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Food Prices Could Rise 5 Percent in Next 9 Months

Jupiterimages/Pixland/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The cost of filling grocery carts in America is going up. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that it is projecting as much as a five percent price hike for some food items over the next nine months.

“Of course I’m concerned,” said shopper Barbara Webb. “I’m concerned for the people who can’t afford it.”

Behind the expensive jump is the drought, now covering 60 percent of the United States, pushing up prices for feed that translate into higher prices for beef, pork and chicken products.

Beef prices will see the biggest hike, up four to five percent, according to the USDA. That means the ground beef purchased last year for $2.77 per pound will cost consumers $3.04 per pound next year.

Dairy product prices will increase by 3.5 to 4.5 percent, bumping a gallon of milk from $3.57 in 2011 to $3.84 in 2013.

The price of eggs will also go up by three to four percent, making a dozen eggs $1.95 per dozen in 2013, compared with $1.77 in 2011.

If USDA’s economists are correct, a family who spends $150 per week on groceries will now be spending $160 by next year, bumping their annual food budget up more than $500.

Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart magazine, has a few tips for families trying to keep their grocery bills down, despite the anticipated hike.

"The best thing you can do is if all you’re doing is clipping coupons in newspapers -- go online!” Freeman said. “There are literally hundreds of coupons online and if you’re not tapping that, you’re missing out on a huge resource for savings.”

Freeman also recommends buying store brands in supermarkets, joining warehouse clubs and even shopping at dollar stores to save the most money.

"Things are changing and the dollar stores are now carrying brand name items,” Freeman said. “Prices can be up to one-third cheaper at the dollar store than at the supermarket.”

The 2013 food price forecast projects an overall food price hike of three to four percent, higher than the normal annual grocery inflation of 2.8 percent.

The recent announcement is also the USDA’s first projection to factor in the drought.

David Lobell, writes studies for Climate Central, monitoring global warming. He says farmers should prepare for tougher growing conditions and higher prices in the future.

"This year is very emblematic of the type of thing we worry about with climate change,” Lobell said. “The new normal for agriculture is going to be frequent episodes of very high temperatures. Temperatures at which pretty much any crop does not do very well.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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