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High Price for Bread


Food prices spiraled upwards in 1972. There were many reasons, including the devaluation of the dollar, a decline in world grain production, and an increase in the demand for meat in developing countries. But those reasons were no comfort to American consumers.

An article in the Bismarck Tribune on this date in 1972 noted that the price for a one-pound loaf of bread averaged of 24.5 cents. That was close to the all-time high of 25 cents, reached the previous year. Of that cost, farmers received only 3.5 cents. That was the same amount they received in 1947.

A newspaper column suggested that consumers should shop for lower-priced bread and take advantage of specials. They were urged to buy day-old bread on sale. It was also noted that whole grain breads are more nutritious than white bread, and consumers should consider making the switch.

Prices were on the minds of government officials as well. The Price Commission planned to hold an unusual Sunday meeting. President Nixon considered lifting meat import quotas to slow the rise of food prices. He ordered a study of the impact. Nixon acknowledged that the move would not bring immediate relief. It would take some time before it had any effect.

The news was of particular interest to North Dakotans. Representative Arthur A. Link said the Federal Price Commission should not even consider price controls at the farm level. He said it was totally unfair to blame the farmer for inflation when the farmers were actually the victims of that inflation. He said farmers received grossly inadequate prices. Link noted that farm prices for food had risen by six percent while overall consumer prices had risen by forty-three percent. He also said that farm output was increasing twice as fast as manufacturing output. There was no evidence, he said, that price controls should be placed on raw agricultural products.

President Nixon had created the Cost of Living Council to oversee wage and price controls. The Council was considering a recommendation by the Price Commission that the exemption of raw agricultural products from controls be ended. The Price Commission said that “firm and immediate action” had to be taken to bring food prices under control.

Ah, the hardship of 25-cent bread. Well, even with today’s much higher prices, the farmer isn’t doing a whole lot better, getting just a dime or two for every loaf.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Bismarck Tribune, 23 June, 1972:

“Nixon Eyes Meat Import Quota Lift”

“Link Opposes Price Controls at Farm Level”

“Who Gets Rich Off Your Bread?”

The Brookings Institute. “The 1972-73 Food Price Sprial.” "http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/projects/bpea/1973%202/1973b_bpea_schnittker.pdf" http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/projects/bpea/1973%202/1973b_bpea_schnittker.pdf Accessed 12 May, 2012.