Prices charged for groceries are back on the rise, the American Farm Bureau Federation said.
The farm bureau's Market Basket Survey released Thursday showed the total cost of 16 basic grocery items increased by 71 cents, compared to three months earlier.
The $35.69 average paid by volunteer shoppers for the 16 items is an increase from similar surveys done for the summer and autumn months.
But farm bureau officials noted that the average was not as high as the $36.02 cost found by the survey one year earlier.
"Food prices rose in the fourth quarter but I think the key is that the average is still below first quarter levels," farm bureau senior economist John Skorburg said. "Essentially that means food prices have remained flat to lower over the four quarters of 2002."
Of the 16 items surveyed, prices for 11 increased, while three dropped and two were unchanged.
Sirloin tip roast showed the largest increase, up 27 cents to $3.12 per pound, followed closely by corn oil, up 21 cents to $2.39 per 32-ounce bottle. After falling 21 cents per pound in the third quarter, cheddar cheese rose 21 cents, back to $3.45 per pound.
Other items increasing in price were oat cereal, bacon, whole fryers, vegetable oil, eggs, mayonnaise, ground chuck and whole milk.
After being the largest gainer in price in the third quarter, russet potatoes fell 61 cents in the fourth quarter to $2.02 per 5-pound bag.
"The price shift signals that the potato price increases in the early part of the year due to tight supplies may be lessening," Skorburg said.
Two other items marked decreases in average price including all-purpose flour, down 10 cents to $1.35 per 5-pound bag; and pork chops, down 4 cents to $3 per pound.
The remaining two items, red delicious apples at 99 cents per pound and white bread at $1.22 per 20-ounce loaf, experienced no change from the last survey.
Despite steady increases in grocery store average prices over time, the share of the average food dollar received by farmers and livestock ranchers has actually dropped.
Farm bureau officials cited Agriculture Department statistics saying farmers receive only 19 cents out of every dollar spent for food, down from 31 cents in 1980.
Using that percentage, the farmer's share of this quarter's Market Basket average total would be about $6.78.
Sunburned pig provokes lawsuit
A suburban Chicago judge is going to have to decide just who's fault was it that a 250-pound Hampshire-Yorkshire pig became sunburned while a part of the livestock shows at the Lake County Fair.
The pig, owned by the Petersen family of Libertyville, Ill., suffered severe sunburn and had to be given an antibiotic shot to ease its pain.
But the drug's presence in the pig's system caused it to be disqualified from the show by 4-H Club officials. That prompted the family to file a lawsuit in Lake County, alleging "zero-tolerance" rules are too strict. The rules are supposed to prevent appearance altering drugs from being used in competitions.
Fair officials already are retaliating. The Chicago Tribune reports fair officials have banned the family from future competitions.
ADM purchases British flour mills
A milling subsidiary of Archer Daniels Midland Co. wants to purchase six flour mills in Britain from Associated British Foods.
ADM Milling Ltd. wants to purchase the mills in Castleford, Corby, Edinburgh, Knottingley, Liverpool and Tewkesbury, which produced roughly $150 million in revenues during 2002.
The Decatur, Ill., company already operates flour mills in the United States, Canada, Britain and in various Caribbean nations. The transaction still needs to be approved by British regulators.
Ethanol production at record high
Production of ethanol reached an all-time monthly high during November.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said an average of 166,000 barrels of ethanol were made per day last month, the highest rate yet, up 32 percent from the 126,000-barrel average per day during November 2001.
Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen said the increase boosts the possibility the United States can become less dependent on foreign oil.
Earth Team has record year
The Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service said it was able to get more than 1 million hours of service donated to conservation-related activities during 2002.
The Earth Team Volunteer Program tries to get people to contribute toward projects such as streambank restoration; river, stream and lake cleanup, and outdoor classroom development.
Officials said they saw a 19 percent increase in the number of volunteers during 2002 and a 17 percent hike in the number of volunteer hours. There also was a 5 percent boost in the number of federal offices using volunteer services during the past year.
Grains mixed on CBOT
Grain futures were mostly higher at the close Thursday on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Soybeans rose on respectable export figures provided by the Agriculture Department, while routine export figures left corn mixed.
Wheat fell on poor export figures.
Oats were higher.
Soybeans: Jan 5.63 3/4 up 3 1/2, Mar 5.59 1/4 up 3 3/4, May 5.52 1/4 up 2 3/4, Jul 5.49 1/4 up 1 1/4.
Corn: Mar 2.39 4/5 off 1/4, May 2.42 1/2 up 1/4, Jul 2.45 unch, Sep 2.42 1/4 off 3/4.
Wheat: Mar 3.50 1/4 off 5 3/4, May 3.39 1/2 off 3, Jul 3.09 3/4 off 2 1/2, Sep 3.13 off 2.
Oats: Mar 2.07 3/4 up 3 1/2, May 1.98 up 2, Jul 1.78 up 2, Sep 1.54 up 1/2.