Nightly News   |  February 23, 2014

Why the Price of Dairy and Beef Just Got Higher

The ongoing drought is causing increased prices for milk, cheese and beef.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> in the american west , they can only hope for more rain as a long and severe drought takes a growing toll, especially in california, having a devastating effect on cattle and crops. higher prices at the grocery store for all of us. we get more on this from nbc's miguel almaguer.

>> reporter: in central california , this is the sound of extreme drought. cattle ranchers selling off their herds. without rain, there is no grass for grazing.

>> what i'm hearing from fellow ranchers is panic.

>> reporter: cindy tuse, a rancher for 17 years, says many can no longer afford the price for feed.

>> if we continue to have the conditions that are in place right now, i see more sell-off. i see more cattlemen having to sell their entire herds.

>> reporter: ranchers here echo what the president said when he met with with farmers.

>> what happens here matters to every working american right down to the cost of food that you put on your table.

>> reporter: tonight at the grocery store , you may already be paying more for milk. the midwest drought the of 2012 is still driving up prices today. in farming towns like firebaugh , this historic drought is hitting home now. with prices up for produce, sales are down. this market has laid off three employees and many more in this town of nearly 8,000 are leaving. city manager ken mcdonald says the situation in firebaugh is so dire, the food bank is feeding farmers.

>> firebaugh 's in serious trouble?

>> without a doubt. it's in serious crisis.

>> reporter: one of several communities here in the central valley that feeds the nation. the drought has turned this region to a virtual dust bowl . without water, the harvest in this field is ruined. the allens have been farming for three generations. but with another harvest lost, this may be their last season.

>> a lot of people don't realize the amount of money that's going to be lost, the amount of jobs that are going to be lost. we can't recapture that.

>> reporter: from crops to cows, the drought is crippling the west and the fallout is headed east. miguel almaguer, nbc news, firebaugh , california.