Food Price Fears Growing As Corn Wilts

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The record-breaking heat that's baked much of the United States could have long-term consequences for millions of people at the nearest checkout line

.Agriculture experts say a drought which has wreaked havoc across the country could lead to skyrocketing food prices as soon as this fall, with the nation's corn crop in its worst shape in a quarter of a century.

Corn is considered a vital part of the U.S. food supply due to its role as both a basic ingredient for several dozen food items, along with its usage in feeding livestock and poultry. Officials said roughly 60% of the nation's cornfields are currently in a state of drought, with the worst conditions being experienced in the traditional corn-heavy states of Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. Local agriculture expert Dr. Ernst Cebert said the wilted brown stalks are a sign of coming trouble at your local supermarket.

"Anything that corn is used for, those prices are bound to go up by fall," said Cebert, who works as an agriculture professor at Alabama A&M. "It will make a significant difference in grocery bills...Most of the corn grown in the U.S. is used for animal food, so when you think of cattle and poultry, dairy product is going to be affected, meat products are going to be affected, eggs, oil."

Earlier in the year, federal officials predicted that the 2012 corn harvest could hit record-breaking levels. But the drought has squashed all hope of that, with some farmers in Alabama now reporting crop losses equivalent to more than half of their fields.