Rep. Josh Gottheimer is expanding his Affordability Agenda for Jersey to address the rising cost of groceries for the residents of the 5th Congressional District.
At a ShopRite in Emerson on June 13, Gottheimer announced four new measures he is supporting in Congress to try to lower food costs driven by inflation.
The series of bills in Washington that Gottheimer is pushing are intended to lower the cost of a family’s grocery bill, tackle the supply chain crisis, soaring gas prices and take action against any meat or poultry companies that are colluding to make profits.
Lowering Grocery Bill
“It’s clear that food prices are hitting families hard — between COVID, Ukraine, and collusion in meat and poultry industries, the cost of groceries has surged,” said Gottheimer. “We all know the truth right now, like at most grocery stores in the country, it’s been significantly harder since the pandemic struck for grocers to get the goods they need and to keep their stores stocked.”
“Overall, there is a clear need for aggressive action to get food and gas prices down for families and small businesses — to help deal with the impact of the post-COVID-19 economy.”
The congressman pledged his support for the bipartisan Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act, which will appoint a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) special investigator to strictly enforce price-fixing laws on the books for the meat packing industry. A second measure, the Butcher Block Act, would identify which up and coming livestock and meat producers need assistance to help jumpstart the supply chain and get meat moving. It will help create new and expand current livestock and meat processing capacity where it’s needed across the country.
Additionally, the bipartisan Strengthening the Agriculture and Food Supply Chain Act requires the USDA to identify breakdowns, bottlenecks, and pain points in the food and agriculture supply chain and report back to Congress immediately to take action on their findings. Gottheimer said this measure would strengthen the food supply chain and get more goods to grocery store shelves faster.
Finally, the lawmaker wants to pass the bipartisan American Food Supply Chain Resiliency Act to ensure that small and medium-sized farmers, ranchers, and rural businesses—like family-owned farms in Sussex and Warren Counties noted Gottheimer—have the support and assistance they need to navigate supply chain challenges.
Gottheimer explained this is a natural extension of his Affordability Agenda for Jersey he launched late last year.
“These actions build on what I’ve already called for to help get the supply chain moving, to lower taxes and prescription drug costs, and get oil and gas prices down with an All-of-the-Above energy approach,” said Gottheimer.
Gottheimer continued to call on the President Joe Biden to sit down with oil and gas companies to discuss how to immediately utilize existing leases to increase domestic production and help lower gas prices for families. The rise in input costs, like gas, has led to a higher cost of doing business for numerous industries.
“We need to get the domestic oil and gas companies into hyper speed and ramp up oil and gas production to meet demand,” he said. “The answer is not to rely on communists and terrorist states to replace Russian oil, and there are plenty of existing domestic permits outstanding.”
The North Jersey Congressman noted supply chain issues are a major driver of the rise in prices. While getting better, the shipping supply chains are still clogged and expensive and demand for boxcars and trucks are still backed-up and out-stripping supply. All of this has resulted prices to ship are far higher than before the pandemic.
“For many stores, including supermarkets like ShopRite, it can still cost double to get a container shipped from Europe than what it used to,” he said. “In the U.S., when they need to source berries from California, the cost has surged to get a truck. The rise in input costs, like gas, has led to a higher cost of doing business. In fact, about a third of food production costs are energy-related.”
Additionally, prices are rising due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has affected the global oil market as well a huge impact on grain, leading to an increase in price for everything from deliveries to food production.
“With Russia’s self-imposed restrictions on their exports and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s blockade on Ukraine’s ports, the supply of goods has drastically slowed down, resulting in increased costs and shortages,” he said. “Many believe that Putin is literally holding food hostage for millions around the world.”
Gottheimer noted that it is just not foreign nationals that are causing larger grocery bills. He pointed out that the U.S. Department of Justice is prosecuting a case of poultry companies conspiring to drive up the price of chicken along with pending lawsuits about accusations of price fixing in the pork and beef sectors.
Rise in Meat
“It’s not hard to figure out what’s going on. The four biggest beef-packing firms control 82% of the market. Not the ranchers—the packers,” he said. “In May, a report from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis found that meat companies falsified claims of an impending meat shortage and actually had millions of pounds set aside for storage and export contracts.”
“Can you imagine what kind of person would knowingly jack up the price of food when families are grappling with rising costs across the board? Moms and dads just trying to feed their kids having their hard earned dollars stolen — it makes me sick.”
The third term Democrat said he is focused on working with those looking for to help ease the pain on the pocketbook of American consumers and small businesses.
“You can’t sit back idly. We need to continue to take action in Congress and the President needs to act aggressively and decisively,” he said. “To my colleagues who would rather do the blame game and spend all day tweeting just to spend all night screaming on cable news — if you’re not going to be part of the solution then stop pointing fingers.”