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Beef Prices Likely to Head Higher

The worst drought in 50 years last year meant less grass, water, and corn for cattle


It’s happening: Global warming is boosting food prices.

According to a report at USA Today, the most severe drought in more than half-century in the U.S. last year left ranchers in Texas, Oklahoma and other states with meager stands of grass and and less water to feed their cattle. The Agriculture Department reported Friday there were about 91 million head of cattle in the U.S. on Jan. 1, down 2% from a year ago. That’s the lowest level since 1952.

Retail beef prices, already near record levels, are likely to rise 4% to 5% this year, following a 10% jump in 2011, according to the Agriculture Department.

The crisis added to a long-term trend of ranchers thinning their herds because of the soaring price of corn — a primary feedstock for for grain-fed cattle.

At the same time, U.S. beef exports jumped about 22% last year on surging demand from Canada, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong, Agriculture says. The falling dollar made U.S. shipments less expensive for foreign buyers, fueling the export spike.

More at USA Today.

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