No Increase in Food Stamp Values as Grocery Prices Rise

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COLUMBIA - The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a forecast Wednesday highlighting inflations on food prices in the next year.  The inflation is due to a lack of corn and soybean crops availabe for food production.  Extreme heat and lack of rain killed the majority of the crops.  Although an increase in food prices will likely go into effect before fall, food stamp prices are fixed for the year, meaning no adjustment will be made as prices rise in 2012.

The forecast showed a 3.5% to 4.5 % average increase on foods in the coming year.  The department predicts a 3.5% to 4.5% increase in the cost of meats, poultry and fish, about a 2% to 3% increase in eggs and dairy products, fats and oils are expected to rise 4% to 5% and fruit and vegetable prices will go up about 2% to 3%. 

Jake Davis, owner of Root Cellar Grocery on Walnut Street in Downtown Columbia, told KOMU 8 News his grocery prices haven't shot up yet, but he expects them to soon.  Davis said customers will begin noticing the increase on unprocessed food first.

"Unprocessed foods...fruits and vegetables those are the things we're goin to see climb first, particularly those fruits and vegetables we produce in the mid-west," Davis said.

Davis added It isn't clear how soon the price hike will occur, but it could be soon.

"It could happen tomorrow, fifteen days from now, a month from now, but it will be soon.  Before fall," Davis said.

Processed foods, however, will not see a rise in price for several months.  Davis said processed foods currently being produced are still using corn crop from last growing season.  He said once this year's crop is put into production the prices will rise.

Low-income customers using food stamps often shop at The Root Cellar.  Davis said these customers food dollars will have less value once prices rise.

"People who are in that lower income bracket, you know this is obviously going to make it more challenging, Davis said."

Pat Westhoff, MU researcher and Director of the Food and Agriculture Policy Research Instiute, told KOMU 8 News there will be no change in the value of food stamps for 2012, despite a rise in the price of groceries.

"Those food stamp benefits in a given year are fixed, its only a year after the fact that there will be some adjustment for food stamp benefits," Westhoff said.

Westhoff said in 2013 the food stamps should be adjusted to account for the money lost from food stamp users in 2012.

Still, this means shoppers who use stamps must realize if there are drastic price increases they will not be able to afford as much food.