Agriculture briefs

<b>Higher beef prices looming in 2014</b>

Cattle futures climbed to a record Friday as U.S. beef production is forecast to drop to an 11-year low in 2014 while the improving economy signals increasing meat demand.

U.S. beef output will fall 5.7 percent from 2013 to 24.205 billion pounds next year, the lowest since 1993, the Department of Agriculture has forecast. Feedlots added 3.1 percent fewer cattle last month than a year earlier, reducing the total inventory to the second-lowest for Dec. 1 since the USDA started collecting data in 1996.

The USDA this month boosted its outlook for 2014 per capita beef consumption by 0.6 percent. Higher beef prices will raise costs for retailers, while grocery shoppers will pay as much as 3.5 percent more for meat next year, the government projects.

Cattle futures for February delivery rose 0.6 percent to settle at $1.3495 a pound Friday on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, after reaching $1.35275, the highest since the commodity started trading on the CME in 1964.

<b>Southern California cracks down on fraud at farmers markets</b>

Southern California officials have cracked down on vendors at farmers markets who violate state law by selling fruits and vegetables they don't produce.

This year, 20 vendors were fined in Los Angeles County and five were sanctioned in San Diego County, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Violators can be fined up to $1,000 for each offense and banned from markets for up to 18 months.

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