Some food merchants are using the drought as an excuse to price-gouge consumers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's second-ranking official said Friday.

"The retailers and some wholesalers have raised food prices, and I think unjustifiably in some cases," and blamed it on the dry weather, Deputy Agriculture Secretary Peter Myers said.Though driven up by the drought, higher wheat prices, for example, should add only a penny or two to the price of bread, Myers said on the second day of a two-day visit to Kansas.

"The only thing that should have gone up is things like sweet peas," which suffered severe losses because of the drought, he said.