ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Although some inflation relief is expected in 2023, economists say issues in the dairy industry could keep the price of butter higher than normal in stores across the country.

Butter is currently up 31.4% from a year ago. The reason: the costs of producing dairy products skyrocketed in 2022. Heat resulted in less milk for farmers, as cows don’t produce as much in hot weather.

Economists expect 10,000 more cows this year, but don’t predict much of a reprieve, mostly because of another unseasonably dry and warm milking season and lingering supply chain problems.

In the Rockford area, the price for a pound of premium butter, such as Land O Lakes salted and unsalted, is currently hovering around $6.07. House brands like Walmart’s Great Value, Target’s Good & Gather, and Meijer’s private label butter, are selling in the $3.50 to $4 per pound range.

Last year at this time, premium butter was about $4 per pound, and house brands were a couple dollars cheaper.

Shoppers who prefer margarine, which is made of vegetable oil, the outlook isn’t much better. According to Market Watch, the price of the classic butter substitute rose by more than 43% in December.

Economists say margarine price hikes can be attributed to vegetable oil supplies, which are being dwindled by biofuel manufacturers. The war in Ukraine is also playing a role in the price of soybeans, sunflower seeds, and corn.