justin Gardner, assistant professor of agribusiness at Middle Tennessee State University, told the Christian Science Monitor that meat prices would be affected first as cattle feed becomes more expensive and harder to come by.
“Prices are going to go up,” Gardner said. “The only question is when.”
He added, “if you like bacon/pork you should buy it now, because by the fall you are going to be stunned at what it will cost.”
There is no relief in sight, either. The hardest-hit areas have not had significant rain and even resilient strains of corn and other crops are now feeling the effects. Also, droughts in past years have tended to be “patchy,” Clark University drought expert Christopher Williams told the Christian Science Monitor. But this year all areas of the country have been affected.
More than half the country is engulfed by this drought, he points out, adding, “that makes it special,” and the longer term impact less clear.
The higher food prices will be largely determined by what happens in the next few weeks,
How high will depend on what happens with rain and high temperatures in the Corn Belt in the next few weeks, Darrel Good, professor emeritus of agricultural and consumer economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told NBC News.
“We’re at the cusp of seeing how severely this is going to impact consumer prices,” he said.
If the drought continues without relief, the higher food prices could continue for a long period and at increasing severity, Good said.