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NEW YORK -- Consumers, already smarting from higher gas prices, started shelling out more money for milk Monday as the state-set limit for retail milk prices went up by 50 cents a gallon.
"It's ridiculous. It's like the gas," Bob Fitzgerald, of Albany, N.Y., told the Albany Times-Union. "But what are you going to do? You've got to have it."
Fitzgerald got off a little easy Monday -- Stewart's convenience stores was holding off on raising milk prices until Tuesday, when it will jump from $2.39 to $2.69 a gallon.
While the maximum per-gallon price upstate is $2.94, the price in New York City will increase to $3.16 a gallon. Retailers can charge more if they can prove they have a higher cost to bring milk into their stores, the report said.
State officials say the increase might seem significant on a month-to-month basis, but milk prices have been at record lows for the past two years. The increase brings prices back to where they were in mid-2001.
"The cost of milk coming off the farm goes up on Monday. That, unfortunately, is going to have to be passed on to the consumers," Gary Dake, president of Stewart's Shops Inc., said late last week.
Dake does not expect consumers to balk too much at higher prices. "I think the thing for consumers is if they know the money is going to farmers, they understand the importance of that to the community."
The increase in retail prices is tied to wholesale prices, which are about 50 percent of what customers pay in stores, according to the Associated Press. The prices farmers can charge for milk are set monthly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.