LA CROSSE COUNTY, Wis. -- As the worst drought in 50 years continues to grip the Midwest and destroy crops, it's also causing a spike in food prices at the grocery store.
Unlike some things people can cut back on to save money, like going to the movies or going on vacation, people can't exactly live without food, and that means consumers will have to try to get the most bang for their buck and hope for some much-needed rain to head this way.
“It’s scary," said grocery shopper Jill Literski. “I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
When going grocery shopping, Literski tries to stretch her dollar as far as she can.
“I'm really into coupons now, and I just watch what I buy,” said Literski. “You've just got to get by with as little as possible now.”
But not only does she have to worry about how to afford the food, she also has to try to salvage her livelihood. Literski is a farmer in Trempealeau and her hay, corn and soybean crops are taking a beating from the extreme heat and lack of rain.
“It's like a no-win situation for us,” said Literski. “That's how we make our money, and that's how we make our living and it's been a big change and I've never seen it like this before."
Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting Americans will see about a 3 to 5 percent increase on things like beef, poultry and milk because of the drought.
For Our Town Fresh Markets owner Dave Hegenbarth, the uptick in prices is something he's been preparing for with his customers in mind.
“What we'll do, and what I'm sure most supermarkets and people affected by this will do, is you won't raise any prices until we absolutely have to,” said Hengenbarth. “So everybody and all of our friends in the grocery business will do the same thing -- keep their prices as low as they can and as long as they can.”
UW-La Crosse economics professor Mike Haupert said there's no telling if food prices will continue to go up. It just all depends on how long the drought lasts, and the longer it does, it will start affecting more than just food.
“If I'm spending 5 percent more for groceries and groceries are 25 percent of my total bill, I've got less money for everything else,” said Haupert. “That money has got to come from somewhere, so maybe I spend less on entertainment, less on my housing, whatever it is.”
So for now, all anyone can do is wait and hope for a little rain.“You've just got to keep positive and things will get better hopefully,” said Literski.
Prices for corn and soybeans have already risen and are expected to continue going up. Consumers could also see an increase in prices for goods that use corn, soybeans and milk as their main ingredients.
As of right now, most of La Crosse County has been upgraded from moderate to severe drought.