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Drought spells trouble for U.S. farms, but may present advantage for N.J. growers

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While a drought in the nation's breadbasket has driven down crop supply and pushed up food prices for consumers, New Jersey's slightly improved climate has yielded more crops in the state, and allowed local farmers selling on the national market to bring in more money, according a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

"New Jersey has been fortunate to escape some of the really bad drought conditions centered in the Midwest," spokesman Jeff Beach said. "We had our spells, and we got to a point where we would have been having a problem, but then we had rain last week and it was enough to keep it from becoming drastic."

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the current national drought will result in above-average food price inflation up to 5 percent in 2013.

While Beach said "a farmer's best market is to sell directly to the consumer when we don't have a drought" — though higher prices from a lower crop yield could mean fewer customers — he noted several growers in New Jersey sell crops "on a larger scale, like corn, that are going more to food processing than the fresh market," so when production of those crops decreases in other parts of the country and causes inflation, New Jersey farmers benefit by selling their yield at a higher price.

"What's growing locally here will not be in short supply," Beach said. "It's a luxury to not be as bad as the rest of the country."

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