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Biden admin invokes Defense Production Act to boost baby formula supply

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The Biden administration invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) Wednesday in an effort to combat the ongoing baby formula shortage. The White House will require suppliers to provide ingredients used to make formula to manufacturers ahead of other customers.

“I know parents all across the country are worried about finding enough infant formula to feed their babies. As a parent, and a grandparent, I know just how stressful that is,” President Joe Biden said when he made the announcement. 

Baby formula has been increasingly hard to find in recent months. The nationwide out-of-stock rate surged to 43 percent for the week ending May 8, according to analysis from Datasembly

The DPA was first established by President Harry S. Truman at the onset of the Korean War in 1950. The measure authorized the federal government to require businesses to produce items considered crucial to national security, public health or critical infrastructure. At the time, it was used to bolster the production of materials needed during wartime, including aluminum and copper. 

But as is the case with President Biden’s use of the DPA, it’s been invoked beyond times of war. It has been used to supply natural gas to California while it faced an energy crisis in 2000-2001. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) routinely uses the act as a means to respond to disasters, giving it priority for much-needed items like food and water. 

President Donald Trump used the law throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to strengthen the production of N-95 masks, ventilators, and testing supplies. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Biden invoked the DPA to increase production of materials needed for electric car batteries.

The wartime act is not the only avenue the White House is using to ease the strain on formula supply. The administration also launched Operation Fly Formula, which will authorize the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to use commercial aircraft in conjunction with the Department of Defense to pick up formula, circumventing normal air freight routes and allowing the product to get in the hands of Americans more quickly. 

Just four companies — Abbott, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Nestle USA and Perrigo — make 90 percent of the baby formula on U.S. shelves. Due to strict standards, the nation imports only 2 percent of the product.  

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration made a deal with Abbott Laboratories paving the way for the company to re-open its formula plant in Sturgis, Michigan, which has been out of operation since February. The FDA expects production to be restarted in roughly two weeks. 

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Baby formula is hard to find. The nationwide out of stock rate hit 43 percent in May. 

To help restock those shelves, President Joe Biden is invoking the Defense Production Act to require suppliers to provide ingredients used to make formula to manufacturers ahead of anyone else. 

So what is the Defense Production Act? 

The measure was created in 1950 at the start of the Korean War. The DPA authorizes the federal government to require businesses to produce items considered crucial to national security, public health or critical infrastructure. 

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Biden used the DPA to increase production of the materials needed for electric car batteries. 

Former President Trump used the law throughout the Covid pandemic to produce N-95 masks, ventilators and testing supplies. 

In addition to the DPA, cargo planes will be used to fly baby formula into America from other countries. Straight from DC, I’m Ray Bogan.