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USDA Affirms Food-Inflation Forecast at 2.5% to 3.5% in 2012

U.S. consumers will pay 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent more for food in 2012, the Department of Agriculture said, affirming its December forecast.

Beef and seafood will post the biggest gains, climbing as much as 5 percent, the USDA said today on a report on its website. Eggs, dairy products and fruits and vegetables will rise less than forecast, the agency said.

Retail-food costs rose 3.7 percent in 2011, the USDA said. The December forecast was for a gain of 3.25 percent to 3.75 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier this month said expenses climbed 0.2 percent in December, capping a 4.7 percent projected increase last year. The USDA uses a broader range of goods for estimates.

“We still, relatively speaking, have affordable food in this country,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on a conference call with reporters.

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