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How do long-term drought conditions in Iowa impact grocery store prices?

'It does cut down on other things you spend money on. It does affect you'
Posted at 7:13 PM, Sep 07, 2022

OAKLAND, Iowa. (KMTV) — When talking to customers about their grocery store run all agree the costs of basic supplies are getting too expensive.

"I notice the price of meat, which is high. I also notice the products that families would buy is much higher," customer Joyce Copenhaver said. "But families have a hard time making ends meet, I'm sure."

"It does cut down on other things you spend money on. It does affect you," customer Gregg Nisley said.

For those who grow the food we rely on, it's been a tough summer too. The USDA drought map shows many states in moderate to exceptional drought conditions.

MAP Drought Monitor 09 07 22.tif
USDA Drought Map

How does this impact prices at the grocery store?

"The drought will have an impact but probably not as big as consumers would expect, as we're looking here," Iowa State Economics Professor Chad Hart said.

Hart cites information from the USDA: out of a dollar we spend at the grocery store, roughly 16 cents of that dollar goes to farm products while the remaining 84 cents go to costs like transportation, warehousing and packaging.

"Buying that box of cornflakes at the store — one of the cheapest things about the cornflakes is the corn in the box. It costs a lot more to get the corn in the box and get it in the grocery store shelves," Hart said.

The drought, he says, can actually have perverse impacts on some of our meat prices.

"It has forced a few cattle herds to be liquidated. We've seen some animals move into the meat marketing chain quicker than usual, which means we've had a little more meat on hand which tends to lower prices, at least initially," Hart said.

He says the impact will depend on the style of agriculture we're talking about.

"If I'm talking about fruits and vegetables, that's where you're spending more of that dollar to buy that product from the farm. Meats are sort of in the middle and grains and oil seeds — grains, soybeans, wheat — that's a really small part of the food dollar there," Hart said.

It'll take a few months, he says, for the industry to rebuild and get back to normal.

"It takes a while for agriculture to ramp back up once there's been a disruption like what we've seen with the drought," Hart said.

It's a consistent ebb and flow for customers to wait out.

While most of our area is listed in a moderate drought, you don't have to go very far north to see extreme drought conditions. Parts of Dodge and Colfax County are in the extreme category.

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