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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Midwest 'heartland' title Shifting Southwest, New Mean Center of Population Still in Missouri for Now


Southwest may soon take 'heartland' title from Midwest

BY HOPE YEN • Associated Press STLtoday.com 
March 8, 2011

America's population center is edging away from the Midwest, pulled by Hispanic growth in the Southwest, according to census figures. The historic shift is changing the nation's politics and even the traditional notion of the country's heartland — long the symbol of mainstream American beliefs and culture.
The West is now home to the four fastest-growing states — Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho — and has surpassed the Midwest in population, according to 2010 figures. California and Texas added to the southwestern population tilt, making up more than one-fourth of the nation's total gains since 2000.
When the Census Bureau announces a new mean center of population next month, geographers believe it will be placed in or around Texas County, Mo., southwest of the present location in Phelps County, Mo. That would put the center at the outer edge of the Midwest, on a path to leave the region by midcentury.
"The geography is clearly shifting, with the West beginning to emerge as America's new heartland," said Robert Lang, a sociology professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas who regularly crunches data to determine the nation's center. "It's a pace-setting region that is dominant in population growth but also as a swing point in American politics."
The last time the U.S. center fell outside the Midwest was 1850, in the eastern territory now known as West Virginia. Its later move to the Midwest bolstered the region as the nation's cultural heartland in the 20th century, central to U.S. farming and Rust Belt manufacturing sites.
In the 1960s, "Will it play in Peoria?" was a common phrase that coincided with the U.S. center's location in Illinois. It was a measure of whether a politician or consumer product could appeal to mainstream Americans with traits associated with Midwesterners, such as stability and caution.
But over the last decade, the Phoenix suburb of Peoria, Ariz., soared past its namesake Peoria, Ill., in population size. Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 successfully made the Republican-leaning Mountain West a key component to winning election, with Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico now considered swing states.
With Arizona on track to surpass Ohio in electoral votes by midcentury, based on projected growth, issues important to the West, such as Arizona's sharp debate over immigration, gain in political significance.
The Census Bureau calculates the mean U.S. center every 10 years based on its national head count. The center represents the middle point of the nation's population distribution — the geographic point at which the country would balance if each of its 308.7 million residents weighed the same.
The latest 2010 figures show a loss of House seats for states including Missouri and those east of it, primarily in the Midwest's declining Rust Belt. Eight of the 12 pickups in House seats occur in states west of Missouri, with Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in the southeastern Sun Belt being the exceptions.
The fastest U.S. growth is occurring in the Mountain West, which includes Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. As California's growth slows, many of the Mountain state arrivals are Hispanic immigrants seeking jobs and affordable family living. Hispanics tend to lean Democratic when voting.
Among census findings:
• In Arizona, which gains a House seat, Hispanics accounted for roughly half of the state's population increase since 2000, according to census estimates. Arizona has picked up at least one House seat every decade since 1950; its total seats could outnumber Ohio's as early as 2040 - so long as anti-immigration sentiment and recent mortgage foreclosures don't curtail its long-term growth.
• In seven of the eight Mountain states, Hispanics accounted for nearly 50 percent or more of the population gains among children under 18. Montana, which had a population loss of children, was the exception.
• The western U.S. grew 13.8 percent from 2000 to 71.9 million people, surpassing the Midwest as the second most populous region. The Midwest rose 3.9 percent and the Northeast gained 3.2 percent. The West's growth rate is nearly equal to the South's, which rose 14.3 percent to 114.6 million on the Sun Belt strength of Texas and Florida.
• California, which failed to add a House seat for the first time in its history, would have lost population if it weren't for growth among Hispanics and other minorities, estimates show. The state, the nation's largest with 37.3 million, continues to grow primarily from immigration and births.

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2 US Marshals, St Louis Officer Shot During Arrest of Fugitive VIDEO UPDATE: 1 Marshal and Fugitive Dead

Tuesday March 8, 2011 -A St. Louis police tactical team enters a house in the 3100 block of Osage Tuesday after a gunman reportedly shot two U.S. marshals and a St. Louis officer. Christian Gooden post-dispatch.com


Two U.S. marshals, one St. Louis officer are shot while making arrest

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

ST. LOUIS • A felon who was sought for allegedly assaulting a city police officer shot three members of a fugitive-search team this morning, wounding one of them critically, before one of the officers shot and killed him, authorities said.
A St. Louis officer, assisted by two federal deputy marshals, went to 3117 Osage Street seeking Carlos Boles, 36, on indictments charging him with assaulting an officer and possessing drugs. Both charges are from an incident in October outside the same residence on Osage, near Marquette Park in south St. Louis.
Authorities said that when the three officers tried to contact Boles at the residence at 6:45 a.m. today,  the suspect opened fire, shooting one deputy marshal in the head and wounding the other deputy and police officer. One of the officers then returned fire, killing Boles.
St. Louis police Lt. Col. Tim Reagan said the department's violent offenders unit requested help from the U.S. Marshals office in St. Louis in arresting Boles. The St. Louis Grand Judy indicted Boles on Jan. 11 on charges of assault and drug possession, stemming from the incident on Osage on Oct. 11.
William Sibert, the U.S. marshal in St. Louis, said one deputy was shot in the head and the other was hit in the ankle. Sibert spoke at a press conference at St. Louis University Hospital, where the two deputy marshals were taken. He was joined by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom.
The St. Louis officer was grazed, they said, and was in good shape at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
"This is a tragic example of what our law enforcement officers go through every day," Slay said. "They need our support and their families need our support."
A spokeswoman said the marshal who had been shot in the head was in critical condition and the other was in fair condition at SLU.
The police officer was grazed in the face after his bullet-resistent vest apparently turned a bullet aside, police said. He was further injured when he fell after being shot.
St. Louis Circuit Court records show that Boles was accused of striking and choking a city police officer on Oct. 11 outside the address on Osage. Police reports say two uniformed officers suspected Boles of dealing drugs and tried to question him, but he fought and struck one of the officers. The report says officers used a Taser to subdue Boles.
Reagan, chief of staff for the St. Louis police department, said officers applied for warrants the day after the incident on Osage in October, but no charges were filed until the drug-analysis report was completed one month later. The grand jury then indicted Boles in January.
 Court records show that Boles has five felony convictions. In 1993, he pleaded guilty of assault. In 2005, he pleaded guilty of four instances of felony possession of controlled substances. Police said the pill bottle that officers saw Boles toss at the scene in October was found to contain heroin and cocaine base.
The U.S. Mashal's Service is the enforcement arm for the federal courts. Among other duties, its deputy marshals track fugitives, protect the federal courts and juries, run the national witness protection program and transport federal prisoners. Nationwide, it employs more than 3,330 agents.
In declining to provide details about the incident this morning, city police officials said they are focusing on the injured marshals and officer.
"Our hearts and thoughts and prayers go out to the families right now," Isom said.
Police summoned a SWAT team to the residence after shots were fired because they weren't sure who still was inside the brick flat.
Sannita Boles, who said she is Carlos Boles' sister, said her three children, 8, 13 and 15, were staying with her brother and his girlfriend at the home.
Police and the marshals waited for the children to leave the home this morning, then headed into the home to arrest her brother, Sannita Boles said. She said she didn't know why, but that her brother had been in and out of jail.
Family members said Carlos Boles, 36, had two children — a boy, 5, and a girl, 2.
At one point, when police still thought someone might be alive inside, Sannita Boles collapsed and lay sobbing on the grass at a park across the street. Police and her friends helped her up and asked everyone to move back so they wouldn't be in the line of fire.
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ANDROID DANGER ALERT: Google Disables Smartphone Malware, quarter of a million owners affected so far

Google disables Android malware
By Joseph Menn in San Francisco
Published: March 7 201www.ft.com


Google is remotely disabling malicious software that deceived more than a quarter of a million owners of Android smartphones, as the outbreak continues to raise questions on the company’s approach to security.

It is the first time Google has had to reach into already-purchased phones to remove dangerous applications that customers have voluntarily installed.

The company has always kept the ability to do so as part of its licensing agreement with manufacturers and last year it wiped Android phones of a security researcher’s experimental program that was harmless but designed to demonstrate flaws in the system.

Google quietly revealed its latest action in a blog post late on Saturday night, saying no user data had been compromised by the more than 50 rogue applications and that customers would be notified by late on Tuesday if their devices had been cleaned.

The company declined to detail the steps it was taking to remove the malware. Nor did it say how many phones had been infected or which handset models had been targeted with the most success, but a person familiar with the countermeasures said about 260,000 devices had installed the bad programs. The person said the unknown attackers, who had copied legitimate applications in the official Android Market, added code giving them the ability to take control of the phones, then offered the doctored versions for download to the public.

Google said on its blog that staffers were “adding a number of measures to help prevent additional malicious applications using similar exploits from being distributed through Android”.

Security researchers said they did not expect Google to move to a curated system like that used by Apple, which scrutinises applications before allowing them to be distributed through its online app store.

“This is the way they have chosen,” said Mikko Hypponen, chief technology officer at Finnish security provider F-Secure. “As a result, they are likely to see more malware attacks than, say, the iPhone.” 
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OPEC Unsure Oil Price Too High, Considers Emergency Meeting to increase Oil Output


OPEC Members Discussing Whether to Hold an Emergency Meeting, Kuwait Says


OPEC members are discussing whether to hold an emergency meeting and any decision on increasing oil output would be taken then, Kuwait’s oil minister said.
“I’ve talked to Abdalla El-Badri in this regard and he is calling everybody and making a consensus on whether we’ll need an OPEC meeting, an urgent meeting,” Sheikh Ahmad al-Abdullah al-Sabah told reporters in Kuwait City today. El-Badri is the secretary general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
“We have to find out at the meeting whether there is a need for an increase or not,” the Kuwaiti minister said.
Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members have pledged to ensure adequate supply to the market as violence in Libya reduced output from Africa’s third-largest crude producer. OPEC is also under pressure to assuage soaring fuel prices after New York- traded oil rallied yesterday to $105.44 a barrel, the highest closing price since September 2008 and was at $105.01 as of 1:51 p.m. London time.
“We will call everybody and they will decide if there is a need for a meeting,” the Kuwaiti oil minister said.
Asked if the market needs more oil from OPEC, he replied: “Not yet.” Questioned whether Kuwait will raise production by April, he said: “It depends on the meeting, it has to be a collective decision.”
Libyan Output Cut
Libya has cut output by as much as 1 million barrels a day, according to the International Energy Agency. The North African country pumped 1.39 million barrels a day on average in February, down from 1.59 million the previous month, according to Bloomberg estimates. OPEC supplies 40 percent of the world’s oil. Still, exports continue from some parts of the country, including the eastern port of Tobruk, Libyan oil company officials said yesterday in Benghazi.
The organization currently has no meeting planned aside from a conference already scheduled for June 8 in Vienna, according to an OPEC official.
An emergency meeting can be called by the group’s secretary general in consultation with its president, according to the OPEC Statute. Iranian oil minister Masoud Mir-Kazemi, who currently holds the OPEC presidency, said on Feb. 28 that there is no need for OPEC to increase supply, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Some OPEC members and producers outside the group have made up for the reduction in crude shipments from Libya, Qatari Energy Minister Mohammed Saleh al Sada said. “There was hardly any effect” on supply because of the Libyan unrest, he said at a conference in Doha.
Tobruk Shipments Continue
Crude-oil loading and shipments by Libya’s Arabian Gulf Oil Co. from the rebel-held eastern port of Tobruk have been unaffected by unrest, according to officials at the company.
A tanker was loaded yesterday with 600,000 barrels of crude, Hassan Bolifa, head of the emergency committee at the company and member of the management committee, said in an interview at the company’s headquarters in Benghazi yesterday.
“Until now, the shipment of crude from the Tobruk terminal has been as scheduled,” he said.
In the past five days a Chinese tanker loaded 1 million barrels from the port, he said. No other tankers are scheduled to load this month under previous agreements signed by the parent company, state-run National Oil Corp., which is managed by officials under Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, Bolifa said.

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PILL PUSHER Psychiatrists Prescribe Pills More Than Ever


Pills Over Therapy?

March 8, 2011

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by Newsy.com

Recent studies suggest talk therapy is the most effective treatment for depression, but psychiatrists are prescribing more pills than ever.

You're watching multisource health news analysis from Newsy

The quintessential image of therapy -- the patient lying on the couch, telling his life story -- might be a thing of the past. That’s according to a New York Times article suggesting psychiatrists are pushing pills over heart-to-heart couch sessions.

The article revolves around one psychiatrist’s struggle to accept his evolving role -- from a psychotherapist to prescription-therapist:

“...[L]ike many of his peers, he treats 1,200 people in mostly 15-minute visits for prescription adjustments that are sometimes months apart. ... Then, his goal was to help his patients become happy and fulfilled; now, it is just to keep them functional.”

Talk therapy was popularized by Sigmund Freud in the 1950s -- before the rise of the pharmaceutical market and the pill-centric therapies of today. A MDiTV report says fault lies not with Big Pharma -- but more with psychiatrists.
“Half a century ago, depression was rare while multitudes sought to calm their anxieties. In the 1970s, depression diagnoses surged while anxieties waned. (FLASH) Back then, they were seen as relieving anxiety, relieving tension and stress and not depression. Whereas now, they’re called antidepressant medications.”

In a culture of immediacy and quick fixes, one Fox News analyst says it’s the demand created by pill poppers that sustains the pharmaceutical industry.

“People are also at fault, people are less anxious to discuss what’s bothering them if there’s a pill they can take that can fix it... (FLASH) Find a good friend and tell them what’s bothering you and very often you’ll find that that’s enough and you may not need these various pills, all of which have side effects.”

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China airliners Buy 43 Boeing Jets Asian Aerospace Air Show Hong Kong


Chinese airlines buy 43 Boeing jets at Asian air show

Associated Press
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chinese airlines buy 43 Boeing jets at HK air show
Kin Cheung Cathay Pacific chief executive Tony Tyler, right, speaks with Marlin Dailey, vice president of Sales for Boeing Commercial Airplanes in front of a model of Boeing 747-8 on display at the Asian Aerospace Show in Hong Kong Tuesday, March 8, 2011. Boeing says it has signed a deal to sell five of its new 747-8 Intercontinental passenger jets to Air China. Chicago-based Boeing and Air China, the country's flag carrier, didn't say how much the deal was worth. At list prices it would be about $1.6 billion but airlines typically get big discounts. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Chinese airlines announced a batch of deals to buy airplanes from Boeing and other Western plane makers at a major Asian air show on Tuesday, underlining the rapid expansion of China's aviation market.
Flag carrier Air China and Hong Kong Airlines plan to buy planes from Boeing Co. worth about $10 billion at sticker prices, with Air China becoming the first Chinese airline to order the 747-8 Intercontinental jet. HNA Group, the parent company of Hong Kong Airlines and Hainan Airlines, also signed agreements to buy smaller jets from Gulfstream and Dassault Falcon.
Chicago-based Boeing unveiled its long-range market forecast, predicting that the Asia-Pacific region will overtake North America and Europe as the world's biggest air transport market over the next 20 years. Rival Airbus SAS made a similar prediction on Monday.
"As we look to the future, we look to Asia. Growth in this market will clearly change the landscape of aviation," said Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
Boeing forecast that Asia will need 10,320 new airplanes over the next 20 years, or about a third of the world total. Air traffic growth is forecast at 6.8 percent a year, higher than the global average of 5.3 percent.
In a deal announced at the start of the Asian Aerospace Expo and Congress 2011, Air China said it would buy five 747-8 passenger planes _ Boeing's newest jumbo jet.
Boeing and Air China didn't say how much the deal was worth. At list prices it would be about $1.6 billion but airlines typically get big discounts.
Air China will use the planes to expand its international routes. The jets can carry 467 passengers and feature a new wing design and upgraded flight deck.
The deal still needs Chinese government approval.
Boeing also signed a preliminary agreement with HNA Group's Hong Kong Airlines for 30 787-9s, six 777 freighters, and two 787-8 VIP jets.
HNA Group which also operates Hainan Airlines, China's fourth biggest airline, also signed preliminary deals to buy five Gulfstream G450 and G550 jets and five Dassault Falcon 7Xs.
The Gulfstream and Dassault deals highlighted the growing market for private and corporate jets in China, which is reckoned to be the world's second biggest after the Middle East.
As China's economy continues to expand strongly, aircraft makers expect greater demand from business executives and the rich for private jets.
For Dassault, "it's uncommon to sell five aircraft in one contract," Jean Michel Jacob, vice-president of international sales, said. It's more common to sell 7X jets, with a list price of $53 million, one by one.
Jacob, who recently relocated to Beijing, said he aims to sell about 100 jets in China over the next 10 years, and forecasts demand for 700 to 900 private and corporate jets in China over the same period.
The three-day show, which is being held at an exhibition center near Hong Kong's airport, doesn't feature flying demonstrations or military hardware and is not open to the public.
But potential buyers, many of them from mainland China, did get a chance to check out 21 jets on display, ranging from a Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350i nine-passenger turboprop to a Boeing Business Jet, capable of seating up to 18 people.
Jets from Canada's Bombardier, Brazil's Embraer and other makers were also on hand, underscoring their desire to cash in on opportunities for sales of corporate and private jets.
"Chinese companies are now investing overseas so they need to travel to parts of Africa, South America, Australia which they wouldn't do in the past," said David Dixon, Bombardier's regional vice president of business aircraft for China and Asia Pacific.
"Traditionally people came to China to get things made. Now China's going overseas to buy and manufacture things, buying companies, so the dynamic is changing hugely."

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Krstle Miller, Ninette Rae Fail MISSING: St. Louis Area Police Seek Public Help

Missing women Krstle Miller, left, and Ninette Rae Fail (police and family photos)

St. Louis area police seek help finding missing women

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
March 8, 2011

Police are looking for the public's help finding two area women who have recently gone missing.
Krstle Miller, 19, was last seen Feb. 12 at her home in north St. Louis County. Miller is black, 5 feet tall and weighs 98 pounds. Her family tells police she is bi-polar and needs medication.
Miller left the house to go to work and has not returned. Police did not know what she was wearing when she left.
Anyone with information about Miller's whereabouts can call the St. Louis County police department at 314-889-2341.
In St. Louis city, Ninette Rae Fail, 42, was last seen Feb. 28 in the Barnes-Jewish Hospital emergency room, according to police and her family.
Fail is white and 5-feet-1, 100 pounds. She was last seen wearing a red hooded sweatshirt, a brown leather jacket, blue jeans and boots. She was carrying a black backpack.
Anyone with information about Fail can call St. Louis city police at 314-231-1212 or 314-444-2500.
The two cases are not connected.

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Farms Busy Crop Prices Up Feed Inflation for Consumers

Crop prices feed inflation of food prices

 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
 Tuesday, March 8, 2011 

EAST ST. LOUIS • A steady line of trucks rumbles under the Eads Bridge, winding its way to Cargill's hulking grain elevator across the Mississippi River from downtown.

Rising grain prices have farmers unloading crops here at a solid clip. "There was a long wait this morning," said trucker Troy Agney, stepping out of his black Peterbilt last week. "Trucks were stacking up."

Even Agney, who doesn't usually truck grain, has found himself in middle of the grain price frenzy, hauling multiple loads of corn a day.

And it's not just corn prices that are soaring. Soybeans are moving along with them. Wheat is climbing, too. So is sugar. And coffee. And cocoa. Some experts say they have never seen so many commodity prices so high at once.

"Everything's high," Agney says, in a booming twang. "Watch the grocery store."

Indeed, analysts and recently released government estimates predict food prices will rise this year, thanks to a tangle of factors, from rising grain prices to monetary policy to oil costs. Prices for U.S. consumers could surpass the spikes of 2008, while the United Nations said Thursday that its global food prices index has reached an all-time high. Food prices, many believe, ignited the pro-democracy unrest rippling through the Middle East and Africa.

For American grain producers, the situation could translate into a few boom years — what Sunset Hills-based investment manager Joe Terril calls "a golden age for Midwestern farmers." For Missouri, where crops brought $4.7 billion to the state's economy in 2009, and Illinois, where they delivered $12.6 billion, the current grain climate will boost revenue. Nationally, farm income this year could hit a record $99 billion, University of Missouri economists predicted in a report to Congress on Monday.

But for American consumers struggling out of a recession — and those in developing countries who spend the bulk of their income on food — the price spikes will sting. "If you go back to 2008, it was gas prices going to $4 that killed the economy. It left the average person with no discretionary income," Terril said. "I'm very concerned food prices are getting ready to do the same thing."

Perhaps more importantly, analysts say, soaring food costs will stir debate over what, exactly, is driving food prices in a complex and changing global food economy, one that's expected to remain turbulent for years.

The china factor

Analysts disagree on the extent to which certain factors are affecting grain prices, but most point to:

• Rising demand for grain from developing countries, primarily China, where a growing middle class has money to spend on meat from livestock that dines on grain.

• A poor 2010 wheat crop in some of the world's biggest wheat-producing countries.

• U.S. ethanol mandates, which divert roughly 40 percent of the country's corn crop away from feeding troughs and into gas tanks.

Another factor, analysts say, is a smaller-than-expected 2010 U.S. corn crop that has translated to smaller inventories.

"Even given the late economic unpleasantness, people in China and India are increasing their incomes and eating more food, more meat, more dairy," said Blake Hurst, a soybean and corn farmer and president of the Missouri Farm Bureau. "But all these things are driving prices."

Demand and production problems have shrunk the world's corn and soy stocks, which are at precariously low levels, driving up prices.

"The situation will continue to get tighter as we get into the 2011 crop," said Rich Pottorff, chief economist for St. Louis-based Doane Advisory Services. "Clearly we need to have big crops this year to ease the upward pressure on prices. At least so far, traders are concerned that that won't happen."

debate over dollar

Tight supplies could be a consequence of investors taking grain off the market. That, in turn, could be a consequence of U.S. monetary policy that has lowered the value of the dollar, some analysts say.

"Investors are hanging on to grain because they don't want U.S. dollars," Terril said. "That's limiting the grain supply."

"The rest of the world is screaming: Stop with your monetary policy," Terril added. "I remind people that what happened in Egypt started with wheat prices."

Unrest in the Africa and the Middle East also has prompted some countries to store grain.

"Leaders see there's a lot of unrest. They know it's fueled by food prices," Pottorff said. "They want to go out and buy more grain to keep their people satisfied. It isn't just the dollar."

Other analysts agree the dollar isn't entirely to blame.

"I don't see how policy affects the weather," said Darrel Good, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, referring to drought conditions in prime wheat-growing regions. "It can be argued that our renewable-fuels policies is supporting corn demand at very high levels. ... But those policies alone wouldn't have pushed prices to where they are."

In recent days oil prices have hit $100 a barrel, another factor driving up food prices.

"Everybody's anxious to blame these food costs on higher cash grain prices," said Greg Guenther, a corn and soy farmer in Belleville. "But overall fuel is the biggest variable."

Regardless of the causes, many analysts say investors are taking advantage of the turbulence.

"These grain markets are driven by the people who trade these markets," said John Graverson, the grain department manager at Roy Carroll County Grain Growers, east of Kansas City. "When Wall Street gets a whiff of it, the investor crowd starts buying futures. There's no doubt you have tight markets, so any little move and the market goes fast and furious."

'up, up, up'

For the American shopper, all this will translate to higher prices. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts prices will rise by as much as 4 percent this year, and some believe that's conservative. University of Missouri economists said Monday that the rise will be slightly higher, at 4.2 percent.

"If the pressure mounts, it's hard to speculate," said Rich Wallace, director of grocery procurement for Dierbergs, referring to the store's pricing. "But all the commodities are going to keep going up, up, up."

Both Dierbergs and Schnucks say they have tried to hold the line on prices but in some cases have passed costs along to customers.

"In St. Louis, we're in a very competitive environment," Wallace said. "Everybody's looking at each other, and nobody wants to be the first to raise prices. ... As a retailer, we're the last line of defense."

But as grain prices drive up food prices, farmers will be converting crops into more cash.

The Department of Agriculture recently announced that agricultural trade will hit record levels this year, helping boost net farm income to record levels, despite rises in production costs. Farmland values are rising, too — in some areas they are reaching $10,000 an acre.

"It's good times," said Hurst, the Missouri Farm Bureau president.

But farmers and analysts underscore that higher consumer prices don't equate directly to the cash that ends up in a farmers' pocket. On average, just under 16 percent of the price of a grocery item goes to the farmer, according to Agriculture Department data.

"I hate to see people thinking this is about farmers doing well and consumers not," said Rick Tolman, head of the Chesterfield-based National Corn Growers Association. "It's not the farmers' faults they're making money. They're responding to the circumstances."

Grain growers are enjoying the good times while they can — as are farm-related businesses. Equipment dealerships are seeing an increase in customers as cash-flush producers buy new implements and fix up old ones.

"There's been a lot of interest in upgrading equipment," said Keith Reichman, an owner of Okawville-based Reichman Bros., a farm implement dealership. "We're very busy."

That kind of news sounds pretty sweet to farmers. According to the recent census, rural Missouri counties lost more population over the last decade and are struggling financially because of it.


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