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Utility rate hikes force high produce prices

Next time you're picking over the fruits and vegetables at the market you'll be able to explain rising greengrocer prices to the buyer standing next to you. The reason: rising energy costs.

Prices of crops from farm states relying heavily on crop irrigation or sprinkling have been significantly boosted by stiff energy-price increases.

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In Western and Sunbelt states, irrigation requires heavy-duty, electrically operated pumps. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) economists at the University of California at Davis point out that since 1971, energy prices have increased five-fold. And these energy costs, about 15 percent of crop production and processing costs, are passed along to consumers.

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