Biden invokes Defense Production Act on infant formula as House passes bill, senators introduce one

In obvious political reaction to parents’ anger over the infant formula shortage, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act to require production of infant formula while the House passed bills to alleviate the shortage and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., introduced a bill to address the problem.

About 6 p.m. on May 18, the White House said President Biden had invoked the Defense Production Act requiring suppliers to direct needed resources to infant formula manufacturers before any other customer who may have ordered that good, and directed the Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments to use Defense Department commercial aircraft to pick up overseas infant formula that meets U.S. health and safety standards, so it can get to store shelves faster.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a news release, “We know that this situation is causing stress and anxiety for many families across the country, and President Biden has said that this administration will do everything in its power to ensure babies and families have access to the formula that they need. As the president directed, the Department of Agriculture will immediately begin coordinating with the Department of Defense and expand its coordination with our Health and Human Services counterparts to get safe formula on store shelves as quickly as possible.”

Later that evening, the House by a vote of 231-192 approved a bill sponsored by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., to provide $28 million to remain available until Sept. 30, 2023, to address the current shortage of infant formula and certain medical foods in the United States and to prevent future shortages, including such steps as may be necessary to prevent fraudulent products from entering the United States market. The bill also requires weekly reports on the shortage of infant formula and certain medical foods in the United States.

Earlier, the House voted 414-9 on a bill sponsored by Rep. Jahanna Hayes, R-N.J., to protect the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children from future recalls and shortages.

Stabenow, Boozman and others introduced a Senate companion bill to the Hayes bill.

“This is an extremely stressful time for parents who are being forced to search high and low to find baby formula,” said Stabenow. “Almost half of all babies born in the U.S. rely on the WIC program. That’s why I’m leading this bipartisan effort with Sen. Boozman and Senate and House colleagues to address this shortage as quickly as possible. We must do everything we can to ensure our families have what they need to keep their children healthy and fed.”

“Moms and dads in the most prosperous country on earth should never have to worry about their ability to obtain something as vital as baby formula. This legislation will benefit every American family by ensuring formula manufacturers and regulators are always prepared to respond to any shortages or supply disruptions and by providing more flexibilities to USDA and states in helping parents meet their children’s nutritional needs,” said Boozman.


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