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Dangerously Dry Conditions Could Mean Higher Grocery Bills For Consumers

Tractor On A Long Island Farm (Credit: CBS 2)

Tractor On A Long Island Farm (Credit: CBS 2)

RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - With little relief in sight from the heat wave, the dangerously dry conditions gripping most of the United States may soon start having a noticeable impact on the price of food the public pays at the grocery store.

The sweet corn is withering or ripening too soon. Fields of peas and soybeans have dried up.

Across Long Island’s East End, the blazing sun and unrelenting heat mean costly forced irrigation over hundreds of acres of parched farmland.

“Fuel alone could probably run $1,000 a day,” Phil Schmitt, a Calverton farmer, told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan in regard to how much he has to spend on irrigation per day.

Phil and Debbie Schmitt are Calverton vegetable farmers, and with 40 percent of the nation’s corn crop in poor condition, they said it’s bound to have a ripple effect on the economy.

“Every one of us eats, and every consumer is going to be affected,” Joe Gergela, the Executive Director for the Long Island Farm Bureau, said. “Beef, poultry and any type of animal production is dependent on corn prices.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, corn accounts for more than 90 percent of feed grain production, so as the price of corn goes up, so does the cost of feeding and maintaining cattle.

And that could lead to higher prices for meat and higher prices for dairy products, hitting consumers at an already tough time.

“We are still making the same amount of money, and all the food prices are going up,” Amanda Gilbride of East Moriches said.

Consumers may also end up paying for the drought at the gas pump, as corn prices drive up ethanol costs.

A recent government report said that the drought gripping the United States is the largest since 1956.

In the midst of this summer’s heat wave, have you already noticed that the cost of food is increasing in your neighborhood? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…