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Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Dropping river levels could impact food prices

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BATON ROUGE - The cost to do business for farmers could trickle down to the consumer as early as the end of this year.

Drought conditions in the Midwest and transportations issues on the Mississippi River are making it difficult to grow and ship product.

The Mississippi River in Baton Rouge is at its lowest level in years sitting at 3.6 feet, at the point along the west bank where officials measure. That's down from around 17 feet this time last year and 21 in 2010.

The channel in the middle of the river is deep enough for ships and barges to pass, but dredgers continue to fight silt buildup.

Between Baton Rouge and the Midwest, barge traffic has slowed since river pilots have to navigate a much more shallow channel. Farmers aren't able to completely fill barges because of the river's depth and the draft displaced by the usual weight.

Associated Grocers President and CEO Jay Campbell said since the drought has killed vast majorities of crops, consumers can expect to see inflated food costs at the grocery store.

"If you were to speculate, you could possibly see grocery prices up five percent, which is considerable. You know if you're spending 100 dollars, if may be 105 dollars, and maybe it's higher on some items or maybe it's lower on others," Campbell said.

The US Army Corps of Engineers continues to dredge the channel to make sure ship and barge traffic can continue.

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