From meat to Corn Pops cereal, the worst drought in the Midwest in 50 years will drive food prices up, but exactly when and by how much is still unknown.
In the short term meat prices will go down as ranchers sell off their livestock to avoid losses from rising feed costs and parched grazing land.
But by 2013, meat prices, poultry and dairy prices will go up along with products made from corn, soybeans and wheat.
Cereals, tortilla chips and the numerous products containing high-fructose corn syrup will cost more.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warned Americans recently to be on the lookout now for food price gouging. Customers should not see food price increases at grocery stores until later this year or early next year.
Prices are locked in with suppliers for 14 to 17 weeks at Sweetbay Supermarkets, said Sweetbay spokeswoman Nicole Lebeau. After that time she is not sure how much the drought will affect prices in the store.
"When you are dealing with mother nature there is no telling because it ends up being supply and demand," she said. So at this point it is still unknown when prices will increase and by how much.
Save-A-Lot spokeswoman Chon Tomlin said the drought will probably impact everyone.
"It's definitely something from a grocery perspective we are all considering," she said. But she didn't have any specific information on how it will affect Save-A-Lot or its vendors and suppliers.
Dennis McElroy pulled back the husks to check the ears of corn he was putting out for sale Friday morning at his produce stand on U.S. 27 north of New Life Way.
The drought's impact on corn in the Midwest will affect feed prices causing the price of meat, poultry and dairy products to go up, he said. But, it won't affect the fresh corn market, which is currently coming from Ohio and Illinois.
Closer to home, McElroy said the flooding from Tropical Storm Debby hurt the watermelon, tomato and bean crops in north Florida and south Georgia.
The vegetables absorb the rain and when there is too much rain it causes spots on the tomatoes and they go bad quicker, he said. Beans will also get spots and just won't look pretty.
Betty Rochelle of Sebring said, "The corn, the wheat, your flour, your sugar -- everything is going to go sky high."
She is worried about how the farmers and ranchers will survive in the affected states.
Marilyn Hinmann of Sebring said. "We don't need food prices to go any higher."
She heard that even peanut butter will go up in price.
Reports of peanut shortages due to heat and a lack of rainfall date back to October.
David Diaz of Sebring said, "I don't have a family or any children but imagine anybody who has a large family, two children and a wife, how do they do it? How do they survive?
"But we have to hope for the best, right?" he added.
Increasingly hot and dry conditions from California to Delaware have damaged or slowed the maturation of crops such as corn and soybeans, as well as pasture and range land, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has designated 1,297 counties across 29 states as disaster areas during the 2012 crop year.
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