Biden Gives Economic Speech in Pa. Today | Jobless Claims Edge Down to 1.314 Mil.

Posted on 07/09/2020 8:11 AM

Ag biotech issues with Mexico, dairy access to Canada raised


In Today’s Updates


* Initial unemployment claims edged down to 1.314 million
* Workers receiving benefits eased slightly to 18.1 million
* Ag biotech issues with Mexico, dairy access to Canada raised
* U.S. oil lobbyists want President Trump to confront Mexico
* Lawmakers want a Phase 2 trade agreement with Japan with focus on dairy.
* Many economists still believe the U.S. economy is growing again
* Firms don't expect to return to prepandemic employment levels this year… or next
* U.S. budget deficit $863 billion in June, nearly as much as entire gap for FY 2019

* Gold losing in on the all-time high of $1,920 an ounce
* U.S. oil lobbyists want President Trump to confront Mexico
* China acknowledges ties with U.S. at lowest point since 1979
* China buys U.S. corn, soybeans, cotton, pork & beef in latest week
* China issues more non-state crude oil import quotas to refiners: Reuters
* China’s interest in trans-Pacific trade deal met with skepticism
* Foreign Affairs: Is Taiwan the Next Hong Kong?
* U.S. food supply update
* U.K. to deploy ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ effort
* Update on reopening America... and around the world
* Walt Disney World opens to annual passholders today and tomorrow
* United Airlines could be forced to shed almost half its U.S. workforce

* Reopened theme parks ban screaming on roller coasters
* Coronavirus update
* Total number of confirmed coronavirus cases tops 12 million world-wide
* Trump Tulsa rally may have contributed to Covid-19 spike
* Farm Bureau President Duvall ill with Covid-19, met with USDA Sec. Perdue
* Will the coronavirus fuel conflict?

* Cook Political Report's Amy Walter: Biden at 279 electoral votes, enough to win
* Report: Rural voters favor farm-focused climate policies
* U.S. Supreme Court will end its term this morning
* Tax hikes are biggest risk to stocks with Biden sweep: BofA

* Joe Biden plans to deliver an economic speech today in Scranton, Pa.
* Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette is heading to Texas
* House appropriators today will mark up $24 billion FY 2021 ag spending measure
* USDA announces initial $27 million purchase of a vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease
* Eight candidates to be next WTO leader
* Bayer is scrapping a $1.25 billion proposal for resolving future lawsuits




Equities today: China’s stock market continued its surge higher for the eighth consecutive day on hopes for a sustained economic recovery from coronavirus lockdowns. The Shanghai Composite rose 1.4% Thursday, extending a winning streak that is now the longest since January 2018. The index is up 15% since the start of July. Stock indexes in Europe pushed higher. U.S. futures signal a mixed open for U.S. equities.


     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow rose 177.10 points, 0.68%, at 26,067.28. The Nasdaq moved up 148.61 points, 1.44%, at 10,492.50. The S&P 500 gained 24.62 points, 0.78%, at 3,169.94.


     Perspective: The extreme imbalance on the stock market has pushed the Nasdaq to its greatest advantage over the S&P 500 since before the dot-com bubble burst and the Nasdaq's price-to-earnings and price-to-sales ratios are at the highest since then as well. The CBOE's volatility index, despite the consistent gains, is about 41% above its historic average and double its February low.


     Who owns the U.S. stock market?


     Who owns stocks
     Source: @JSeyff, @TheTerminal


On tap today:


     • Finance ministers from the eurozone gather today to elect a new president. Three candidates include Paschal Donohoe, the Irish finance minister; Nadia Calvino, Spain’s economy minister; and Pierre Gramegna, Luxembourg’s liberal finance minister.
     • U.S. jobless claims in the week ended July 4 are expected to fall to 1.388 million from 1.427 million a week earlier. (8:30 a.m. ET)
     • U.S. wholesale inventories for May are expected to fall 1.2% from a month earlier. (10 a.m. ET)
     • The WSJ's survey of economists is out at 10 a.m. ET.
     • Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic speaks to the Tax Policy Center at 12 p.m. ET.
     • USDA Weekly Export Sales is out at 8:30 a.m. ET.


Another 1.314 million people applied for new jobless benefits last week as the pandemic’s toll on the economy continued. The number of Americans applying for unemployment insurance has remained above a million for 16 weeks. While the numbers of those claiming benefits have fallen since the height of the economic shutdown, there are still 18 million people receiving benefits.
     Unemploy benefits

    UB recips

Many economists still believe the U.S. economy is growing again after a sharp contraction in the spring caused by the pandemic. But some have lowered their expectations in recent days, suggesting the shape of the recovery will be jagged rather than a V signifying a sharp drop in activity followed by a similarly sharp rebound.




Companies don't expect to return to prepandemic employment levels this year — or next. A survey conducted by Duke University and the Richmond and Atlanta Feds found CFOs more optimistic about their own businesses but fairly pessimistic about the path for employment growth. “In fact, the typical firm in our panel does not expect to regain their pre-Covid employment levels until sometime after the end of 2021,” Atlanta Fed economists wrote in a summary (link) of the CFO survey.


     CFO survey


The U.S. budget deficit totaled $863 billion in June, nearly as much as the entire gap for fiscal year 2019, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. Federal spending tripled to combat the coronavirus pandemic and tax revenues plunged.


     Budget deficit June

The U.K. government announced up to $38 billion in fresh stimulus measures intended to boost the country’s economy as it exits lockdown. Since measures designed to contain the novel coronavirus became widespread in March, governments around the world have committed trillions of dollars to ensuring the survival of businesses and to supporting household incomes. The U.K.’s new package marks the start of a second phase of government spending and tax cuts designed to boost demand and give businesses the confidence to put their employees back to work.


    Stimulus measures


Consumer credit declined in May, but eased from historic April fall. Consumers continued to pull back on their use of credit in May, but the $18.2 billion decline largely matched expectations and was a major improvement from the fall of $70.2 billion registered in April, the sharpest decline since World War II. The 5.3% decline overall in May reflected a fall of $219.4 billion in revolving credit (where credit and bank cards are categorized), or 28.6%, a third monthly fall in that category. Nonrevolving credit expanded by 2.3%. The total outstanding credit fell to $4.11 trillion, with revolving credit outstanding at $995.6 billion, under $1 trillion for the first time since 2016. Consumers have continued to ease their credit use and boost their level of savings as the Covid-19 pandemic hit and that has also been a factor in curtailed consumer spending.


St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said that the jobless rate could fall substantially by the end of 2020. "I think we're tracking very well right now," the central bank official told CNBC. "Seems to me like by the end of the year you can get down certainly to single digits, probably even below 8%, maybe 7% by the end of the year." It's been quite a run for the unemployment rate, which was at a 50-year low of 3.5% just five months ago before spiking up to 14.7% in April (it currently stands at 11.1%).


Market perspectives:


     • Gold rose 0.2% to $1,823.30 a troy ounce and is closing in on the all-time high of $1,920 an ounce scored in September 2011, especially with investors piling into funds that hold the precious metal.


        Gold prices
     • Copper prices are closing in on their highest levels since the coronavirus pandemic began.




     • Lumber futures are breaking out to 2020 highs.

       Lumber prices


     • 1.69 million containers, in 20-foot-equivalent units, are forecast to be imported into major U.S. ports in July, the same number as June and down 14.1% from a year ago, according to the Global Port Tracker report.


     • Crude oil prices are mixed ahead of U.S. trading, with US crude moving between losses and gains, trading around $40.90 per barrel, while Brent crude has been firmer, trading around $43.40 per barrel.

       Oil prices

• A global benchmark (ICE Brent) vs a regional crude (NYMEX WTI). The coronavirus pandemic shook the global oil market, with demand collapsing at an unprecedented rate. The short-lived Russian/Saudi price war flooded the market with excess supply fanning fears of a shortage of storage capacity. March and April’s crude prices dived in response, with NYMEX WTI plummeting to negative values the day before expiry on April 20. Why didn't Brent crude didn’t follow the same path? Link to some key differences between Brent and WTI.





Ag biotech issues with Mexico, dairy access to Canada raised. The Alliance for Trade Enforcement is raising issues on ag biotech in Mexico and Canadian pharmaceutical actions as areas that need to be enforced under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The full enforcement of intellectual property (IP) commitments under USMCA is key, the group said in a letter (link) to U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer. “The Government of Mexico’s failure to approve these products threatens both trade with Mexico and US farmers’ access to important technologies. This could have a devastating effect on US farmers and their customers in Mexico,” the group said.


     Dairy issues were also raised by the group, with the letter pointing to Canada’s announcement on distribution of dairy tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) “runs counter to various USMCA commitments including discouraging high-value food service or retail products from entering the market.” The group also said they are concerned Canada will not live up to eliminating their Class 7 pricing program and will “manipulate its agreed-upon trade obligations to protect its tightly controlled dairy market are unacceptable.”


     The group also called out Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, saying it “continues to develop and implement unfair pricing and reimbursement regulatory schemes that do not fully account for the cost of research and development of innovative treatments.”


Lawmakers want a Phase 2 trade agreement with Japan with focus on dairy. A bipartisan group of lawmakers from major dairy states is pressing USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer to secure more access to Japan’s agricultural market than other dairy exporting competitors. The letter (link) is led by Reps. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.), Josh Harder (D-Calif.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.). They said the Phase 1 deal was a good first step for helping farmers boost their exports to Japan, but it’s not nearly enough.


     More access sought for U.S. dairy products in Japan. The initial deal secured better “tariff treatment” for U.S. dairy goods, the members wrote, but “our farmers and processors remain at a disadvantage to our competitors due to the preferential access” they get through the 11-nation CPTPP and a separate Japan-EU agreement. They cited big opportunities to expand access for specific products including milk powder and butter. “Given the fact that our domestic market is a top destination for Japanese exports, Japan must ensure that the terms of trade offered to the U.S. are better than those offered to other, less valuable, markets,” the letter says.


U.S. oil lobbyists want President Trump to confront Mexico. The main U.S. oil refining lobby, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), has asked and hopes the Trump administration will confront Mexico about recent moves to undermine the ability of American companies to do business there. AFPM argued these actions flout the intent of the USMCA, including delaying permits for developing refining infrastructure, canceling import permits, and creating voids and waivers in regulations favoring state-owned companies such as PEMEX. Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador campaigned on reining in constitutional reforms that opened Mexico's formerly nationalized energy industry to foreign investment. AMLO met Wednesday at the White House with President Donald Trump. It is unclear if these issues came up in the meetings between the presidents. But the leaders held a “state lite” dinner on Wednesday night that included Mexican and American business officials from the energy sector and other industries.


Update on China:

  • China has acknowledged that ties with the U.S. are at their lowest point since the normalization of relations in 1979, in comments that suggest Beijing wants to ease tensions, analysts said. “What is alarming is that the China/U.S. relationship is one of the most important in the world and it is facing its most serious challenge since diplomatic relations were established,” Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, said in a speech today. “China has never had the intention of challenging or replacing the U.S. and has no intention of entering into total confrontation with the U.S.,” he said, adding that Beijing’s policy had not changed despite deteriorating relations in recent months. “Every issue is on the table for discussion . . . so long as the U.S. does not set limits,” Wang said.
  • A survey of 100 top scholars published this week by Renmin University’s Chongyang Institute found that 62% of respondents believed the “U.S. has indeed started a ‘new Cold War’ against China,” while 90% said that China could handle the U.S. in this new confrontation.
  • Australia suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in light of the new national-security law the Chinese government imposed on the territory. The measures include provisions to try “complex” crimes in mainland courts. Canada has also suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong over the new law and Britain said it would open a path to citizenship for up to 3 million Hong Kongers.
  • China buys U.S. corn, soybeans, cotton, pork & beef in latest week. U.S. net export sales for 2019-20 to China the week ended June 2 included 407,150 tonnes of corn, 50,922 tonnes of sorghum, 461,356 tonnes of soybeans, 21,991 running bales of upland cotton, 979 tonnes of beef and 8,129 tonnes of pork. There were also sales of 192,000 tonnes of soybeans for 2020-21.
  • China issues more non-state crude oil import quotas to refiners: Reuters. China has issued another 25.84 million tonnes (195.93 million barrels) of crude oil import quotas to non-state crude oil refiners, according to Reuters. This takes the quotas released for non-state crude imports to 184.55 million tonnes, the news service said. A total of 17 companies received the new quotas, the report said.
  • U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link.
  • White House warns against Chinese investment, citing risk of further sanctions. Economic and security officials warned a federal fund against putting retirement savings in China at “a time of mounting uncertainty” for the relationship. Link to NYT article.
  • China’s interest in trans-Pacific trade deal met with skepticism by those who helped negotiate it. A series of high-profile officials in Beijing have recently voiced openness about China joining a trans-Pacific trade pact abandoned by the United States in one of the first acts of Donald Trump’s presidency (third day in office). Link to South China Morning Post article.
  • Foreign Affairs: Is Taiwan the Next Hong Kong? Unless the United States demonstrates the resolve and ability to resist Chinese coercion and aggression, China’s leaders may eventually conclude that the risks and the costs of future military action against Taiwan are low — or at least tolerable. Link to article.
  • President Trump’s trade war with China is meeting at least one of his goals. The U.S. trade deficit with China in the past 12 months has dropped to its lowest since 2012. A Wall Street Journal article (link) says that unfortunately, that narrowing has come from the U.S. buying less from China, rather than China buying more from the U.S. “Slack Chinese imports are a symptom of the underlying reason China’s trade surpluses, not just with the U.S. but the world, persist: China consumes too little and saves too much. Consumption is still under 40% of Chinese GDP, one of the lowest ratios among major economies. That imbalance is why trade conflicts aren’t about to go away even if Trump isn’t re-elected,” the article notes.

    China trade deficit

Update on next aid package:

  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a former Education secretary, has said he favors $50 billion to $75 billion in new federal funding to help schools. In May, House Democrats passed a bill with $58 billion in aid for public schools; the Senate has not taken up the bill.

Food and beverage supply/industry update:

  • U.K. to deploy ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ effort. Britain will launch an “Eat Out to Help Out” effort in August which will provide a 50% discount of up to £10 ($12.64) in August for those who eat out at restaurants where restaurants would apply the discount and get reimbursed by the government. The discount could be used an unlimited amount during the month but will not apply to alcohol and is part of an effort to bolster the U.K. economy. “This moment is unique. We need to be creative. To get customers back into restaurants, cafes and pubs, and protect the 1.8 million people who work in them, I can announce today that, for the month of August, we will give everyone in the country an Eat Out to Help Out discount,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said in unveiling the effort.

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

  • Walt Disney World opens to annual passholders today and tomorrow, with the Magic and Animal Kingdom areas opening to the general public on Saturday, followed by Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios four days later. New safety requirements from the theme park operator will include temperature checks, face coverings and extra sanitation efforts, though Disney is facing a petition from some workers asking for a reopening delay due to increased Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations in Florida.

    Japanese thrill-seekers have been urged by the operators of a Tokyo theme park to refrain from screaming on recently reopened rollercoasters, lest it hasten the spread of the coronavirus. The ban on screaming is part of a set of voluntary guidelines agreed upon by Japanese theme park associations as parks reopen across the country. Hoping to model good behavior for its guests, a video posted by the Fuji-Q Highland amusement park features two of its executives riding the popular Fujiyama rollercoaster in total silence. It ends with a plea to “Please scream inside your heart.”

  • United Airlines is looking to cut 45% of its staff — 36,000 pilots, flight attendants and customer-service employees. The Chicago-based airline is exploring the possibility of shedding almost half its U.S. workforce. Federal aid funds run out in September, and if travel demand continues to be weak at that time, the airline “simply cannot continue at our current payroll level,” it said in a memo to its staff. It is the first major U.S. carrier to detail possible mass furloughs despite billions of dollars in federal aid. The American carrier has had to contend with the near total collapse in demand for air travel. It says it could rehire staff once demand returns. The United plans come a week after American Airlines said it may have as many as 20,000 more staff than it needs to handle reduced demand. The U.S. airline industry is facing its biggest shake-up in a generation, with executives expecting a recovery in the demand slump to take years.

    Airplane travel

  • President Trump said he disagreed with CDC guidelines for safely reopening schools and threatened to withhold federal funding for those that stay closed. Vice President Mike Pence suggested the agency will shortly produce laxer guidelines.

    In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Trump has no authority to order schools open. “We will open the schools if it is safe to open the schools,” said Cuomo, who frequently sparred with the president over reopening businesses. The New York City school system, the nation’s largest, plans to bring back students one to three days per week.

    Separately, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sued the Trump administration in federal court over new rules barring international students from staying in the U.S. while taking classes entirely online this fall.

  • The Ivy League announced Wednesday that it will cancel all fall sports due to Covid-19 and will not consider resuming sports until at least Jan. 1, 2021. The eight-member conference was the first to cancel spring sports, calling off its basketball tournaments on March 10. Now, it's the first D-I conference to cancel football.

Coronavirus update:

  • Summary: Covid-19 cases have now risen to 12,062,863 globally with 549,846 deaths, with U.S. cases at 3,055,144 (58,601 new U.S. cases) and 132,309 deaths (820 deaths recorded yesterday), according to data from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). Some 37,431,666 tests have been conducted in the United States.

    Link to Covid Case Tracker

  • Trump Tulsa rally may have contributed to Covid-19 spike. A controversial campaign rally held by President Donald Trump in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month likely contributed to a rise in the number of coronavirus cases there, a top local health official said on Wednesday. Tulsa has confirmed hundreds of new cases of COVID-19 over the past two days, said Dr. Bruce Dart, health director for the city and county. “In the past few days, we’ve had almost 500 cases. And we know we had several large events a little over two weeks ago, which is about right. So I guess we just connect the dots,” Dart said, apparently referring to the rally and accompanying protests.
  • Farm Bureau President Duvall ill with Covid-19, met with USDA Sec. Perdue. American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall is ill with COVID-19, Farm Bureau announced Wednesday. Duvall met with USDA Sec. Sonny Perdue on June 25 in Georgia, but a USDA spokesman said Perdue has been tested since that meeting and the test was negative. “I am writing to share unfortunate news with you his morning. AFBF President Zippy Duvall tested positive for Covid-19 after experiencing symptoms consistent with the virus (fever and cough). He is at home in quarantine and, on the bright side, feeling strong and in good spirits,” Terri Moore, Farm Bureau vice president of communications, said in an email. Moore added that Duvall “has been working from home on his farm for the past two weeks, having traveled only once in an official capacity to events within the state of Georgia.” A USDA spokesman said, “Secretary Perdue is routinely tested for Covid-19. He has been tested in the days following the event in Georgia on June 25 with AFBF President Zippy Duvall and has tested negative. The USDA family wishes Zippy well and a quick recovery.”
  • Georgia flip-flop. The Democratic mayor of Atlanta said she doesn’t agree with Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s order to mobilize the National Guard in her city as a surge in violence became a political talking point.
  • Japan will not declare another state of emergency, even though the country has registered hundreds of new covid-19 cases in recent days. The government imposed a national state of emergency in April and ended it in late May. It insists this time is different, with many reported infections in people below the age of 30.
  • Will the coronavirus fuel conflict? The coronavirus pandemic has already destabilized the global economy, and it could soon make the world more violent. Research by Jonathan D. Moyer and Oliver Kaplan, published in Foreign Policy (link) on July 6, says the pandemic has increased the risk of war in already tense environments.
    Covid conflicts


  • Links
    2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map
    The Green Papers

  • New July 2020 electoral college ratings by Cook Political Report's Amy Walter puts Biden at 279 electoral votes, enough to win the White House. “This election is looking more like a Democratic tsunami than simply a Blue wave. President Trump, mired in some of the lowest job approval ratings of his presidency, is trailing Biden by significant margins in key battleground states like Pennsylvania (8 points), Michigan (9 points), and Wisconsin (9 points). He’s even running behind Biden in his firewall states of Florida and North Carolina. We’ve made changes to our Electoral College ratings to reflect this reality,” Walter writes. The changes:

    — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska’s 2nd district move from Toss Up to Lean Democrat.
    — Maine, once in Lean Democrat, moves to the safer Likely Democratic category.
    — Georgia has joined Arizona, North Carolina and Florida in the Toss Up column, although, at this point, Biden would be slightly favored to win at least Arizona and Florida.
    — Maine’s 2nd district has moved from Likely Republican to a more competitive Lean Republican.

    These moves alone push Biden over the 270 electoral vote threshold — to 279.

  • Report: Rural voters favor farm-focused climate policies. Support for policies to combat climate change jumped by more than 20 percent among rural, Midwestern voters when those initiatives involved financial incentives for ag producers to adopt climate-friendly farm practices and technology, according to a new report by Duke University (link).
  • The U.S. Supreme Court will end its term this morning with historic rulings that will probably determine whether the public sees President Donald Trump’s long-hidden financial records before the November election. House Democrats and a New York state prosecutor are each trying to get Trump’s personal and business records from his accounting firm. Lawmakers are also demanding information from his banks.
  • Tax hikes are biggest risk to stocks with Biden sweep: BofA. Higher corporate taxes are the biggest U.S. election risk if Democrats gain control of the White House and both houses of Congress in November, according to Savita Subramanian, BofA’s head of U.S. Equity & Quantitative Strategy. If presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden were to even partially reverse President Donald Trump’s tax cuts, stocks would see a “significant impact,” she said during a virtual briefing hosted by the bank on Wednesday. Tax-hike worries are growing as Trump’s approval ratings decline and investors more strongly consider the likelihood of a Biden victory. Biden recently told potential campaign donors that his administration would end most of Trump’s tax reductions, even though “a lot of you may not like that.”

    Meanwhile, Biden today is expected to unveil a "Buy American" economic plan in Pennsylvania aimed at reducing the U.S.' reliance on foreign countries. Biden returns to Scranton, Pa., today with a stop just outside the city limits at a metalworking plant, where he'll unveil his economic recovery plan. Biden says he will tighten restrictions on what qualifies as a U.S.-made good as well as invest $400 billion in government procurement. A document published yesterday by task forces created to forge a united platform from the policies of Biden and Bernie Sanders largely sidestepped a significant move to the left.

    Trump won Pennsylvania by less than one percentage point in 2016, but Biden now leads Trump in RealClearPolitics poll averages.

    Biden would grant citizenship to 11 million illegal immigrants. On Wednesday he formally embraced citizenship rights for 11 million illegal immigrants and a full erasure of all of President Trump’s get-tough border policies, as part of the party’s new unity platform. The former vice president would expand sanctuary locations, limit ICE’s ability to deport criminals in local jails, and reverse deportations for some military veterans already ousted because of criminal records. The platform calls for an immediate 100-day halt to all deportations, and would unleash an army of overseers to police the way the Border Patrol and ICE’s deportation officers enforce immigration policy.

  • Latest from Gallup shows Trump with a 38% approval rating. This reflects the largest ever partisan gap with Trump getting 91% approval from Republicans and just 2% from Democrats.

    Trump approval



  • Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette is heading to Texas to meet with oil companies and state and local officials, as he looks to reassure an industry rattled by a week of setbacks with pipeline development. Brouillette will be in San Antonio today to “meet with energy stakeholders and discuss the current state of energy markets,” the Energy Department said. On Friday he will head to Houston with Undersecretary of Energy Mark Menezes to hold a roundtable discussion with independent oil producers and tour a Strategic Petroleum Reserve site in Winnie, Texas with state and local officials.
  • House appropriators today will mark up their $24 billion FY 2021 ag spending measure. The committee laid out several directives and complaints aimed at USDA in an accompanying bill report (link) on Wednesday. The report noted that USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has “tragically failed to protect its workforce” during the pandemic, noting that at least four FSIS inspectors have died from Covid-19 after the department “failed to promptly provide PPE to inspectors.” They directed the agency to publish data on internal Covid-19 cases and deaths as soon as the spending bill is approved by the committee. The report asks USDA to prioritize coronavirus relief funds for farmers and ranchers who comply with CDC requirements to keep their workers safe through sanitation and social distancing.
  • USDA announced an initial $27 million purchase of a vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease for the new national vaccine bank established in the 2018 Farm Bill.
  • Eight candidates to be next WTO leader. The nomination period for those seeking to become the next Director General of the WTO closed Wednesday with eight candidates — Jesús Seade Kuri (Mexic); Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria); Abdel-Hamid Mamdouh (Egypt); Tudor Ulianovschi (Moldova); Yoo Myung0hee (South Korea); Amina C. Mohamed (Kenya); Mohammad Maziad Al-Tuwaijri (Saudi Arabia); and Liam Fox (UK). The listing of five men and three women all have trade and/or WTO experience. The WTO has not seen a leader from African nor has it been led by a woman, prompting some to up the odds for a candidate that meets those criteria. Mexico’s Seade and South Korea’s Yoo are also seen by some as top-level candidates given their experience on the world trade front. The WTO is seeking a new leader in the wake of current WTO chief Roberto Azevêdo announcing he would leave the post a year early, setting off the process to find a new leader. The next step will be for the candidates to meet with members at a special General Council meeting July 15-17 where they will present their views and take questions from members.
  • Bayer is scrapping a $1.25 billion proposal for resolving future lawsuits over whether its Roundup weedkiller causes cancer. Link to more from the Wall Street Journal.


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