Shortages of infant formula on store shelves in the United States has Washington, D.C. working to help fill the void. Infant formula shortages appeared this spring following the shutdown of an Abbott facility in Michigan over safety concerns. Shawna Morris, National Milk Producers Federation Senior Vice President of Trade Policy, says it’s a matter of supply of produced formula, not milk ingredients.
“Fundamentally American families are facing this awful and heartbreaking shortage of product where parents are scrambling to find food to feed their babies because we saw a major U.S. facility very suddenly go offline, in terms of producing those products, and then unfortunately, remain offline in terms of lack of production for an extended period of time. We really don’t have a gap here on the input side. So the inputs, the milk, the ingredients, that the plant would need in order to produce formula, no challenge there. Instead, what we have is a problem more on the processing capacity piece.”
Morris says the best way to fix the issue is to get the plant back online and producing safe formula products.
“That’s going to be the largest scale way to get back up to where we need to go and quickly. Imports can play a role, that is one piece of the suite of solutions that the administration and Congress have been looking at here, and we certainly support looking at all options and that includes imports. We support the steps that have been taken to date to bring in some products from abroad, again, as part of the bridge here in terms of supply gaps, and we would also support additional steps if they could be helpful. For instance, one of the extra pieces that some folks are talking about is waiving tariffs for a bit while we’re dealing with this crisis shortage in order to see if that helps further stimulate supplies into this country. With that said, there’s not ample amounts of products swimming around global markets out there. So, that’s hardly going to be a silver bullet solution.”
Morris says it’s not, however, a trade problem, rather, it’s a supply issue.
“The simple answer there is no. As I mentioned earlier, again, we fully support any additional steps including facilitating bringing in safe formula from overseas in order to address the crisis we have here. But we don’t fundamentally have a trade policy problem on formula we have a supply challenge and a shortage right now due to that processing capacity issue I mentioned earlier. So, shopping for long term solutions that are not the driver of today’s problem will really send us down the wrong rabbit hole here.”
And the suggestions of turning to Canada for infant formula is not a viable option.
“There have been some, perhaps with interesting motivations. alleging that this is a USMCA created problem and all we need to do is look right across the border and bring in products from Canada, but darn that U MCA that’s standing in our way. That’s not what’s going on here. We’re the ones who supply the vast majority of Canada’s infant formula needs. And on the flip side, US MCA gives Canada the ability to export significant quantities of formula but they’re exporting virtually nothing. They don’t have ample supply to be shifting out to overseas markets at this time. That’s not what’s driving things here. That said, we would love to see more trade, and we are also looking to try to encourage the administration to move forward with comprehensive trade agreements, but that’s entirely unrelated to the challenge we’re dealing with and that families are grappling with today with respect to this infant formula shortage.”
Learn more online at nmpf.org.