Politics of Kansas supply chain woe boils down to sweet potatoes, semiconductors

Kelly joins governors to press for federal bill boosting domestic chip production

By: - November 18, 2021 11:13 am
U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., said rising consumer inflation had increase the cost of components of a typical Thanksgiving meal. He blamed the administration of President Joe Biden's spending policies for rising prices. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., said rising consumer inflation had increase the cost of components of a typical Thanksgiving meal. He blamed the administration of President Joe Biden’s spending policies for rising prices. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly joined eight other governors Thursday to urge adoption by Congress of legislation to turbocharge U.S. production of semiconductors essential to automakers and other manufacturers struggling with supply chain issues.

Kelly said an incentive program to increase domestic chip production was included in a bill adopted by the U.S. Senate, which earmarked $52 billion to semiconductor production and research. Of the total, $2 billion would support manufacturing of “mature node” semiconductors used by automakers as well as makers of medical devices and agricultural machinery.

“As the global semiconductor shortage continues to challenge our automotive manufacturing industry and threaten our supply chain, it is critical that Congress take immediate action on the CHIPS Act,” Kelly said.

Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, joined a bipartisan coalition of governors to seek passage by Congress of legislation that would incentivize domestic production of semiconductors needed by the auto industry and other manufacturers. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

She said Kansas joined with governors of Alabama, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to compel Congress to “to deliver solutions for our auto manufacturing industry that will secure our supply chain, create jobs, protect our workers, and further strengthen our state’s already booming economy.”

At the same time in Washington, D.C, Republicans in the Kansas congressional delegation asserted budget and spending priorities of President Joe Biden contributed to inflation and supply problems and higher prices of typical components of a Thanksgiving meal.

U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall, both Kansas Republicans, took part in a news conference highlighting their concern about consumer prices. They made use of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday to make a point about disruptions in the supply chain and the scarcity of turkeys, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and pies. Availability of those four items has been constricted in 2021 by 20% to 60%.

“What is Thanksgiving meal without sweet potatoes?” Marshall said. “These supply crises are created by the policies of this White House.”

He said the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the cost of a basket of groceries escalated in the past year, including turkeys, up 18%; green beans, up 39%; and eggs, bacon and butter, all up 30%.

“Soaring inflation and supply chain woes will make this Thanksgiving our most expensive in history,” Moran said. “Inflation is hurting everyone, from those at the checkout counter to farmers and ranchers producing food for our Thanksgiving tables.”

Moran, co-chair of the Senate’s hunger caucus, said demand for assistance at food banks had grown as more people struggled with grocery bills.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, the GOP congressman from the 2nd District of eastern Kansas, said he was concerned with the Biden administration’s order that federal workers be vaccinated for COVID-19. He said it could undercut the nation’s food supply, economy and national security.

He said applying the directive to U.S. Department of Agriculture employees might lead to staffing shortages and exacerbate vacancies at the Farm Service Agency, which provides programs and services to U.S. farmers and ranchers.

“If the USDA pushes forward with these mandates, we will undoubtedly see a spike in FSA vacancies, making it harder for Kansas farmers and ranchers to feed, fuel and clothe our nation,” LaTurner said.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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