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Missouri food prices surpass national average, says Farm Bureau

(via Flickr/The Consumerist)

If you've noticed your grocery bill has gotten higher lately, you're not imagining things.

Food prices in Missouri rose in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the Missouri Farm Bureau's year-end Marketbasket Survey.

The survey tracks the prices of 16 items, representing a cross-section of agricultural products, from russet potatoes to shredded cheddar cheese. Diane Olson, director of promotion and education for the Bureau, says on average, prices of those items were up $2.69 from the third quarter of 2011, and up $4.14 from the end of 2010.

“When we dissect that what we found was most of the differences were made up in two categories: one was at the meat counter, and the other was at the produce isle," Olson said.

According to the Farm Bureau survey, Missouri's price trend was the opposite of the national average's, which fell by $3.89 from the third to the fourth quarter of 2011.

"This quarter's Missouri average was higher, at $52.01, than national prices, which ended at $49.23. Typically, Missouri comes in under the national average," Olson said.

Pat Westhoff disagrees. He directs the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Westhoff says different food price surveys often give somewhat different results, and that the Missouri Farm Bureau's apparent fourth quarter spike in food prices is probably just an aberration.

He says, overall, food prices have been increasing both in Missouri and nationwide – but not as much as they had been.

"We’re still well above a-year-ago levels, but most of that increase occurred earlier this year," Westhoff said. "We’re slowing down the rate of increase in food prices, and most of us expect the overall food price inflation in 2012 will be far lower than it was in 2011."