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How Will The Drought Affect Food Prices In NJ? [AUDIO]

Corn and soybean crops have been deteriorating rapidly in the Midwest as the region deals with one of the worst droughts on record. In turn, New Jersey residents can expect short-term and long-term price changes at the grocery store.

Severe Drought Threatens Midwest Corn Crops
Scott Olson, Getty Images

The main use for the crops is livestock feed. With less feed to offer and their profits under serious pressure, livestock producers are choosing to reduce the size of their herds. For that reason, Jersey shoppers may be seeing some deals.

“In the short-term, what that means is there is going to be an increased supply of meat products coming to market, which would drive down those prices,” explained Corinne Alexander, an agricultural economist at Purdue University. She said the same process applies to dairy products.

Living and working in the middle of the Corn Belt, Alexander has witnessed the dry run first-hand.

Corinne Alexander
Corinne Alexander - Agricultural economist, Purdue University

“It’s not just the lack of water. It’s also the really high temperatures,” Alexander explained.

Looking ahead to the start of 2013, as farmers deal with the impact of a smaller herd, Alexander said that’s when New Jersey shoppers can expect a spike in the price of meat and dairy products.

As for the other grocery items that require the crops for production, like cereal and soda, a minimal hike in price is expected as well. Alexander said many of those processed products are comprised of only a small percentage of corn and soybean crops.

Alexander said it’s too early to tell exactly how high prices will go.

She added, “A lot of these impacts will take three to six months to really build into that retail food price.”

The Midwest drought came at a time when corn plants need water to complete their pollination process. Entire fields have become useless already; even a long stretch of rain couldn’t save them. Soybeans could recover somewhat with a good amount of precipitation.

The most recent forecast updates presented no substantial rainfall in the near future for the Midwest.

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