National Milk cautious about infant formula tariff relief
Congress last week passed the Bulk Infant Formula to Retail Shelves Act (H.R. 8982), a bill to temporarily lift tariffs on imported “base powder,” a key component filled with essential proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that is mixed with nutrients and other ingredients to make infant formula.
The current tariffs are 13.6% + $1.035/kg.
The House approved the legislation by voice vote and the Senate by unanimous consent. It now goes to President Biden for his signature.
“The passage of this legislation today is a huge win for families and will be a powerful tool in addressing the ongoing baby formula shortage,” Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., and other House sponsors said. “This measure, combined with the Formula Act that Congress approved in July, will help get more safe, affordable formula on store shelves and increase domestic production capacity,”
Lifting the tariffs on base powder and increasing domestic manufacturing would be especially helpful for families participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which must be used in brick-and-mortar retail stores and cannot be used for online purchases currently, they added, noting that about half the baby formula purchased in the United States is purchased through WIC.
But National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern said in a news release, “NMPF has not opposed the temporary, short-term lifting of restrictions on infant formula imports to address the rare formula availability crisis and did not oppose the just-passed Bulk Infant Formula to Retail Shelves Act given its targeted volume and limited time frame. Those guardrails are necessary to ensure that imports temporarily complement U.S. supplies rather than displace existing available dairy formula ingredients.
“NMPF emphatically opposes efforts that would create long-term dependence on foreign suppliers for a critical nutritional food. The focus must be to develop additional production in the United States necessary to ensure that this crisis isn’t repeated. As the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, only a robust domestic supply chain, with American workers and U.S. sources of production, can best protect families against potentially tragic disruptions of critically needed products.
“NMPF also opposes giving foreign companies regulatory advantages that domestic producers don’t have. Overseas milk production that doesn’t meet the same stringent regulations met by our own producers shouldn’t be allowed into the United States under any but the most extreme circumstances, such as the immediate shortfalls that we see now but expect will soon be alleviated by domestic supplies resuming their typical production levels.
“The most meaningful step the U.S. government can take to shore up domestic formula supplies would be to analyze what policy and regulatory reforms are needed to enable the U.S. to expand infant formula production in this country to ensure ample supplies for the domestic market as well as to become a net exporter of infant formula. That retains the strongest degree of domestic control — and thus security — over needed supplies of this critical, life-saving product.”
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