More Dough Needed To Pay For Bread

Friday, March 14th 2008, 6:07 pm
By: News On 6

The price of American wheat is skyrocketing.  That's good news for thousands of Oklahoma farmers.  But, The News On 6's Joshua Brakhage reports it's hard to swallow for everyone else.

Wheat prices have hovered around the $3 mark for the past 15 years.  Now, the same wheat is going for more than $12 a bushel, making it the definition of a cash crop.

The fields of green have farmers like David Hermesch seeing green.

"There could be a very handsome profit made for the farmers out here," said farmer David Hermesch.

His son, Michael, was at work Friday fertilizing 500 acres of wheat.  With prices four times higher than a year ago, he's expecting his amber waves of grain to turn into solid gold.

"We desperately need a year like this to recoup the losses we've had in the past 10 to 12 years in this area," said farmer David Hermesch.

But, the high prices could spell trouble for someone who's not rolling in the dough, like area bakeries.

Flour prices are rising faster than the yeast.  Rick Miller says Ferrell Family Bread is paying double or triple for flour.

The cost of cakes at Merritt's Bakeries are going up, too.  Managers say they're losing thousands of dollars a week.

Those are costs bread-makers are passing on to bread winners.

"We've had to raise our prices, of course, to keep up.  We swallowed the price til the end of the year.  We just absorbed it and it got to where we couldn't keep up with it," said Rick Miller with Ferrell Family Bread.

Experts say bread is going up by 12 cents across the board, an average of 20 cents a loaf.  Pasta is up almost 20%.

"They understand the price is going up. They see it in the grocery stores.  They see it at the gas pump," said Rick Miller with Ferrell Family Bread.

"That money has not come back to the farmer," said farmer David Hermesch.

Hermesch says lot of this extra income is absorbed by commodities traders and never makes it back to farmers in the fields.

"Everyone gets more for processing the product that we grow, but it hasn't been passed down to the farmer.  It's our turn," said farmer David Hermesch.

There are reasons why wheat costs so much.

Wheat crops in Australia and Argentina have bombed, creating a world-wide demand for American wheat.  Plus, some farmers have stopped growing wheat.  Instead, they're subsidized for growing corn and soybeans which can be turned into biofuels.

Agriculture markets are so unpredictable, but the buyer for Merritt's Bakery expects it'll take two to three years for wheat prices to stabilize.

Find more stories on's Local News page.