Supply chains were once far from the mind of the average consumer, but they were nevertheless vital. Behind just about every product, from the food on your table to the clothes you wear to the vehicle you drive, lies a supply chain that can potentially stretch across the globe.
But supply chains cannot be far from mind now. If the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on them was not great enough, Russia’s war in Ukraine will inflict further disruption.
Ukraine earned the nickname “the breadbasket of Europe” for its significant wheat production and exports, and Russia is a major global wheat exporter as well. One consequence of the Russian invasion was record high wheat prices, an ominous development for the countries most dependent on these exports. Other agricultural products heavily exported by Russia and Ukraine include corn, barley, sunflower seed oil, and rapeseed oil.
Russia is also among the world’s leading exporters of fertilizer ingredients. Fertilizer was already expensive before the war, and disruptions of this supply threaten to drive up its costs still more, an increase that will be incorporated into the price of food.
The supply chain turmoil must prompt reconsideration of how and where we obtain the goods and services common to everyday life. We can’t make everything here, but we can do a better job of ensuring a domestic supply of the things we must have and providing insulation from inevitable supply shocks in a tumultuous world. The jobs created by greater domestic production are a substantial added benefit.
One area where the United States must develop its own source is in rare earth elements. They are crucial to modern manufacturing and technology, but China currently dominates the market.
This state of affairs is treacherous, as China has proven itself not to be a trustworthy partner. Fortunately, the rarity of rare earth elements comes chiefly in the difficulty of accessing them. With the right technology, the United States can develop our own supply and not be subject to the whims of foreign powers.
In fact, Southwest Virginia can be a source. A consortium of universities including Virginia Tech has developed technologies to extract rare earth elements from coal and coal byproducts. The need for these elements nationally can be met through economic development in our region.
In health care, China has come to dominate too much of the market. For some drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients, it has behaved in a cartel-like fashion to develop an edge. Patients and those taking medications deserve a stable domestic supply.
The struggles to obtain personal protective equipment in the early days of the pandemic drove home the necessity of manufacturing it here ourselves. Not only had the strategic national stockpile of key medical supplies been depleted under the Obama Administration, but some of the remaining inventory had expired and was unusable.
I’ve introduced a bill that would prevent this situation from recurring by encouraging this industry at home, the Domestic SUPPLY Act. I am proud to have support in this effort from local manufacturers and officials in local governments. It’s another area where meeting a national need can create jobs in our communities.
For products not made here, we need guarantees of safety and efficacy. The Food and Drug Administration conducts inspections of foreign manufacturers, but the inspection program has been plagued with problems. I’ve introduced the INSPECTIONS Act to improve the program and ensure better quality control of medicines and the base ingredients in them. The INSPECTIONS Act is bipartisan, and there is no reason why the rest of this agenda can’t be, either.
Greater domestic energy production must be a priority. I have written at length about this topic recently, but unfortunately Americans continue to feel the pain from short-sighted Biden Administration decisions inhibiting our responsible development of energy resources. I strongly believe in American energy dominance, and I have supported it through legislation I’ve cosponsored including the American Energy Independence from Russia Act and Strategic Production Response Act.
Americans across the board have been hurt by supply chain disruptions. Bringing home the production of vital goods and services would contribute to national security, economic opportunity, and perhaps even, to borrow the words of the Constitution, domestic tranquility.
For questions, concerns, or comments, call my Abingdon office at (276) 525-1405, my Christiansburg office at (540) 381-5671, my Washington office at (202) 225-3861, or via email at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.