NMPF Opposes Shortsighted Formula Legislation

ARLINGTON, VA – NMPF strongly opposes legislation introduced today by Senators Mike Lee, R-UT, and Bob Menendez, D-NJ, and Representatives Adrian Smith, R-NE, and Don Beyer, D-VA, that would increase U.S. vulnerability to infant formula supply disruptions by increasing U.S. reliance on imported formula and formula inputs. The legislation would unilaterally and permanently remove tariffs and tariff rate quotas on infant formula and infant formula base powder, resulting in job loss and foreign dependence.

“This bill would make American families more reliant on foreign companies for their infant formula supply and puts in place new one-way-street trade conditions that would harm dairy farmers, cooperatives and processors,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “Instead of weakening our domestic infant formula sector and putting American jobs at risk, we ask that Congress work with us to reinforce and expand our domestic production capacity.

“We strongly support two-way dairy trade,” Mulhern said. “That’s why we advocated for passage of existing U.S. free trade agreements and why we’ve been vocal proponents of resuming trade negotiations to expand dairy trade opportunities; but we vehemently object to putting unilateral import expansion on the backs of American dairy farmers.”

This bill is a misguided response to the dire shortages of infant formula that occurred last year after a temporary production crisis at a large U.S. formula manufacturing plant. In response to that short-term, unique emergency, NMPF supported the 2022 Formula Act and did not oppose passage of the subsequent 2022 Bulk Infant Formula to Retail Shelves Act, which increased import access at a time of acute need. Both laws rightfully expired at the end of 2022, once U.S. production had recovered to pre-crisis levels.

FDA noted in May 2023 testimony to the House Oversight Committee that formula stocking levels are now higher than those seen prior to last year’s temporary crisis, making the legislation introduced today all the more nonsensical.

“American dairy farmers and dairy cooperatives are committed to ensuring a robust, dependable supply of infant formula for American families,” said Randy Mooney, NMPF chairman and a dairy farmer near Rogersville, MO. “The United States can absolutely more than meet domestic demand, and should in fact be positioning itself as a net-exporter of infant formula. The U.S. dairy industry is a proven leader in providing milk powder, whey, lactose and cheese to consumers all around the world – infant formula should be no different.”

Mulhern said that “the idea that the best way for the United States to secure a dependable supply of infant formula is through foreign companies and an unreliable global supply chain is simply wrong. Congress should focus its efforts instead on better supporting the American companies, workers, and farmers who supply nearly all of this country’s formula and formula ingredient needs. Those steps should include reforms to WIC program procurement; ensuring new domestic formula firms have the support needed to gain market authorization; and negotiating new trade agreements to expand export opportunities for American-made formula and other dairy products.”

NMPF Calls on Lawmakers to Support Domestic Infant Formula Production

In a letter to lawmakers, NMPF on Nov. 17 urged support for increased domestic infant formula production as shortfalls that stripped store shelves of necessary infant formula have eased. Given the improved situation, tariff waivers that could discourage the production of a safe, secure domestic infant formula supply should be allowed to expire at end of this year as scheduled, NMPF said in the letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee.

“Given that the temporary production shortfall that gripped American families in need of formula earlier this year has abated, we urge Congress to ensure that the unique, unilateral tariff benefits granted to our trading partners under the Formula Act and the Bulk Infant Formula to Retail Shelves Act end as scheduled at the close of this year,” said NMPF Chairman and CEO Jim Mulhern in the letter. “We respectfully request your opposition to any effort to extend these preferential tariff benefits beyond the end of this year.”

A strong, diversely sourced domestic infant formula production industry ensures the highest quality, safest products while supporting rural jobs and domestic producers.

NMPF Statement on the Bulk Infant Formula to Retail Shelves Act

From NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern:

“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.”