California's drought impacts milk, fruit and veg prices in Pa.

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Mar 10, 2014 4:00 AM

(State College) -- California is suffering through one of its worst droughts and it's effect is being felt in Pennsylvania.

As the largest dairy producing state in the country, many are concerned what California's drought means for milk prices.

The US Department of Agriculture has already predicted an increase because of rising worldwide demand for dairy products.

Cow milk

But that's not all.

"It's been a tough winter, it's been a long winter, and a lot of dairy farms have reduced the size of their herd," says Weis Markets spokesman Dennis Curtin.

All of that adds up to higher prices already -- the Pennsylvania Milk Marketing Board recently hiked the minimum for a gallon of milk as much as $.15.

But California is perhaps best known for its fruit and vegetables.

"The products that they produce out in California are part of our market basket every day, lots of fruits and vegetables and nuts and other items. It's such a diverse and large-scale agriculture that it's really going to be seen in the consumer's market basket in a fairly significant way," says Penn State Agricultural Economics Professor Jim Dunn.

Adds Curtin: "Initially, we absorb the cost increase without passing it on to customers. But if prices continue to rise, you know, there's a tipping point, and we do pass on those costs."

Whether its artichokes, walnuts and plums, or blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, the Golden State grows about two thirds of the nation's fruits and one third of the U-S's vegetables.


The spokesman for the Sunbury-based grocery store chain says the drought hasn't impacted supplies yet, but the spring planting season is a concern.

"This is going to have an effect throughout the year. Because what happens is the rain or the snow that falls this time of the year, is what they use for their agriculture for the remainder of the year," says Professor Jim Dunn.

Weis says it'll turn to midstate farms to try to fill in the gaps if exports from California really fall off.

Because the chain buys about 22 million pounds of fresh produce already from Pennsylvania farms, it may be able to keep produce aisles stocked.

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