Drought Will Keep Food Prices High

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COLUMBIA - New research finds that it could take up to two years for the soil and crops to recover from the drought, which will continue to drive up food prices.

One local grocery store manager said the most noticeable price increases are in the produce department. According to a report by the USDA, fresh vegatable and fruit prices are expected to rise by three to five percent in 2013. It shows cereal, bakery products, and meat prices rising by up to four percent. 

Margaret Turner goes grocery shopping each week and said she has noticed a dramatic jump in prices.

"They're going up quite a bit, especially with meat and produce," Turner said. "I think anywhere from 15 to 20 percent things have gone up. Bread, milk, especially it seems like have skyrocketed."

Farmers said the lack of rain is responsible for the rising costs. Randall Miles, associate professor of soil science at the MU School of Natural Resources, said even if mid-Missouri were to get an average amount of rainfall this spring, it will still take years for the soil to recover fully from the drought. 

"We're probably looking at a year and a half to two years to get us out of the drought because we need to replenish the lower part of the soil profile," Miles said. "A good night's rain is a great start but when it comes to savings, that's just putting a little bit of money in the billfold, what we need to do is deposit some in a CD or a long-term savings account that we can pull out later in the growing year." 

Farmer Tim Reinbott said his farm is in the hole when it comes to moisture. 

"What we want to have is three feet of good moisture all the way down and right now we probably have eight inches," Reinbott said. 

Reinbott said even the farm's reserve water system won't be enough to yield a healthy crop this year. The lake irrigation systems that allow farmers to pump water into the dry Fields ran dry last summer. Now, they are not refilling due to lack of rain and snow. This leaves no back-up plan for farmers going into the new farming season.

"The contingency plan is rainfall," Reinbott said. "In years past, when we have had dry spells, we can get through it because of our subsoil moisture. It's years like now when we start with a deficit, we can never catch up."