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Vilsack: infant formula shortage highlights industry issues

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says the infant formula shortage highlights lack of competition in the industry, similar to the meat processing sector.

He says that needs to be addressed.

“One thing that I think we’re going to learn from this circumstance is it’s great to be efficient,” he says. We have many industries, the infant formula industry is one of them and the meat processing industry is another, where there has been a focus on efficiency on the theory that somehow that’s going to result in lower costs for folks, but the reality is that efficiency comes at a cost, and that cost is when the supply chain is disrupted it can have serious consequences.”

He tells Brownfield “there are ways to be cost-conscious through competition in addition to efficiency and I think it’s incumbent upon us to take a look at ways in which we can create greater resiliency in these major industries in the future. We’re certainly doing that in the beef processing area and I’m sure the FDA has given some real thought in terms of what comes next in the infant formula industry.”

Vilsack says the USDA is seeking additional flexibility to alter the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program to be able to address issues in real time.

“We were able to do that with the WIC program, and now as a result of legislation that’s passing through Congress, we’ll have the same flexibility in reference to SNAP so that families that are struggling financially don’t have additional stress of not being able to access necessary formula for their children.”

The USDA continues to work with the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense to get safe formula on store shelves as quickly as possible.

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