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    Price and Supply on the Home Front

    HARRIET ELLIOTT,
    Consumer Division, Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply

  1. Greatly increased demand for food—growing out of increased consumer purchasing power, army needs, and shipments under the Lease-Lend program—have been pushing food prices up. Efforts to achieve parity prices for farmers have added to the upward trend. It is our policy, however, that these prices shall be held within bounds.

  2. Every increase in food prices places a burden on the low income consumer. The food price increases occurring at the present time constitute a burden which must be lightened by redoubled efforts to make possible wise buying, assist consumers to know and use the less expensive foods, and to promote special programs which put food of high nutritive value within reach of low income families. Increased food prices make particularly significant the program for enriching the staple, low cost foods. They make imperative the much wider use of quality standards and grades to enable consumers to compare products, stretch their food pennies, and make their food purchases fit their needs.

  3. Price itself is meaningless without quality. Price controls cannot be administered unless a price applies to a specific quality.

  4. In the food field, minimum quality standards for health and safety are set by the Food and Drug Administration and the quality characteristics of certain products are defined. These provide a very essential bottom below which quality may not fall, and the extension of such minimum standards is needed more than ever now. The prompt extension of the use of these grades in all retail markets is essential.

  5. Also, prices and quality standards for other items besides food in the consumer budget have a direct bearing, since expenditures for these items crowd the food budget. Next to food, the largest item in the consumer budget is rents. In many communities congested by defense activity, sharp rent increases have occurred. In order to remedy this situation and prevent further increases, the Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply is assisting local communities to set up fair rent committees and to hold rents as close as possible to pre-defense levels for the duration of the emergency.

  6. Clothing economy is dependent on recognition of quality, and the need for the development of textile and clothing standards is pressing. Goods bought for purposes which they do not serve, clothes that wear out and have be replaced, mean waste and inefficiency in home and nation. Our all-out effort must overcome this type of waste. It must overcome, too, obstructions and inefficiencies in methods of production and distribution which check the flow of goods and raise costs to the consumer. Many types of waste which burden the economy will be attacked by the program of simplification and standardization undertaken in OPACS.

  7. The most fundamental approach to economic efficiency, and incidentally to problems of price, is to produce and make available an adequate supply. This is the only real means of consumer protection. For most of the basic things which go into the American standard of living there are resources and materials and available manpower to produce them. Many of today's shortages can and must be overcome.

  8. We cannot let fear of a post-war slump stand in our way today, for we must, at our peril, avoid such a collapse when the emergency is past. The framework within which we build sound nutrition for strong defense today extends forward to the only future which can give meaning to our present effort—one in which health, security, and opportunity are the birthright of all our people.