By Dave Ongie, Managing Editor
The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in high inflation, a continuation of supply chain issues and a fear of food insecurity in part because of an ongoing war in the Ukraine.
The challenges being faced by her constituents were on Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger’s mind during a recent visit with the editorial staff of the News & Neighbor. Citing a statistic that grocery prices are up 43 percent, Harshbarger said the pain of inflation is hitting home in Tennessee’s First Congressional District.
“When it gets to a point when people have to decide whether to buy groceries or buy their medicine, it’s a huge issue,” Harshbarger said.
Small business owners are also feeling the heat as supply chain issues continue to make inventory hard to get, and higher gas prices and wholesale prices are forcing them to pass those expenses on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Harshbarger said the supply chain issues that have plagued the economy throughout the pandemic are a direct result of being dependent on foreign countries.
The prospect of medicine and food shortages are particularly concerning to Harshbarger. Through her role on the Homeland Security committee, she was able to extend the critical infrastructure designation of a Bristol facility that is the only one in the nation to produce penicillin from fe
rmentation to the end product.
With 90 percent of our active pharmaceutical ingredients coming from China, which Harshbarger considers to be our greatest threat, she is pushing for more of our medicines to be produced at home.
“Honestly, they don’t have to drop a bomb,” she said. “They just have to cut our medicine supply off.”
In that same vein, Harshbarger is thrilled to see a meat processing plant being placed in Washington County. Currently, there are only four such facilities in the country.
“We want to bring industry up here to where we can say we want to be able to be self-sufficient in this country,” she said.