RIVERTON, Utah — Sen. Mike Lee paid a local business owner a visit Friday to discuss the impacts of inflation on food prices.
Brandon Peterson said he wasn’t sure his family’s business in Riverton would make it through the pandemic, but now they face the challenges of labor shortages and rising prices.
Peterson’s great-grandfather started Peterson’s Fresh Market in 1938.
“Five years into that business, we were in a World War,” said Peterson. “I think we’re pretty resilient to those challenges.”
What began with three employees has now evolved to a store with more than 100 workers and room to grow — something Peterson wasn’t sure would be possible two years ago.
“When COVID first started and we were in the peak of pandemic buying, I was probably the most scared I have been in my life,” he said.
Now, labor shortages and supply chain issues have presented Peterson with another set of challenges.
“Inbound freight costs, fuel costs, packaging costs, all of those have increased and so we have to pass those increased costs along to consumers,” said Peterson. “It’s painful. We’re not making any more money at those higher prices.”
This new challenge is what brought Lee to Peterson's Fresh Market on Friday.
Utah’s senior senator said a lot of the inflation has been caused by government spending.
“Here’s the tricky thing about inflation,” said Lee. “Not always, but generally speaking, when prices go up, they tend to not go back down right away.”
Lee also believes the supply chain issues have had a huge impact on rising prices.
That’s why Lee is proposing a bill that can hopefully change some of the regulations that slow suppliers down.
The “Stop the Grinch Act” was first proposed to the Senate by Lee in November 2021.
The bill would modify government regulations for suppliers, like lowering the age required for a commercial driver’s license.
“This wouldn’t solve all of our supply chain problems, but it would meaningfully address a whole lot of them,” said Lee.
Steve Bannister, who teaches economics at the University of Utah, said economists have proved government spending does not influence inflation.
However, Bannister agrees with the direction of Lee’s bill.
Ultimately, he believes time will heal the market.
“Normally it takes care of itself. It’s self-healing at the end of the day,” said Bannister. “Acute observers that I follow and economists are saying inflation, except for low-income families, is not as bad as people feel it is.”
The Stop the Grinch Act has been referred to the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which Lee is assigned to.