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Jul 17, 2012 8:20 PM by Matt Stafford

Drought impact on food prices

With drought conditions stretching across most of the country, farmers and ranchers are being hit hard; some of that is likely to make its way to the grocery store prices.

Donna McAfee finished a grocery shopping trip Tuesday, but she says she didn't get any produce on this trip; she's looking for places she can find cheaper prices.

McAfee is worried more items will be going up, and she's not alone.

With current drought conditions crops are hurting, like wheat and corn which ripple into the grocery store.

"That doesn't mean that the price at the supermarket is going to go up tomorrow, but it is going to go up next week, and it's going to continue to rise for a number of months," Bernard Weinstein, an economist, told NBC.

Beef prices could fluctuate too. The drought leaves little for cattle to graze, and finding hay is becoming more difficult and expensive for ranchers.

"I think we're going to begin seeing that affecting grocery stores and the consumer chains soon," says Jean Meinzer, whose family has owned the Four Corners Ranch on the eastern edge of El Paso County for generations.

"If you have to buy grain, yes, the cattle prices are up, but the grain prices are up," says Meinzer, pointing out that it's tough to make a profit when operating costs are high.

That could actually result in a short term drop in the price of meat.

"If we don't have any hay and that continues on I'm afraid the market is going to just plummet," says Jean's husband, Harold Meinzer.

That's because if several ranchers are forced to sell at once, the supply would flood the market in the short term. For those ranchers forced to sell, the drop in price could be devastating.

While beef prices could fluctuate, as long as the drought continues some say most food prices will continue to rise.

"I think you'll see a definite change by Thanksgiving," says Harold.

We'll just have to wait and see what Mother Nature brings.

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