Superstition Ranch Market

Dave Cozad of Colorado Springs stocks up on fruits and vegetables for his mother in Mesa with his grandson Evan on Friday, March 18, 2011, at Superstition Ranch Market in east Mesa. [Mike Sakal/Tribune]

Mike Sakal/Tribune

Don't be surprised if you start thinking about gas while you're buying food.

No, not the kind you get with certain high fiber items. The kind you pump.

It turns out that the higher costs there are affecting what you pay at the checkout counter at your local grocery store.

New figures Tuesday from the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation show the cost of a select group of items measured every quarter is $51.31, 7 percent higher than it was for the first quarter of the year. And the change is more than just seasonal differences: Prices now are 5 percent higher than the same time a year ago.

"Despite some recent relief in the cost of oil, the impact of continued raw energy cost increases are reverberating throughout the food industry," said Julie Murphree, the organization's director of public relations, education and marketing. "Consumers and farmers are bearing the brunt of it."

And Murphree said there is no relief in sight, as an improving global economy will only increase demand for oil and push prices higher.

John Boelts, a Yuma vegetable farmer, said in a prepared statement that the real answer is for those in the agriculture industry to "continually become more efficient and, in many cases, larger" to spread rising energy and labor costs across a broader base.

Not everything is affected equally.

Dairy products are up across the board. But the picture is more mixed in meats, with sirloin roast and sliced deli ham up but lower prices on ground chuck.

The survey is not a scientific comparison but is based on the prices that Farm Bureau workers can find for the selected items at stores around Arizona. The survey is based on the lowest in-store prices but does not include promotional coupons or special deals.

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