Up to $14 Billion CFAP 2 Payouts; Details Released

Posted on 09/18/2020 8:15 AM

As expected, USDA Deputy Sec. Censky returning to ASA as CEO

 


In Today’s Updates


 

Market Focus:
* USDA announces more sales of soybeans, corn to China
* Saudi Energy Minister has a clear warning for oil speculators
* Finance executives at major U.S. companies expect corporate tax rates to rise
* World Bank chief economist: full global recovery from Covid-19 may take five years
* Fed mulls extension of bank dividend curbs
* Bank of England held its benchmark policy rate at 0.1%, but...
* CME, Nasdaq announce new California water futures contract
* Japan using more corn in its feed mix
• Unusually high demand for hedges against a credit market selloff in Nov.

• Rebound in Chinese car sales widening price gap between palladium and platinum

 

Policy Focus:
* CFAP 2 price tag: up to $14 billion
• CFAP 2 details
* Frequently upset ethanol proponents are mad again
* Stabenow again complains about how USDA aid programs are implemented
• USDA approves another $1 billion in food box contracts

 

U.S./China update:
* China conducted military drills near Taiwan
* Trump administration asking gaming companies to provide information
* Partnership keeping Germany’s economy tethered to China’s is unraveling
* USDA's FAS puts perspective on China's big buys of U.S. soybeans
* China scooping up barley from Ukraine


U.S. food & beverage industry update:
* Blue Bell Creameries must pay more than $17 million penalties


Update on re-opening America... and around the world:
* Restaurants hit the hardest, many will no re-open
* Another delay for NYC schools


Coronavirus update:
* New coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose above 44,000 first time in nearly a week
* WHO sounds alarm about a resurgence of Covid-19 in Europe

 

Politics & Elections:
* First in-person voting precincts open for business today
* New survey results from KFF/Cook Political Report survey
* Pa. Supreme Court strikes Green Party presidential ticket from ballot
* Pa. Supreme Court extends state’s deadline for accepting mail-in ballots
* FiveThirtyEight puts odds of Joe Biden winning electoral college at 75.9%
* Director of the FBI warned Russia interfering in America’s presidential election
* David Wasserman at Cook Political Report changing rating of three House seats


Other Items of Note:
* USDA Deputy Secretary Steve Censky to return to ASA
* Comey to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee
* U.S. government worked closely with German chemical giant Bayer
* German laboratory detected traces of Novichok on a water bottle
* WTO gets closer to a new leader
* Lawmakers preparing a stopgap government funding measure
* Trucking industry is again calling on Congress
* Cotton AWP moves higher
* Amazon a lucrative USPS customer
* President of the EU's executive arm still believes a trade deal with Britain possible

 


MARKET FOCUS


 

Equities today: Global stocks were mixed. Most European stocks were down but Asian stocks mostly rose. The Shanghai Composite Index led gains in Asia, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 was largely flat. Dow futures are pointing to a slightly lower open and Nasdaq 100 futures are indicating a rise of 0.4%. S&P 500 futures are flat. It is quad witching day, which refers to the simultaneous expiration of market index futures, stock futures, market index options and stock options. "These days tend to get a lot of press for all of the volume they create, but historically they are nearly always a non-event," said Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial.

 

     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow finished down 130.40 points, 0.47%, at 27,901.98. The Nasdaq declined 140.19 points, 1.27%, at 10,910.28. The S&P 500 lost 28.48 points, 0.84%, at 3,357.01.

 

On tap today:

 

     • CFTC Commitments of Traders report, 4 p.m. ET.
     • U.S. current account deficit for the second quarter is expected to widen to $164.2 billion from $104.2 billion in the previous quarter. (8:30 a.m. ET)
     • University of Michigan's preliminary consumer sentiment index for September is expected to rise to 75.4 from 74.1 at the end of August. (10 a.m. ET)
     • St. Louis Fed President James Bullard speaks at 10 a.m. ET and Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic speaks at 12 p.m. ET.
     • Baker Hughes rig count is out at 1 p.m. ET.

 

Finance executives at major U.S. companies expect corporate tax rates to rise following the presidential election in November — no matter who wins. Some 70% of executives anticipate higher tax rates after the poll, reflecting expectations that the government will have to fund recent stimulus spending, tax deferrals and other federal coronavirus-related relief, according to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

 

    Corporate taxes

 

World Bank chief economist Carmen Reinhart says full global recovery from the Covid-19 crisis may take five years. "Everything depends" on when a vaccine gets approved and how long it would take for global access, she said at a virtual conference hosted by El Pais. Reinhart pointed out that the pandemic-caused recession will be more prominent and last longer in some countries than in others.

 

Fed mulls extension of bank dividend curbs. Due to heightened economic uncertainty, the Federal Reserve is considering extending its caps on banks' dividends and stock repurchases for the rest of the year. The U.S. central bank made the announcement along with its release of hypothetical scenarios for the second round of stress tests that it's requiring due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Unlike an earlier round of stress tests this year, the Fed will release the results of the tests for each of the 33 lenders, rather than providing aggregate results for the group.

 

Bank of England held its benchmark policy rate at 0.1% on Thursday, but indicated it could cut interest rates below zero for the first time in its 326-year history. While recent domestic economic data has been a bit stronger than expected, it's "unclear how the economy will perform further out," according to the Monetary Policy Committee. Another major risk facing the U.K. economy relates to the post-Brexit trade discussions between the U.K. and the EU, which have recently soured.

 

Market perspectives:

 

     • USDA announced the following daily export sales:

       
— Export sales of 210,000 metric tons of corn received during the reporting period for delivery to China during the 2020-2021 marketing year;
        — Export sales of 132,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to China during the 2020-2021 marketing year; and
        — Export sales of 100,000 metric tons of soybean meal for delivery to unknown destinations during the 2020-2021 marketing year.

 

CME, Nasdaq announce new California water futures contract. The CME Group and the Nasdaq Thursday announced a new futures market is expected to be launched in the fourth quarter on the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index (NQH2O). CME Group will launch its new Nasdaq Veles California Water Index futures contract that will allow agricultural, commercial and municipal water users to have “greater transparency, price discovery, and risk transfer — all of which can help to more efficiently align supply and demand of this vital resource,” the exchange said in announcing the effort. The contract will create a “forward curve” for water users to hedge future price risk, the exchange said, allowing an agricultural producer to plan ahead for changing costs of the water they need for large-scale irrigation. The new California water futures contract will be financially settled based on the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index launched in 2018, with each contract representing 10 acre-feet of water.

 

        • Japan using more corn in its feed mix. Japan’s use of corn in animal feed rations climbed 0.4 percentage points from June to 49.7% in July, which is 0.7 points higher than last year at this time. In contrast, its sorghum and wheat use in feed were down from year-ago in July at 1.5% each. Barley use in the mix held steady with month and year-ago at 3.5%.

 

        • In options markets, there is unusually high demand for hedges against a credit market selloff in November, when the election takes place, according to analysts.

 

        • Crude oil prices are firmer ahead of the U.S. trading start, but not straying far from levels seen in Asian trading earlier. US crude remains around $41 per barrel with Brent around $43.35 per barrel. In Asia action, crude prices were little changed. U.S. crude was up four cents at $41.01 per barrel while Brent crude rose seven cents at $43.37 per barrel.

 

     • Saudi energy minister warns on OPEC compliance. Overproduction by some OPEC members was called out by Saudi Energy Minister Price Abdulaziz bin Salman as OPEC+ ministers held their virtual meeting Thursday. “Using tactics to overproduce and hide non-compliance have been tried many times in the past, and always end in failure,” he said. “They achieve nothing and bring harm to our credibility.” While not naming those who are evading the commitments, the Financial Times indicated they could be directed at the United Arab Emirates, a country that is among those overproducing. “Any actions of statements that cast doubts on our commitment and resolve send the wrong signal and undermine the stability of the market,” the Saudi minister said. International Energy Agency (IEA) data has indicated that the UAE produced 420,000 barrels per day above their quota in July and also exceeded their slightly higher quota in August. The UAE disputes the IEA data, but admits they have produced higher amounts than they should have and has said it will compensate for that extra output. Abdulaziz did not comment after the meeting on whether OPEC+ would take additional action to stabilize the market, but warned, “I want to make this market jumpy,” warning those trying to speculate on the oil price direction will be “ouching like hell.” The UAE has not been along in overproduction, as Saudi Arabia has also pushed for countries like Iraq and Nigeria that are also overproducing to compensate for those actions.

 

     • A strong rebound in Chinese car sales is helping to widen the price gap between palladium and its sister metal platinum. As key ingredients in catalytic converters, both metals are at the forefront of global efforts to reduce the harmful emissions from car exhausts. But the price of platinum, which is used in diesel-engine catalytic converters, has stagnated as those cars have lost ground to gasoline-powered automobiles, which use palladium. That trend is intensifying as China’s gasoline-dominated auto markets rebound, while Europe’s diesel-heavy car sector struggles, the Wall Street Journal reports (link).

 

    Plat

 


POLICY FOCUS


 

CFAP 2 price tag: up to $14 billion. President Trump announced during a campaign event Thursday evening in Wisconsin that the new CFAP would total $13 billion, but USDA info this morning puts it at “up to $14 billion.” Implementation details are out, see next item.

     Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said that CFAP 2 is being provided using the $14 billion in the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In April, the administration unveiled $19 billion in relief for the agriculture sector under the CARES Act, including $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers and $3 billion in purchases of dairy, meat and produce.

 

      Before announcing the new coronavirus relief on Thursday, Trump also talked up his trade mitigation programs since 2018, asking the crowd, “Did everybody get that money? The farmers have had a very good year,” he added.

 

Highlights of CFAP 2.
 

     • Enrollment starts Monday, Sept. 21. Deadline for signup is Dec. 11.

 

     • Plan is to compensate farmers for losses related to Covid-19 since April 15.

 

     • Additional information and application forms can be found at farmers.gov/cfap. Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested. All other eligibility forms, such as those related to adjusted gross income and payment information, can be downloaded from farmers.gov/cfap/apply. For existing FSA customers, including those who participated in CFAP 1, many documents are likely already on file. Producers should check with FSA county office to see if any of the forms need to be updated.
 

     Customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP 2 application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance. This is a recommended first step before a producer engages with the team at the FSA county office.

     • New commodities qualifying for CFAP 2 include goats, bison, mohair, tobacco, hemp, mink and three classes of wheat: soft red winter, hard red winter, and white. Other eligible commodities include barley, corn, sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, upland cotton, all classes of wheat, milk, broilers, eggs, beef cattle, hogs, lambs and sheep.

     • USDA Sec. Perdue comments: “We listened to feedback received from farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations about the impact of the pandemic on our nation's farms and ranches, and we developed a program to better meet the needs of those impacted.”

 

     • In CFAP 1, commodities generally qualified for payments if their price had declined by at least 5% for a specified time period, generally between January and April 15. Under CFAP 2, the 5% price decline will continue to be one of the three methods used to determine eligibility, and the time period will be based on the comparison of average prices for the week of January 13-17 and July 27-31, 2020.

     • Payments for “price trigger” crops will be calculated using the greater of the 2020 planted acres multiplied by $15 per acre; or the eligible acres multiplied by a nationwide crop marketing percentage, multiplied by a crop-specific payment rate, and then by the producer’s weighted 2020 Actual Production History (APH) approved yield. If an APH isn’t available for the farmer, CFAP yield will be 85% of the benchmark yield used for the Agriculture Risk Coverage-County Option program.

     • Poultry and livestock will be paid as follows (payment rates for livestock and poultry not included in USDA details):

     — Beef cattle, hogs and pigs, and lambs and sheep payments based on the maximum owned inventory of eligible livestock, excluding breeding stock, on a date selected by the producer between April 16 and Aug. 31.
      — Broilers and egg payments based on 75% of the farm’s 2019 production.
      — Dairy payments based on actual production from April 1 to Aug. 31 and an estimate by the Farm Service Agency of production from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31.

     • Crops such as hemp that don’t qualify for payments under the price-trigger method because they didn’t have a 5% price decline or don’t have sufficient price data available can qualify for payments at a flat rate of $15 per acre.

     • Crops that will qualify for the flat rate include alfalfa, extra long staple cotton, oats, peanuts, rice, hemp, millet, mustard, safflower, sesame, triticale, and rapeseed.

     • Third category of commodities can qualify for payments based on sales. Sales commodities include specialty crops; aquaculture; nursery crops and floriculture; other commodities not included in the price trigger and flat-rate categories, including tobacco; goat milk; mink (including pelts); mohair; wool; and other livestock (excluding breeding stock) not included under the price trigger category that were grown for food, fiber, fur, or feathers. Payment calculations will use a sales-based approach, where producers are paid based on five payment gradations associated with their 2019 sales.

Additional commodities are eligible in CFAP 2 that weren’t eligible in the first iteration of the program. If an agricultural operation has been impacted by the pandemic since April 2020, USDA encourages farmers to apply for CFAP 2. A complete list of eligible commodities, payment rates and calculations can be found on farmers.gov/cfap.

 

     • There is a payment limitation of $250,000 per person or entity for all commodities combined. Applicants who are corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships may qualify for additional payment limits when members actively provide personal labor or personal management for the farming operation. In addition, this special payment limitation provision has been expanded to include trusts and estates for both CFAP 1 and 2.
 

     Producers will also have to certify they meet the Adjusted Gross Income limitation of $900,000 unless at least 75 percent or more of their income is derived from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities. Producers must also be in compliance with Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions.

 

Frequently upset ethanol proponents are mad again. This time over reports that someone else may get up to $300 million in aid using conjectured Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) or other USDA funding. The someone else is some small refiners. The biofuel industry is being joined by farm-state lawmakers who say USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said he could not tap the ATM-like CCC funding pool to aid ethanol producers, saying he needed congressional authorization.

 

     Former USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, who is advising Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, commented on the issue during a telephone call to reporters Thursday sponsored by Focus on Rural America, a nonprofit progressive group cofounded by former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, a Democrat, who also took part in the call. Vilsack said, “This is adding insult to injury” because the Trump administration had not provided targeted aid to the ethanol industry amid the downturn in gasoline consumption due to the coronavirus pandemic, and now might use taxpayer money intended to farmers for “a payment to Big Oil.” Both Vilsack and Judge said that the Trump administration’s announcement earlier this week that the Environmental Protection Agency would not grant past year waivers to oil companies that had applied for them did not amount to much, because a court had already ruled that EPA had exceeded its authority in issuing waivers.

 

     Some in the oil industry are also upset. A spokesperson for the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, which represents U.S. refining companies, said the industry did not support the plan: “If the administration truly wants to make things right with refiners, they need to prioritize making the RFS less expensive so it’s not a threat to good manufacturing jobs.”

 

     One of the best complainers in Congress is Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). She also criticized the possibility of payments to oil companies in a Senate floor speech Thursday. “It is outrageous for the administration to even consider taking away millions from our farmers to bail out Big Oil,” Stabenow said. “Over and over, the Trump administration has sided with oil companies over family farmers. This would be yet another insult to hard-working biofuel producers who are already struggling under a mismanaged RFS program and an erratic trade policy. It’s time for the president to stop paying lip service to farmers and stand up for American agriculture.”

 

     Judge's complaints were expanded to President Trump's E15 tweet last weekend. She said that Iowans were not impressed by President Trump’s tweet that E15 gasoline could be sold in E10 pumps unless states objected to it. Judge said that the tweet was “an election year stunt” that implied it would be easy to make the transition to E15. She noted that it would be mislabeling to sell E15 from an E10 pump and that the mislabeling would be illegal. “We want to see E15 year round, but that is not going to happen between now and Nov. 3,” Judge said. “This has been thrown out to try to pacify the heartland.”

 

     Meanwhile, Vilsack tried to spin EPA's announcement on denying most of the outstanding waivers as coming shortly after Biden announced that he believes the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is “a bond” between the government and farmers. Vilsack's political pitch: Iowa farmers are “listening and open to listening to a Democratic candidate and are curious” about Biden’s plan to create new income with the bio-based economy, conservation programs and carbon sequestration. “I think rural America is in play in a way that rural America has not been for Democrats for a while,” Vilsack said.

 

     Driving home how the RFS, ethanol and E15 are election-year issues, Rural America 2020, an independent group opposed to Trump’s re-election, announced Thursday it has launched a billboard campaign on the theme “Trump’s Broken Ethanol Promise,” to highlight “how despite the president’s promises to boost ethanol demand he has undermined the ethanol industry and the farmers it supports by granting a record number of waivers to big oil and by failing to follow through on other commitments.”

 

    Billboards

 

Stabenow again complains about how USDA aid programs are being implemented. Her latest battle came on the Senate floor Thursday with GOP senators. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and other GOP farm-state senators said in a colloquy that it is important to fund the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) in the continuing resolution (CR) that is expected to fund the government from October 1 through Dec. 18. The other GOP senators included John Thune of South Dakota, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cindy Hyde Smith of Mississippi and John Boozman of Arkansas.

 

     While Stabenow did not disagree with the need to fund the CCC, she again criticized the way the Trump administration has calculated trade and coronavirus-related aid to farmers and again blasted the possibility that the CCC will be used to make payments to oil companies that do not get waivers from their RFS mandates to use ethanol.

 

     Roberts stressed that “now is not the time for political gamesmanship. If Congress does not replenish the CCC, it could significantly harm or even halt these important programs. Farmers, ranchers, and others in farm country are counting on us to do our job.”

 

     Stabenow returned to the Senate floor later Thursday to again say she agrees the CCC needs to be replenished “to make sure we are providing funding for the October payments. As author of the farm bill I know now we have to make those payments.” But she stressed that in making disaster payments to farmers the USDA “should be focusing” on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued Monday “that reaffirmed that payments going out to farmers have not been fair” and that the Trump administration has been “picking winners and losers” and helping farmers in the South more than in the Midwest. She then said the report that the Trump administration might use the CCC to make payments to oil companies is “even more alarming.” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, she said, noted that “he didn’t have the authority to help ethanol producers. but somehow he’s got the authority to dip into ag support funds for Big Oil... “We are certainly going to try to stop this,” Stabenow said. “I hope Republicans will join us in saying you do not have the authority.”

 

     Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) in a statement said: "Why would money meant to support struggling farmers go to Big Oil? It shouldn't, and lawfully it can't. This is just Big Oil's reaction to the 'gap year' waivers being denied and an attempt to get a bailout."

 

     Perspective: About a year ago, some Democrats were drumming up this same stuff as a reason to oppose replenishing the CCC. Recall that in exchange for replenishing the CCC, they demanded USDA provide a bunch of documents. USDA provided those documents. Have the Democrats released those documents? Yet, some Democrats chided Perdue this week for his lack of transparency. The Democrats then had GAO do a report, a year later, that just so happens to come out right before discussions of replenishing the CCC. But the report does nothing but highlight that average farm sizes are larger in the South and that cotton (and soybeans) were the hardest hit. The vast majority of the funding still went to the Midwest. Opponents used “average” farm payments because that’s the metric that just so happened to reflect most negatively on Georgia (and Sec. Perdue by extension). Bottom line: This is blatant, gutter politics with the Democrats preying on the fact that most people have no clue of how production agriculture actually works.

 

USDA approved another $1 billion in food box contracts for a third round of deliveries through the end of October. The department says it has taken steps to fix shortfalls in the relief program that drew criticism from lawmakers and some food banks in recent months. The third round of contracts are under the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. USDA said the combination boxes of fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk and meat products “will be distributed to every county in America.”
 

Update on China:

  • China conducted military drills near Taiwan as the most senior official from America’s State Department to visit the island in four decades began a three-day tour. Taiwan and America have grown closer as relations between China and the West have worsened. China considers Taiwan a breakaway province and said the live-fire exercises were intended to “protect its sovereignty.”
     
  • The Trump administration is asking gaming companies to provide information on their data-security protocols involving Chinese technology giant Tencent Holdings Ltd, according to reports. That builds on White House pressure on Chinese companies operating in the U.S. after Trump forced sweeping changes to how Bytedance Ltd.'s TikTok app is owned. Shares in Tencent dropped as much as 3.1% in Hong Kong trading.
     
  • An informal partnership that kept Germany’s economy tethered to China’s for decades is unraveling, threatening Berlin’s — and Europe’s — post-pandemic recovery, the Wall Street Journal reports (link). It says the relationship that saw Germany provide China with the machines to power its economy helped the German economy recover rapidly after the 2007-09 financial crisis. But the model is no longer working. That is partly the result of Beijing’s strategy to encourage manufacturers to produce machinery that is more competitive with high-end German capital goods. For many German exporters, this doesn’t just mean that selling in China is becoming more difficult. It also means Chinese companies are popping up more as rivals elsewhere, the WSJ concludes.

    Germany link

     
  • USDA's Foreign Ag Service puts perspective on China's big buys of U.S. soybeans: On Thursday, FAS reported the 10th straight day of significant soybean sales to China = 2,661,000 MT. (This does not include the daily sale of soybeans announced by USDA this morning… see prior item.)

           9/3: 132,000 MT

           9/4: 318,000 MT

           9/8: 664,000 MT

           9/9: 238,000 MT

           9/10: 195,000 MT

           9/11: 262,000 MT

           9/14: 129,000 MT

           9/15: 132,000 MT

           9/16: 327,000 MT
           9/17: 264,000 MT

  • China scooping up barley from Ukraine. A surge in Chinese demand for Ukraine’s barley has spurred a 20% rally in export prices for the grain. China cut off purchases of barley from Australia earlier this year, leaving it in need of other suppliers. From July to August, China imported 97% more barley than the year prior, points out the consultancy APK-Inform, who deems Chinese demand “off scale.” Saudi Arabia is typically the main export market for Ukraine’s wheat crop. But Ukraine could have less exportable supply going forward. Last month, the country’s economy ministry said Ukraine’s crop could fall from 8.9 MMT in 2019 to 7.3 MMT in 2020, with exports sliding 1.8 MMT to 3.1 MMT in 2020-21.
     
  • U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link.

Food and beverage industry update:

  • Blue Bell Creameries must pay more than $17 million in criminal penalties for distributing Listeria-contaminated ice cream, a federal court declared Thursday. It’s the largest criminal penalty in a food safety case, the New York Times reports (link).

Update on reopening America... and around the world:

  • Restaurants hit the hardest. About 60% of businesses that have closed their doors during the coronavirus pandemic will never reopen, and restaurants have suffered the most, according to new data from Yelp. The National Restaurant Association also said this week that 100,000 restaurants have closed either permanently or long term, adding that the sector is on track to lose $240 billion in sales this year. Several factors have made it especially difficult for eateries, which tend to operate on thin margins even in the best of times.
     
  • Another delay for NYC schools. Just days before New York City schools were supposed to start, families faced another curveball as officials delayed opening for in-person classes — for the second time.

Coronavirus update:

  • Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 have topped 30 million, with data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) putting the total cases at 30,205,908 with deaths at 946,685. The U.S. case count is at 6,676,410 with 197,655 deaths.

    Link to Covid Case Tracker

    Link to Our World in Data

     
  • New coronavirus cases in the  U.S. rose above 44,000 for the first time in nearly a week; Wisconsin reported its highest daily total since the pandemic began.
     
  • World Health Organization (WHO) sounded the alarm about a resurgence of Covid-19 in Europe. Its regional director noted that the caseload there is now increasing at a greater rate than during the outbreak’s peak in March. Spain, France and Britain have the highest confirmed figures. Globally the pandemic has caused 30 million known infections; Europe counted 300,000 just last week.
     

POLITICS & ELECTIONS


 

  • Links
    2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map
    The Green Papers
    Real Clear Politics
    — Presidential debates: Scheduled to occur Sept. 29, Oct. 15 and Oct. 22.
    — VP debate: Scheduled for Oct. 7.
    Days until election

     
  • First in-person voting precincts open for business today, with two states kicking off the start of early voting season, notes Ballotpedia. Starting today, state statutes in Minnesota and South Dakota provide that residents can visit in-person voting sites. Five more states — Michigan, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming — will follow on Saturday, Sept. 19. Early voting permits citizens to cast ballots in-person at a polling place before an election. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia permit no-excuse early voting. Another five states —Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah, and Washington — use all-mail voting systems.

    Early voting start dates range from Sept. 18 to Nov. 2. Kentucky, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah have changed early voting dates or procedures due to Covid-19. To date, 38 states have modified their general election voting procedures because of the pandemic.
     
  • New survey results from KFF/Cook Political Report survey in AZ, Fl, and NC. AZ moves to lean Dem. Cook Political Report's Amy Walter says “There are two key geographic battlegrounds for the Electoral College this year. One is the Midwest that until 2016, had been reliably Democratic. The other is the fast-growing Sun Belt section of the country that has traditionally voted Republican. To help understand how voters in these regions are thinking about this election and the issues shaping it, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Cook Political Report have collaborated on two surveys. In November 2019, we released the Blue Wall Voices Project, a survey of 3,222 voters in the Upper Midwest (Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Michigan). This week, we are releasing the most recent poll that featured 3,479 interviews with voters in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina.”
     
  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court strikes Green Party presidential ticket from ballot, clearing the way for mail ballots to be sent out. The ruling blocks presidential candidate Howie Hawkins and his running mate, Angela Walker, from the ballot after local Democrats challenged whether they met the filing requirements. The case had threatened to hold up the distribution of mail ballots for the November election.

    Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s highest court extended the state’s deadline for accepting mail-in ballots, a move that could help with a projected surge in voting by mail but delay the determination of election winners in a crucial battleground state.

     
  • FiveThirtyEight’s poll aggregator this week put the odds of Joe Biden winning the electoral college as high as 75.9%. How did they do in 2016? Link to see what the poll aggregator said on election day 2016. Link to how the pollster later tried to explain the huge miss by nearly all pollsters.
     
  • The director of the FBI warned that Russia is actively interfering in America’s presidential election, with the Democratic party’s nominee as its primary target. Russian agents are producing what Christopher Wray called a “steady drumbeat of misinformation” intended to undermine Joe Biden and voters’ confidence in the results. President Donald Trump has continuously downplayed Russian interference.
     
  • Politico reports that David Wasserman at the Cook Political Report will change the rating of three House seats. Colorado-3 is going from likely Republican to lean Republican. This is the GOP-held seat where Republicans nominated QAnon-curious Lauren Boebert. Rep. Jared Golden's (D-Maine) seat is going from toss-up to lean Democrat. Virginia-5 — where GOP Rep. Denver Riggleman lost the nomination —is going from lean Republican to toss-up.

 


OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE


 

  • As we first speculated in this space, USDA Deputy Secretary Steve Censky plans to return to ASA. USDA this morning announced he will depart USDA and take over leadership, again, of the American Soybean Association (ASA) this fall. Link to USDA release for details.
     
  • Comey to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee. “Former FBI Director James Comey will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee later this month, Chair Lindsey Graham announced. Graham (R-S.C.), whose committee is conducting a review of the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, added that former special counsel Robert Mueller declined to appear before the panel. ‘I talked to Mueller. He felt like he didn’t have enough time to prepare. And I will honor that request,’ Graham said on Thursday before a Judiciary Committee meeting.”
     
  • U.S. government worked closely with German chemical giant Bayer to push Thailand to overturn its ban on glyphosate, Reuters reports (link).
     
  • German laboratory detected traces of Novichok on a water bottle apparently retrieved from the Siberian hotel room in which Alexei Navalny stayed before falling ill on a plane. Russia’s most prominent opposition figure was treated in Germany after somehow ingesting the nerve agent. Airport tea had been the prime suspect. Either way, the Kremlin’s involvement is presumed.
     
  • WTO gets closer to a new leader. Today a shortlist of candidates for the next director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will be whittled down from eight to five. Amina Mohamed of Kenya and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria are expected to be part of the five as they reportedly have support from Europe and there is a sense that it is time an African candidate took the title.
     
  • Lawmakers are preparing a stop-gap government funding measure that may be released as soon as today or over the weekend and will likely include a one-year extension of the nation’s highway law. The House is scheduled to vote on the continuing resolution (CR), aimed at averting a government shutdown, early next week, said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet on Monday to set up rules for the floor debate. That gives the Senate plenty of time to pass the measure by the Sept. 30 deadline, when government funding and the highway law expire.

    “I don’t think anybody wants to be responsible for shutting down the government on the eve of an election in the middle of a pandemic, so it’s a rare outbreak of common sense on both sides,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).

     
  • Trucking industry is again calling on Congress to include a suspension of the 12% federal excise tax on heavy-duty vehicles through Dec. 31, 2021 in the next coronavirus-relief bill being negotiated in Congress. The list of national, state and local organizations sent a letter to congressional leaders as a follow up to their letter in July.
     
  • Cotton AWP moves higher. The Adjusted World Price (AWP) for cotton rose to 50.88 cents per pound, effective today (Sept. 18), after dipping to 49.77 cents per pound the prior week. This still leaves an opportunity for an LDP of 1.12 cents per pound. USDA also announced that Special Import Quota #22 would be established Sept. 24 for 10,760 bales of upland cotton, applying to cotton purchased not later than Dec. 22 and entered into the U.S. not later than March 22.
     
  • Amazon is a lucrative USPS customer. Records obtained by the nonpartisan watchdog American Oversight revealed that the e-commerce giant accounted for 30% of the Postal Service’s volume in its most recent fiscal year, generating around $3.9 billion in revenue and $1.6 billion in profit for the agency. That contradicts President Trump’s assertions that Amazon is responsible for the agency’s financial woes.
     
  • President of the European Union’s executive arm still believes a trade deal with Britain is possible, despite growing rancor between the two sides. Link to details in the Financial Times.

 

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