Record Heat Could Lead to 'Monster Drought'

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Record heat across the country this week could lead to record drought, causing food prices to rise significantly soon.

Already the U.S. Department of Agriculture is predicting that food prices will rise by as much as 3.5 percent starting later this year and into 2013.

It also predicts that beef prices will rise as much as 10 percent through next year.

Ongoing hot and dry weather this year has hit farm production in Indiana, the nation's fifth-largest producer of corn, harder than any other major corn and soybean producing state.

The dry conditions are  shrinking corn and soybean production and drying pastures where cattle feed. Experts say every day without rain causes crops to deteriorate right now, especially because corn is in a crucial stage called "pollination."

If crops don't get moisture soon, the ears will pollinate poorly. Purdue University's Dr. Bob Nielsen said four to six inches of rain are needed in the next several weeks.

"We are in a realm that we haven't been in very often in the past 20 or 30 years," Nielsen said. "It is serious. It could get way more serious if this heat and drought don't break pretty soon."

Already, the corn crop is down 20 percent from last year and the concern is that it will deteriorate to match the 1988 "monster drought" losses of 30 percent.

As much as 75 percent of the food products in grocery stores use corn as a key ingredient. That means prices on everything, from peanut butter to soda, will be affected by poor crops.

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