Drought conditions in the Midwest means food inflation for the Piedmont

Posted on: 8:57 pm, July 18, 2012, by , updated on: 10:37pm, July 18, 2012

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. –As farmers in the Midwest struggle with their crops, consumers in the Piedmont are expected to feel its effects through food prices.

During feeding time at the Homeland Creamery in Guilford County about 200 cows line-up to get their fill.

“It’s a lot of mouths to feed,” said Dairy Farmer, Chris Bowman.

Bowman grows his own corn to help supplement the high cost of feed, but even the Piedmont has felt the effects of the drought. 

“The earliest corn we planted this year is probably going to be the very best corn. What you can see behind me now was planted a little bit later.  You can see it’s got yellow streaks in it.  It needs water,” said Bowman.

Rain starved corn is a problem all over the country.  Farmers will harvest less and corn will cost more, meaning feeding cattle will cost more too.

“And that trickle down effect makes the price of the end product, makes the price of the milk in the store go up, makes the price of bread go up because it’s putting pressure on wheat now,” said Bowman.

With corn prices already going up, more people are buying wheat instead. Shrinking the supply of wheat causes the prices to go up.

“The drought… is really effecting food costs,” said Mike Liner, owner of Pioneer Family Restaurant and Steakhouse in Archdale.

In January, Liner bought rib-eye steaks at just under $6.00 a pound.  Today the price is $7.50 a pound.  He gets his beef from Iowa where the drought is bad.

“We’re having to cut our profits a little bit thinner. We’ve had to raise our prices some, but that’s the way it is,” said Liner.

The U.S. relies heavily on corn, it’s in ethanol,  it’s also a key ingredient used in foods found throughout the supermarket, meaning prices will rise there too.  It just may take a few months to trickle down.

“It’s the tip of the iceberg,” said Liner.

Corn is selling at about $7.80 a bushel, but it’s not the only thing driving up the cost of beef.  Many cattle farmers thinned their herds during last year’s drought, making this year’s supply even smaller.