Drought may mean higher food prices


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture says crops as of July 1 were in their worst condition since 1988, which means shoppers may soon be paying more at the grocery store.

Farmers say the summertime heat is to blame.

Clifton Brown, a farmer at a local farmer's market on West Beaver Street, said sweet "candy" corn is his livelihood.

"We have a problem because when the corn is kind of young and you get more heat than shade, what it does, it stunts the tree and it stops it from growing," Brown said.

Temperatures are soaring and farmers say when it gets to 95 degrees and above, crops suffer.

"You can't do nothing," Brown said. "Basically, you have to sit back and let Mother Nature take its course. If it stops, get a little shade at night and the corn grows good. Heat's good for it, but heat can be bad for it."

One reason why shoppers may see prices going up at the grocery store is that corn is one of the main ingredients in a lot of products people buy. It's also used for food for livestock.

The cost of corn is up 33 percent since early June as drought conditions persist across much of the Midwest. The cost of soybeans are up 20 percent, and the cost of wheat is up 36 percent.

The soybean crop could still be improved by some timely rains, but corn plants entered a critical pollination and growth stage just as the Midwest got hot and dry. If the crop does shrink significantly, consumers can expect sticker shock at the supermarket.