RELEASE: At ShopRite, Gottheimer Announces New Steps to Lower Grocery Costs for Jersey Families, Part of Affordability Agenda for Jersey — Taking On Meat & Poultry Monopolies, Price Fixing

Jul 13, 2022
Press

Voting this week on new bipartisan legislation to help tackle rising food prices & supply chain crisis

Above: Gottheimer today at ShopRite in Emerson to discuss steps to lower food costs.

EMERSON, NJ — Today, June 13, 2022, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) visited ShopRite in Emerson to announce new concrete steps in his Affordability Agenda for Jersey, to get grocery prices down for Jersey families, particularly for meat, poultry, and produce, and to lower gas and energy prices. 

This week, Gottheimer will be voting for a series of bills in Congress that will help lower the cost of a family’s grocery bill, tackle rising food prices and the supply chain crisis, and take action against any meat or poultry companies that are colluding and making profits on the backs of hard-working middle class families. Post-COVID supply chain issues, the war in Ukraine, and collusion in meat and poultry industries have contributed to the rise in food costs.

Gottheimer also continued to call on the President 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. Nearly a third of food production costs are energy-related. 

New steps Gottheimer announced today to lower grocery costs in his Affordability Agenda for Jersey:

  • Stopping Collusion and Price Fixing from Major Meat and Poultry Companies: This week, the House is considering Gottheimer-backed bipartisan legislation, 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. If a company is found to be price fixing or colluding to jack up the cost of meat or poultry, then the special investigator must promptly take action and punish the company and individuals involved.
  • Fixing the Food Supply Chain & Getting More Goods to Shelves Faster: This week, the House is considering Gottheimer-backed bipartisan legislation to strengthen the food supply chain and get more goods to grocery store shelves faster. 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. 
  • Assisting Struggling Livestock & Meat Producers: This week, the House is considering Gottheimer-backed bipartisan legislation, the Butcher Block Act, to 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.
  • Supporting Small and Medium-sized Agricultural Producers: Gottheimer is pushing for the House to pass the bipartisan American Food Supply Chain Resiliency Act to ensure that small and medium-sized farmers, ranchers, and rural businesses — like the family-owned farms in in Sussex and Warren Counties — have the support and assistance they need to navigate supply chain challenges. 

“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. That’s why I’m focused day and night on concrete steps we can take to make life more affordable for families in Jersey,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “That’s what my Affordability Agenda for Jersey is all about — to help get grocery prices down for Jersey families, particularly for meat, poultry, and produce. This week, I will be voting for a series of bills in Congress that will help lower the cost of a family’s grocery bill, tackle rising food prices and the supply chain crisis, and take action against any meat or poultry companies that are colluding and making insane profits on the backs of our hard-working middle class families.”

“I got to meet Josh many years ago when he was first elected to Congress, and we met with him, and it was a unique experience because what he was talking about was not just the same rhetoric of whatever his party line tells him to speak about. He wasn’t talking only about what he was reading from a cue card. He came off the cuff. He talked about what the people who elected him wanted in the area he was elected,” said Lawrence Inserra III, CEO of Inserra Supermarkets. “He stood up for the principle of going piece by piece to try to find solutions for things, not just trying to pass off problems as something he couldn’t control. We’re just grateful to have him here.”

Gottheimer was joined today by Inserra Supermarkets CEO Lawrence Inserra III, Bergen County Commissioner Mary Amoroso, Bergen County Commissioner Germaine Ortiz, and Bergen County Commissioner Tom Sullivan.

Other key steps Gottheimer is taking as a part of his Affordability Agenda for Jersey include:

  • “Strategic Shipping Reserve”: Gottheimer has called for the Administration to utilize the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) as a new “Strategic Shipping Reserve” to move critical goods in the oceans — as they are now doing with Operation Fly Formula, following Gottheimer successfully pushing the Administration to invoke the Defense Production Act. TRANSCOM has ships ready and waiting around the country that can handle containers to help address supply chain issues. 
  • “Ports that Perform” Incentives: In an effort to compete with the five major ocean carriers (all foreign-owned), boost our economy, and tackle supply chain issues, Gottheimer has called for ports like Newark that move goods faster to be given financial incentives, including to the port operators, truckers, and the men and women of the International Longshoremen’s Association. This will incentivize and further boost port efficiency.
  • The COVID-19 Supply Chain Relief Act: Gottheimer introduced bipartisan legislation that will (1) institute a federal Supply Chain Czar and establish individual regional supply chain leaders to help coordinate interstate response to supply chain disruptions, shortages, and increased prices; (2) allow states to deploy unused COVID-19 relief funds to help address supply chain bottlenecks in their states; and (3) begin a thirty-day countdown clock on the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Transportation to report to Congress and the public on the major current chokepoints in our nation’s supply chain.
  • All-of-the-Above Energy Plan: Gottheimer’s plan to help lower oil & gas prices includes (1) U.S. energy producers ramping up domestic production, utilizing existing wells, (2) ending America’s reliance on Russian, Iran, & Venezuelan oil, and (3) maintaining our long-term climate and alternative energy goals. Gottheimer has called on the President to sit down with oil and gas companies to discuss how we can immediately utilize existing leases to increase domestic production.

Watch the announcement here.

Below: Gottheimer with Inserra Supermarkets CEO Lawrence Inserra.

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Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

I want to thank everyone who works here at ShopRite in Emerson, which dates back to the early 1980s, my good friend Lawrence Inserra, and his entire family for not only welcoming me here today, but for all they do for families of Northern New Jersey. Inserra Supermarkets are headquartered here in the Fifth District in Mahwah, and I’m very proud of that. They operate more than twenty ShopRites in Jersey and employ nearly 4,800 people across our communities, and serve thousands of residents here in Bergen County every single day. 

Everyone loves their local ShopRite — we all grew up going to them with our parents and now we take our kids. Saying you’re running to ShopRite — not the supermarket or grocery store — has become part of regular Jersey lingo. And more, importantly, since 1954, when New Jersey butchers Patsy and Antoinette Inserra established their family grocery store, the Inserras — and ShopRite — have always given back to every town they’re in – to baseball and football teams, to schools, to hospitals, to charities – you name it. 

I’ve always loved ShopRite for their great food and products at reasonable prices. But, 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. Between COVID-streteched supply chains impacting the global market, the war in Ukraine and its impact on food supply and oil prices, and monopolist price gouging especially in the meat and chicken supply — costs are through the roof. This isn’t good for business and it certainly isn’t good for families across North Jersey.

That’s why I am here today to announce new steps in my Affordability Agenda for Jersey — to help get the price of groceries down, especially for meat, poultry, and other domestic produce. 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. 

You can’t sit back idly. We need to continue to take action in Congress and the President needs to act aggressively and decisively. And Congress will be acting this week on new legislation on meat, poultry, and agriculture prices. 

Two years ago, no one could have predicted the havoc COVID would wreak on society. 

We took the reach of the global economy and the ease of getting everything with a click of a button or a walk down the grocery aisle for granted — and we expected things like toilet paper, meat, poultry, and produce to always be in stock and at a reasonable price. 

By late spring of 2020, everything we knew as normal changed. Ports were shut down. The price of shipping on large container ships skyrocketed from $1,200 to $30,000 for an individual container — affecting those low prices we became accustomed to. It took weeks or even months to get goods from around the world. 

It was clearer than ever just how dependent we were on foreign countries for so much of what we needed — from paper towels to ventilators to the pharmaceutical ingredients in our vaccinations and treatments, to food to the semiconductors in cars, computers, and iPhones. 

And now, two years later, the COVID economy — as well as new factors — continue to wreak havoc on the supply chain and on prices for consumers — including for groceries. And we are still far too dependent on foreign manufacturers. Every time it looks like we are about to get out of the woods, another port in Shanghai, Shenzhen, or near Beijing closes down because of a new outbreak, putting an immense strain on the supply chain and causing prices to rise.

While getting better, the global shipping supply chain — and the domestic chain — are still clogged and expensive. Demand for boxcars and trucks are still backed-up and out-stripping supply and, as a result, prices to ship are far higher than before the pandemic.

And then there is the horrific and heart wrenching war in Ukraine, which has only added to our supply chain crunch. 

Putin’s inhumane invasion has had devastating, destabilizing effects on the global gas and oil markets, sending prices surging. And it’s had a huge impact on grain, which has led to an increase in price for everything from deliveries to food production. 

To put this in perspective, Russia and Ukraine, together, comprise nearly one-third of global wheat supplies. Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower oil and canola oil. 

Russia provides roughly 10 percent of the global supply of oil – one of the three top oil producers in the world. And Russia is the top global provider of fertilizer, which is key to agriculture – and fertilizer prices have more than doubled from a year ago.

Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine was seen as the world’s breadbasket — contributing 42 percent of the sunflower oil traded on the global market, 16 percent of the maize, and nearly 10 percent of the wheat. But with Russia’s self-imposed restrictions on their exports and Putin’s blockade on Ukraine’s ports, the supply of goods has drastically slowed down, resulting in increased costs and shortages. Many believe that Putin is literally holding food hostage for millions around the world.

For many stores, including supermarkets like ShopRite, it can still cost double to get a container shipped from Europe than what it used to. 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. 

If the post-COVID supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine weren’t bad enough for the cost of groceries, there are now more reports of price fixing and collusion in the meat and poultry industries, too. 

As we speak, the U.S. Department of Justice is prosecuting a case of poultry companies conspiring to drive up the price of chicken. But it doesn’t stop at poultry — there are also pending lawsuits about accusations of price fixing in the pork and beef sectors. It’s not hard to figure out what’s going on. The four biggest beef-packing firms control 82 percent of the market. Not the ranchers – the packers. 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. 

In February, Brazilian meatpacker JBS., the largest meat processing company in the world, and its U.S. affiliates agreed to pay $52.5 million to settle litigation alleging that the company and other packing giants colluded to drive up the price of beef. In December, the White House released a scathing report about how profits in the meat-packing sector have spectacularly increased by more than 300 percent since the start of the pandemic.

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.

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. The price of monopoly-sourced meat, poultry, and fish alone saw a more than 14 percent year-over-year increase. 

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. We need bipartisan action now. And we need to work together to make that happen. 

That’s why I’m focused day and night on concrete steps we can take to make life more affordable for families in Jersey – to get the supply chain moving, to get food and gas prices down for families, and deal with the impact of the post-COVID-19 economy. 

In recent weeks, I’ve announced an All-of-the-Above Energy Plan to help get domestic capacity up and gas prices down, reduce our dependence on foreign producers like Russia, Venezuela, and Iran, and achieve our longer-term, critical climate objectives. That’s why I’m continuing to call on the President to sit down with oil and gas companies to discuss how we can immediately utilize existing leases to increase domestic production and help lower gas prices here now. Just last week, the President said that American oil companies aren’t drilling more, even though there are reports that they have nearly 9,000 permits to drill. 

We need to get the domestic oil and gas companies into hyper speed and ramp up oil and gas production to meet demand. 

The answer is not to rely on communists and terrorist states to replace Russian oil, and there are plenty of existing domestic permits outstanding. 

We also took action and passed legislation in the House to restore the State and Local Tax Deduction, or SALT, to cut property taxes, lower child care and prescription drug costs, including capping the price of insulin to $35 dollars a month. That will help make life a little more affordable. 

That’s on top of what I announced to help get our global supply chain moving – and get the costs of supplies for families like toilet paper down. While it will take time to fix our crumbling rail, roads, and ports infrastructure under our recently-enacted Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, we can take other steps to help right now. I introduced my own bipartisan supply chain legislation, the COVID-19 Supply Chain Relief Act — to help tackle this ongoing crisis. It will put a federal Supply Chain Czar in place, to help coordinate with us here in New Jersey and New York, including our ports, trucks, and rails. 

I recently — and successfully — pushed the Administration to invoke the Defense Production Act to produce more baby formula, and called for the Administration to utilize the U.S. Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) as a new “Strategic Shipping Reserve” to move critical goods through non combat military ships — like they’re now doing with Operation Fly Formula.

Also, in an effort to compete with the five major ocean carriers — which are all foreign-owned — I’ve called for ports like Newark, which move goods faster, to be given financial incentives, including to the port operators, truckers, and the men and women of the International Longshoremen’s Association. These new “Ports that Perform” incentives will further boost port efficiency. 

That’s all about getting supply moving and prices at stores like this one down.

That’s what my Affordability Agenda for Jersey is all about. I’m here today to announce the next concrete step in my Affordability Agenda, to help get grocery prices down for Jersey families, particularly for meat, poultry, and produce. This week, we will be voting on a series of bills in Congress that will help lower the cost of a family’s grocery bill and tackle rising food prices.

First, we need to immediately take action against any meat or poultry companies that have, or are continuing to collude and make insane, usurious profits on the backs of our hard-working middle class families. I’m a capitalist, and one of the core views of any capitalist is competition. Monopolists that collude to corner a market aren’t capitalists. They’re crooks.

That’s why I’m cosponsoring bipartisan legislation — the bipartisan Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act — directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to appoint a special investigator to strictly enforce price-fixing laws on the books for the meat packing industry. If a company is found to be price fixing or colluding to jack up the cost of meat or poultry, then the special investigator must promptly take action and punish the company and individuals involved. This will help create much needed competition in the meat and poultry industry, and help get prices down in the meat aisle of grocery stores.  

Second, I’m voting this week to move bipartisan legislation I cosponsored through the House that will strengthen the food supply chain and get more goods faster to grocery store shelves. 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. 

Third, we also need to identify which livestock and meat producers need assistance to help jumpstart the supply chain and get meat moving. That’s why I’m also cosponsoring and voting for this week on the bipartisan Butcher Block Act that will help create new and expand current livestock and meat processing capacity where it’s needed across the country. 

Fourth, we need to make sure we’re supporting our small and medium-sized agricultural producers because they are key to strengthening our agriculture supply chains. It’s easy to forget that much of our produce comes from family-owned farms across our great nation, including right here in my District in Sussex and Warren Counties. 

The effects of rising costs and supply chain issues are hitting them hard too, which is why I’m working to pass legislation — the bipartisan American Food Supply Chain Resiliency Act of 2022 — to ensure that farmers, ranchers, and rural businesses here in Jersey and across the country have the support and assistance they need to navigate supply chain challenges. We know this is an issue and we need to help our family-owned farms. 

These steps build on what I’ve already fought for and passed, including my legislation that passed the House in 2020 to encourage congressional support for family-owned dairy farms in Northwestern New Jersey facing economic challenges due to the pandemic.

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. We need to address our supply chain, ensure greater competition in the food industry, take an All-of-the-Above approach to energy, and increase domestic production and manufacturing. That’s what my Affordability Agenda for Jersey is all about — and I’m working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle on new legislation right now. I’m looking forward to getting this meat and poultry collusion bill over to the Senate this week — and then to the President’s desk.

Working together, Democrats and Republicans, here in the greatest country in the world, I know that our best days will always be ahead of us. Thank you and God bless you.

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