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Pingree, Lawmakers to President Biden: Use Executive Authority to Lower Food Prices

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Maine First District Congresswoman Chellie Pingree joined a bicameral group of her colleagues in Congress in encouraging the Biden-Harris Administration to use its executive authority to lower food prices for families. In a letter to President Joe Biden, the lawmakers—led by Congressman James P. McGovern (D-Mass.) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—note how corporations have been raking in record profits while families are being hit with higher costs for groceries, and they outline several executive actions that the Biden administration should take.

“The federal government should use every possible tool to lower food prices,” wrote the lawmakers. “We believe you can exercise your executive authority to take additional action to address rising food prices without congressional action.”

Americans are facing sky-high food prices, caused by excessive price gouging by food and grocery giants. A small group of players dominate those industries: four grocery retailers account for over a third of national grocery sales and four food companies control more than 60 percent of sales in most grocery categories. As a result, consumers are spending more of their income on food than they have in the past 30 years.

“These companies have raked in record profits in recent years, with CEOs bragging on earnings calls about how their price hikes exceed inflation. Between 2020 and 2021, researchers found that corporate profits accounted for more than 50% of food price increases, whereas they accounted for only 11% of increases in the four decades prior,” the lawmakers wrote.

While some corporations may point to rising inflation, grocery price increases have outpaced inflation, with families paying 25% more for groceries as compared to before the pandemic. These higher prices hit low-income families the hardest: in 2022, the bottom fifth of the income spectrum spent 25% of their income on groceries, compared to less than 3.5% for the highest fifth.

“Americans across the political spectrum have pointed to the cost of food and groceries as their top concern related to inflation,” wrote the lawmakers. “These proposals are just examples of the additional actions your Administration can take to help families at the grocery store. The American people are relying on your Administration to combat corporate greed and higher food prices.”

The full letter is available online here

Even as inflation has steadily cooled under Biden’s leadership, big food companies’ profit margins have skyrocketed while the price of food remains stubbornly high. Last year, a damning Senate report found 10% of recent price hikes on food were attributable to companies’ reducing the number of items in a bag. As a senior House Appropriator and member of the House Agriculture Committee charged with drafting a new Farm Bill, Pingree has been vocal on the issue of “shrinkflation” greed among big corporations and working to stave off harmful Republican cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). 

With President Biden putting a focus on food costs and shrinkflation during his State of the Union, Pingree invited Heather Paquette, president of Good Shepherd Food Bank of Maine, to be her guest for the President’s address to Congress.

Pingree has been a stalwart defender of SNAP and WIC – demanding that these programs remain intact and pushing for funding increases. In an Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing last spring, Pingree confronted her Republican colleagues about how hard it is to stretch SNAP dollars and dared them to imagine eating on just $6 a day


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