Heat may cause food prices to rise, farmers say

Heat may cause food prices to rise, farmers say (Image 1)

The drought that is hitting most of Tennessee now, will soon be hitting your pocketbook.

Stubborn heat and lack of rain is shrinking farm production, and that means higher prices for everything from bread to milk to meat.

Not only are the weather conditions hurting the production volume of fruits and vegetables for farmers, but as growers set up shop at the Nashville Farmers' Market they are finding produce that was picked ripe has already gone bad due to the heat.

“The heat almost just melts it,” said Daniel May, of Howell's Farm. “Everything is just shriveling up.”

Howell's Farm has been at the Farmers' Market for five generations selling just about anything that grows. But this year's triple-digit heat and dry conditions are leaving the farmers to slim pickings.

Daniel May says farmers planted early this year in hopes of a longer growing season, producing a higher yield. The weather, though, is killing this year's growth.

May said this year's crop is down to almost 30 percent than July of last year.

It is even worse for corn, where over 60% of the crop's fields are in drought.

According to John Goddard of Louden Co., the corn is twisting badly, and most farmers have turned to feeding hay instead of grain. However, with most farmers following suit, there is a hay shortage among most of the southeast, forcing farmers to travel out of state to buy.

Farmers told Nashville's News 2 they will have to make up that loss and that means raising the prices for buyers.

“With the yield going down we will have to raise prices so we can make up for the money we lost planting everything,” May said.

Farmers say the price hike could come soon, too, maybe even in the next two weeks.

How much more will shoppers have to pay? May says that's a number farmers still have to figure out.

“Maybe a quarter more a pound on tomatoes and squash stuff like that,” he said.

Meat may pack the biggest punch with corn-fed beef, chicken and pork losing stock.

The U.S. Agriculture Department projects that food prices will rise by as much 3.5 percent starting late this year and into 2013.

Analysts say everything from meat, margarine and milk to baked goods, cereal and salad dressing will likely cost more.

“So far we have not had any major problem staying in business on fresh product,” said Kroger spokesperson Melissa Eads. “Certainly if these dry conditions continue some problems may arise, but we will do our best to minimize those.”

If prices rise as expected, it would be the largest increase since 1989 when the prices made a 5 percent jump.

The Nashville Farmers Market is open everyday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Read more at NashvilleFarmersMarket.org.

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