Press Releases

Amid Ongoing Baby Formula Crisis, DelBene Introduces Bill to Boost Domestic Production

With out-of-stock rates at 61% nationally and 67% in WA, legislation would lift tariffs on key formula component

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WASHINGTON, DC, September 26, 2022 | comments

Today, House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Member Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Chairman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Ranking Member Adrian Smith (NE-03), and Members John B. Larson (CT-01), Dan Kildee (MI-05), and Drew Ferguson (GA-03) introduced legislation that would boost domestic baby formula production and get more product on shelves amid the continued shortage across the United States.

The Bulk Infant Formula to Retail Shelves Act would temporarily lift tariffs on safe imported ‘base powder,’ a key component that is mixed with nutrients and other ingredients to make the formula that parents buy on store shelves or online. The current tariffs are 13.6% + $1.035/kg.

While the formula crisis has eased slightly from its 86% out-of-stock rate high in May, it has only improved to 61%, an unacceptable level for parents who need to feed their children. In Washington state, 67% of store shelves are out of stock. Metro areas are hit harder, with Seattle’s average out-of-stock rate at 79%.

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. About half the baby formula purchased in the United States is purchased through WIC.

“In July, President Biden signed legislation that I introduced to make it cheaper to buy imported baby formula. While we’ve seen more formula on shelves since then, too many families are struggling to find and afford the food their children need,” said DelBene. “The legislation I’m introducing today will build on that progress by helping increase domestic formula production. I’m hopeful that this bill can move with the same speed and bipartisan support that the previous legislation had.”

“Congresswoman DelBene has been a tireless champion in combating the ongoing infant formula shortage. Our legislation passed in July to temporarily suspend tariff barriers on imported formula was a critical step to ease shortages and relieve parents of steep price increases. We can build upon this progress by bolstering the production of formula in the United States,” said Blumenauer. “This legislation to temporarily lift tariffs on a key ingredient in formula will further lower costs for working families and prevent future shortages.”

“As the formula crisis drags on, we must continue identifying ways to keep shelves stocked with infant formula. That is why we worked to temporarily ease tariffs on FDA-approved formula through the bipartisan Formula Act,” said Smith. “Doing the same for base powder to increase domestic manufacturing is the next step needed to restore access to critical baby formula for families across the country, and I’m proud to co-lead this important bipartisan legislation.”

“After our Formula Act was signed into law, there has been more and cheaper formula on grocery store shelves, but our efforts to keep children fed will not stop there,” said Larson. “I am proud to join my colleagues today to introduce this legislation that will increase domestic formula production so we can further increase our supply of infant formula, lower costs, and ensure these families get what they need.”

“No parent should struggle to provide the formula their baby needs to live. I was proud to recently work with Republicans and Democrats to suspend import taxes on formula and lower costs for families,” said Kildee. “With this legislation, we will continue our work to strengthen America’s ability to produce more formula here at home. I am proud to work with Republicans and Democrats on this important issue.”

“Baby formula isn’t a luxury, it’s an absolute necessity and the sole source of nutrition for nearly one-fifth of our nation’s infants,” said Ferguson. “No parent should have to ration baby formula to feed their child, which is why we took action to temporarily reduce tariffs through the Formula Act. As the formula crisis continues to impact families across America, Congress must do more to bring relief and ensure this crisis doesn’t get worse. I’m proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan legislation to lift tariffs on critical baby formula ingredients like base powder.”

Earlier this year, Congress passed the Formula Act, a bill led by the same group of lawmakers that temporarily lifted tariffs on safe imported baby formula. The bipartisan bill was overwhelmingly supported in the House and Senate. It is currently reducing the cost of imported formula for parents by over 25%.

A summary of the bill can be found here.

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