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By

Tracy Clemons

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - As the Midwest drought drags on, farmers and consumers are feeling the pinch. We found out that hay prices have just about tripled. Some farmers have been forced to sell off some of their cattle because they can't afford to feed them and that could hit us in our wallets down the road.

Farmers like Bill McLaren, of Crooked Creek Beef, had to start feeding hay much earlier than normal.

"Normally we're starting to feed hay right now. We started in July," he says. "So our cost has doubled in what it costs to produce a pound of beef."

And he estimates his farm has the potential to produce about 80,000 pounds. He says the earlier use of hay has raised costs across the country.

"We're tearing our factory down and we're selling the beef cows because people don't have grass or hay or forage to feed them. For the beef industry, this is going to be a five year process if it starts raining right now to get back to where normal is. We're going to see some very expensive hamburger," says Mclaren.

He says the wheat crop is in danger too.

"Right now they're talking about 25 to 30 percent of the wheat in America being plowed up because it's not going to raise a crop next spring. That's your flour, your pasta, your bread. Your cereals. The cost of all that is going to increase," he said.

If dealing with the drought wasn't enough, according to the Missouri Farm Bureau, some are stealing hay in some parts of the state.

"That's where it's going to happen, is where it's pretty dispersed and people learn the patterns. They check their cows in the morning, they got all day long if there's not neighbors around," McLaren says.

Bales of hay like the ones at Crooked Creek Beef weigh about 1,200 pounds and they take a pretty heavy duty tractor to move. So one can imagine stealing one takes a pretty bold person.

"They've got to be pretty desperate to think about stealing hay."

As our own expert Cindy Preszler explains, this could be far from over.

"Including the St. Louis area, there could be some improvement over the next six months. But, it would take an awful lot of rain. We're coming up on about eight inches below average since the beginning of the year. I don't see us finishing 2012 out above average as far as precipitation."

We called all the sheriff's departments in our Missouri viewing area to see if there have been reports of hay thefts around here, and they hadn't heard of any.

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