CHARLOTTE – With a severe drought hitting the country's mainland, beef prices are on the rise and ranchers say they're already feeling the impact.
Julius Price was all set up Tuesday morning in his regular spot at Charlotte's Kings Drive farmer's market. He sells grass-fed beef raised on 64 acres in northeast Union County.
Even though Price's cattle eat grass, he pays the same rate for a calf that ranchers who raise corn-fed cattle do.
"I have to pay that national price as far as when we buy our herd, put them on our pastures and then we'll finish them," Price said.
The cost of beef is on the rise thanks to the drought that's baking cornfields across the country. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports beef prices jumped 10 percent last year and could rise another 5 percent this year.
Price says big ranches already feel the impact.
"Those are the fellas that are actually going to take the hit," he said.
But Price expects to take a hit of his own, later this year and into 2013. Commodities futures which indicate the expected price of beef are rising. For Price, a calf that costs about $530 now could Run $680 by next spring.
“The market dictates as far as my profit margin also," he said.
The drought has the biggest impact on corn and soybeans plus all the products made from those crops. But it hasn't hurt business for Simpson's Produce in Charlotte.
"Oh yeah, we've seen a lot worse than this," said owner David Simpson.
Simpson's fruits and vegetables benefited from a wet and cool spring, but things changed recently, enough to make growers nervous.
"It just kind of went to the other extreme," he said
Despite the rising prices, ranchers say the move toward local, organic products will help small farms in North Carolina.
"I believe we're going to be alright,” Price said.
According to the USDA, some vegetable prices are actually down, some as much as 10 percent compared to 2011. But the department wants Congress to approve expanded disaster help for farmers struggling through the drought.