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Need milk? Expect a bigger bite

(Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- DAISY HERNÁNDEZ, NY Times: For Rafael Martinez, it is bad enough that the price of milk will go up 47 cents per gallon on Monday. But worse, the increase will arrive the same week he has to buy notebooks, sneakers and pencils for his two children going back to school in Washington Heights.

"Right now, my expenses are triple," Mr. Martinez said from behind the counter of Mas Grocery, the bodega he manages on the corner of 115th Street and Second Avenue.

In New York City, Long Island and the lower Hudson Valley, the price for a gallon of milk will increase on Monday to $3.16 from $2.69. In the rest of New York, the price will jump to $2.94 a gallon from $2.47.

"It is one of the highest month-to-month increases" in the past two years, said Jessica Chittenden, a spokeswoman for the State Department of Agriculture and Markets, which monitors retail milk prices to prevent price-gouging.

The price of milk is determined by how much the federal government decides farmers should be paid for producing it, based on supply and demand, Ms. Chittenden said. Milk has remained relatively cheap for the past 18 months at $2.69 a gallon, a price reminiscent of the 60's and 70's.

Prices initially went that low because of a cold, wet spring in 2000, said Larry Salathe, a senior economist at the United States Department of Agriculture. Dairy cows produced less milk. Farmers began earning more for their milk and started to overproduce.

Then came 9/11, and a drop in demand because fewer people were eating out, said Peter Fredericks, a chief economist based in Albany with the United States Department of Agriculture. Farmers, left with lower prices for their milk, began producing less, resulting in the latest price increases.

"It won't prevent me from buying," Beulah Brown said yesterday as she pushed her cart, with two gallons of milk, down the aisles at the Pathmark at 125th Street and Lexington Avenue. At 89, she takes care of three grandchildren, including Isa, 8, who politely reminded her that she had forgotten to get ice cream.

In another aisle, Gwen Taylor was shopping for herself and her son, Lawrence, 7. In her cart were two half-gallons, one headed for the freezer at home to keep it from spoiling.

"This is an hour's worth of work," said Ms. Taylor, a telemarketer who earns $7.50 an hour and works part time. "You got to work an hour for this milk." She shook her head. "We can't drink it all at once."

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/27/nyregion/27MILK.html