Biden Vows to End 'Season of Darkness' But Short on Governing Details

Posted on 08/21/2020 7:44 AM

U.S./India trade talks at impasse; U.S. wants big India buys of U.S. farm products


In Today’s Updates


Market Focus:
* CBO to release updated budget projections on Sept. 2
* Powell to speak at Jackson Hole Aug. 27
* Deere reports quarterly earnings of $2.57 per share, well above consensus estimate
* Pro Farmer Crop Tour results for Iowa and Minnesota
* Labor strife at the Port of Montreal is disrupting supply chains
* Dollar gains strength
* Crude oil prices again under pressure


Policy Focus:
* Refineries file 67 applications for retroactive exemptions from biofuel mandates
* U.S./India ag trade deal impasse; U.S. wants India to buy $6 bil. ag, dairy goods
* McConnell: Republican position hasn’t changed and talks remain at impasse
* Moderate House Dems pressure Pelosi to restart stalled stimulus talks
* Peterson talks about needed aid package and his re-election
* USDA’s RMA tweaks crop insurance prevented planting coverage
* Focus on seasonal produce moves to what Trump administration will recommend


U.S./China update:
* Kudlow: China ‘basically’ doing what it should on trade
* Australia set to bar China dairy takeover as trade tensions rise

U.S. food & beverage industry update:
* Almost 400 meatpacking plants in the U.S. have had outbreaks of Covid-19
* ProPublica: Meatpacking companies dismissed years of warnings
* PepsiCo taps head of World Trade Organization for C-suite role
* Japan begins to explore regulations for alternative meat products
* Mexico’s chicken meat & egg production affected by pandemic, economic fallout

Update on re-opening America... and around the world:
* Reopening in Arizona
* Airbnb announces global ban on parties and events at Airbnb listings
* Some small cities will lose air service altogether in October
* Flying on the upswing

Coronavirus update:
* Sen. Bill Cassidy tests positive coronavirus
* Vaccine could be widely available by next spring
* On Russia's vaccine claim


Politics & Elections:
* Biden vows to end 'season of darkness' but short on governing details
* Schumer: Senate Dems would ditch filibuster if needed to push Biden’s agenda
* Poll: Voters support domestic energy production
* Biden campaign takes issue with Pa. fracking ad
* Peterson talks about his re-election contest
* If defeated, what will Trump do?
* Trump warns of election fraud
* House Democratic campaign leader predicts bigger majority
* GOP raised $55.3 million in July
* Sierra Club calls on DNC to reinsert ending tax breaks, subsidies for fossil fuels
* Paul Ryan jumping onto blank-check acquisition company bandwagon

Other Items of Note:
* Former White House adviser Steve Bannon arrested
* Federal judge rules Trump must provide tax returns to Manhattan district attorney
* Dr. Anthony Fauci underwent surgery Thursday to remove a polyp from vocal cord
* Trump threatens tariffs on U.S. companies
* Lighthizer lays out vision to revive WTO
* 4,800 chicks shipped to Maine farmers via U.S. Postal Service arrive dead
* Mississippi River Commission to hold public meetings on Aug. 24, 26, 28
* DEA publishes rule to update regs based on 2018 Farm Bill
* Cotton AWP eases slightly




Equities today: U.S. futures fluctuated before turning lower on concerns over mixed economic data. Global stocks are trekking higher amid renewed hopes for a coronavirus vaccine. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.5% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was up 1.3%. Japan's Nikkei tacked on 0.2% and Australia's ASX 200 slipped 0.1%. European stocks are largely higher despite sluggish PMI data, with the Stoxx 600 Index gaining 0.3%.


     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow gained 48.65 points, 0.17%, at 27,739.73. The Nasdaq rose 118.49 points, 1.06%, at 11,264.95. The S&P 500 was up 10.66 points, 0.32%, at 3,385.51.


On tap today:


     • Pro Farmer corn and soybean production and yield estimates (informed by Crop Tour data, but separate) will be released at 2:30 p.m. ET.
     • IHS Markit's preliminary manufacturing index for August is expected to rise to 51.5 from 50.9 at the end of July, and the services index is expected to rise to 51.0 from 50.0. (9:45 a.m. ET)
     • U.S. existing-home sales for July are expected to rise to an annual pace of 5.39 million from 4.72 million a month earlier. (10 a.m. ET)
     • European Commission's flash consumer confidence indicator for August is out at 10 a.m. ET.
     • Baker Hughes rig count is out at 1 p.m. ET.
     • CFTC Commitments of Traders report at 4 p.m. ET.


CBO to release updated budget projections on Sept. 2. The report will contain the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) latest baseline budget projections, which will be based on the economic projections that the agency released in July and will incorporate legislation enacted through Aug. 4. The office will follow up with reports Sept. 21 on the long-term budget outlook and Sept. 29 on federal subsidies for health insurance coverage.


Powell to speak at Jackson Hole Aug. 27. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will deliver a speech Aug. 27 at next week’s annual Jackson Hole symposium on the central bank’s long-awaited monetary policy framework review.


Deere reported quarterly earnings of $2.57 per share, well above the consensus estimate of $1.26 a share. Revenue also came in above Wall Street forecasts and Deere raised its full-year outlook, although it said many uncertainties remain regarding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its business.


Market perspectives:


     • Pro Farmer Crop Tour results for Iowa and Minnesota: On Day 4 of the Pro Farmer Crop Tour, scouts measured an average corn yield potential of 177.8 bu. per acre for Iowa, which compares to 182.8 bu. per acre last year for the state and 183.61 bu. per acre for the three-year average. Pod counts in a 3’x3’ square came in at 1,146 for Iowa, which compares to 1,107 pods in 2019 and 1,136 pods for the three-year average.


       In Minnesota, scouts measured average corn yield potential of 195.1 bu. per acre, which compares to 170.4 bu. per acre last year and 180.2 bu. per acre for the three-year average. Pod counts in a 3’x3’ square came in at 1,086 for Minnesota, which compares to 965 pods last year and 1,025 pods for the three-year average.


     • The euro fell 0.6% against the dollar after IHS Markit data indicated a smaller rebound in activity in the eurozone’s manufacturing and services sectors than economists had expected and amid a lack of progress in Brexit talks with the U.K. Investors have also worried an uptick in infections will curtail the region’s economic recovery. The British pound also fell 0.6% against the dollar after signs that trade talks with the European Union had stalled.


     • Labor strife at the Port of Montreal is disrupting supply chains in Eastern Canada and prompting some shippers to divert freight. The walkout by dock workers is nearly two weeks old, the Wall Street Journal reports (link). The unrest is hitting operations at the country’s second-biggest port as companies are gearing up for a boost in business following the pandemic-driven downturn in the first half of the year. The longshore workers have been working without a contract since the end of 2018, and they’re looking for an improvement in scheduling they say leaves them with little work-life balance. “For shipping customers, the walkout marks a new hotspot in port operations around North America that are frequently subject to labor-management tensions. Montreal is a major gateway for both container and bulk-industrial goods, and for now shippers are looking to Halifax and even to some U.S. East Coast ports as alternatives,” according to the WSJ article.

     • Natural gas prices have shot up nearly 60% since late June. By late June, natural gas futures for July delivery hit $1.48 per million British thermal units, the lowest price in a quarter-century. Prices have risen since amid hot weather boosting air conditioner usage and rebounding demand as economies emerge from the epidemic lockdowns. Futures for September delivery ended Thursday at $2.35, up 6% from the same time last year. Gas to be delivered in December, when heating demand picks up, has risen to $3.13.


       Natural gas prices


Crude oil prices are under pressure again. Futures for Brent crude, the benchmark in international energy markets, fell 1% to $44.94 a barrel Thursday after a group of major producers said the recovery in demand from the Covid-19 shock had been unexpectedly slow.

       Prices were mixed in Asian action today, with U.S. crude down 35 cents at $42.58 per barrel while Brent was up 13 cents at $45.03 per barrel. But futures have declined around 1.5% ahead of the US trading start, with US crude trading around $42.20 per barrel and Brent around $44.30 per barrel.


       Crude oil pressure




Refineries have filed 67 applications for retroactive exemptions from mandates to use biofuel, according to EPA data released Thursday. That reflects nine new applications for waivers from blending targets from 2011 to 2018. Retroactive requests come on top of 28 pending waiver applications for 2019 and three for 2020. Six refinery applications previously deemed denied in 2011 and 2012 also have newly been reclassified as having been “declared ineligible” for relief.


     Refiners are filing the retroactive petitions to shore up their future eligibility for valuable waivers from biofuel-blending requirements, after a federal court said relief is limited to facilities that have “consistently” received it.


U.S./India ag trade deal continues at impasse, as U.S. wants India to buy $6 billion of agriculture, dairy goods. A U.S./India trade deal is reportedly stuck, and U.S. officials say if India wants trade benefits via the GSP restored, it must give business equivalent to that amount.


     According to the sources cited by ThePrint (link), the U.S. demand came at the “last moment” from U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer, who, the report said, has now demanded that if India wants restoration of the trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, it has to give “business equivalent of that amount” to the United States.


     “The USTR has been quite difficult during the interactions and the demand continues to increase from their side,” a top official who did not wish to be identified told ThePrint.


     USTR reportedly has told India to buy agricultural and dairy products such as chicken, apples and almonds worth $6 billion, the article detailed. India reportedly is willing to make up for it by enhancing energy trade between both sides, but the Trump administration is “insistent” on agricultural and dairy goods, the report notes.


Update on China:

  • Kudlow: China ‘basically’ doing what it should on trade. Larry Kudlow, President Trump's top economic adviser, in remarks during a Fox Business interview, said China is “buying a ton of commodities, particularly agriculture commodities.” He noted that U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer sees China as following the script for trade deal. “So so far, so good,” Kudlow said. U.S./-China trade talks mentioned by China are “a normal review,” Kudlow said, calling them “part of the governance process of this large trade deal.” As for relations with China, Kudlow said, “We have many huge complaints about China, but on the trade deal we are engaged.”
  • The trend in Chinese soybean imports is very clear, and not surprising, given developments between China and the U.S. over recent years, according to ING Economics. Brazil has made up 72% of total China imports so far this year, while the U.S. accounts for just 21% of imports. This is much improved from the 15% seen over the same period last year, but it is still well off from the 43% share seen prior to the trade war. Source for graphic: ING Economics.

    China soybean imports

  • U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link.
  • Australia set to bar China dairy takeover as trade tensions rise. Australia is poised to block China Mengniu Dairy’s proposed takeover of some of the nation’s biggest milk brands, as diplomatic and trade tensions escalate between Beijing and Canberra. Just days after China initiated an anti-dumping inquiry into Australian wine, Josh Frydenberg, Australia’s treasurer, has told state-owned China Mengniu his preliminary view is that the takeover of the Lion Dairy brands owned by Japan’s Kirin Holdings Co should not proceed, according to reports. Frydenberg has written to the Chinese company to inform it of his decision and to give it an opportunity to provide remedies or reasons why he should change his mind. Lion Dairy & Drinks is Australia’s second-biggest milk processor. It owns brands such as Pura Milk, Dairy Farmers and Yoplait.

Update on next aid package:

  • McConnell: Republican position hasn’t changed, and talks remain at an impasse. “We’re pretty far apart right now,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday at an event in his home state of Kentucky. ”I’m hoping we can get past that, but I can’t predict today.”

    Meanwhile, moderate swing-state Democrats in the House are increasing their pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to restart stalled stimulus talks with Republicans. Members of the Blue Dog coalition, a group of 26 fiscally conservative Democrats, is asking Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and McConnell to use a Saturday House vote on a U.S. Postal Service bill as an opportunity to restart negotiations. “As the House prepares to vote this weekend on a bill to protect the United States Postal Service, we urge you to restart bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on a fifth Covid-19 relief package that is commensurate with the scale of this public health and economic crisis,” the group said in a letter to the leaders.

    The Blue Dog letter says the next stimulus deal should extend expired supplemental unemployment benefits, include a direct stimulus payment, increase oversight over spending, extend the expanded employee retention tax credit and include aid to state and local governments.

    The Democratic-controlled House is set to vote tomorrow on legislation to bar the post office from making any changes to its operations amid the coronavirus pandemic. The bill also would give the agency $25 billion in additional financing. McConnell has indicated that there were no plans to take up the legislation in the Senate, where Republicans hold the majority.

    Meanwhile, Pelosi said it would be bad strategy to pass a standalone bill tomorrow favored by some House Democrats to extend the $600 weekly unemployment benefits with an extension linked to jobless rates. Pelosi said Republicans want to pass a bill that only tackles jobless relief and “forget” about other pandemic coronavirus-related funding needs, such as aid for states.

  • Peterson talks about needed aid package and absence of meaningful bipartisanship in Washington. House Ag Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), a moderate Democrat who represents Minnesota's expansive 7th Congressional District, earlier this week accepted the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Spirit of Enterprise award in a virtual meeting with about two dozen Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Chamber members. He offered his perspective on the state of politics and efforts by President Donald Trump to make changes to the Postal Service ahead of Election Day. Democrats seized on the issue, defending mail-in voting and bringing forth legislation to block any efforts to dial back services amid the pandemic while Republicans backed the president in criticizing the reliability of the postal service. The Democratic proposal is set to come up for a vote Saturday, Aug. 22, in the U.S. House and Peterson said he would vote by proxy on the measure because he didn't think returning to Washington for the vote was worth the potential health risk. “I think the whole thing is overblown and it’s really because I don’t think it’s going anywhere," Peterson said. "It's not going to go anyplace, it’s just going to cause more heat than light and we’ve just got to quit doing this, we don’t need this. We need to figure out how we’re going to work together." Members of the Democratic caucus, meanwhile, were too quick to "tilt at windmills," rather than taking up bipartisan proposals, he said.

    He said he has qualms with federal Covid-19 response funding that gave stimulus checks to Americans that make less than $75,000 and the $600 weekly unemployment benefit, which ran out last month. Trump has sought to extend $300 benefits by executive order. "I just don't think we have the money to be doing that," Peterson said.

    Peterson expressed pessimism about legislative leaders reaching a new aid deal that could pass both chambers any time soon. He said he continued supporting funding for pork and turkey producers and ethanol plants.

  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said any lawmaker who supports plans to provide more money to USPS “might as well just put it into a big pile on your front lawn and burn it.” He also said he opposes more relief for people who have suffered because of the pandemic. ”If you give people money and you make it less painful to be in a recession, we can stay in a recession longer," he said.

USDA’s RMA tweaks crop insurance prevented planting coverage. Several improvements to federal crop insurance prevented planting coverage that will take effect for most spring crops starting in the 2021 crop year were announced Wednesday (Aug. 19) by USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) as part of recommendations from the Prevented Planting Taskforce.


     Federal crop insurance prevent plant coverage is an indemnity for farmers who are unable to plant crops due to extreme weather conditions. Claims and payments under prevented plant hit a record in 2019, reaching nearly 20 million acres after widespread spring flooding in the Plains and Midwest. The previous prevented plant record was 10.2 million acres, set in 2011. “After unprecedented prevented planting in 2019, I thought it was incredibly important to examine how prevented planting policy can be improved,” said RMA Administrator Martin Barbre. “Over the past few months, RMA has engaged producer groups, insurance agents, and Approved Insurance Providers in discussion through a prevented planting taskforce with the goal to improve prevented planting for producers when they really need it, but not to incentivize it.”


     According to data released by USDA on Nov. 15, 2019, prevented plant indemnity payments for the 2019 crop year were over $4.2 billion, with around 61% of that for corn acres and 25% for soybean acres. Because of the 2019 challenges, “top-up” payments of 10% to 15% were automatically disbursed to producers with payable 2019 prevent plant indemnities utilizing funding included in the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019.


     RMA expands ‘1 in 4’ rule nationwide. Under the updates announced by RMA, so-called “1-in-4” requirement will be expanded nationwide beginning with spring crops in 2021. The provision requires that producers had to plant acreage in at least one of the four most recent crop years to be eligible for prevented planting coverage on those acres. Prior to the change, the requirement only applied to producers in the Prairie Pothole National Priority Area. To eligible for prevented plant in crop year 2021 and beyond, the acreage covered must “have been planted, insured, and harvested (or if not harvested, adjusted for claim purposes due to an insured cause of loss) in at least one of the preceding four crop years,” RMA detailed.


     More flexibility for replanting. Other changes are aimed at ensuring coverage and payments accurately reflect a producers actual planting intentions.


     A new exception will allow producers to be able to receive a prevented planting indemnity on the unplanted portion of a field, even if part of the field is replanted with a second crop. The producer cannot have a history of planting more than one crop on the covered acreage and will be required to provide proof showing they intended to plant the entire acreage with the originally insured crop, such as seed receipts and fertilizer input purchases.


     Following the failure of a first crop, acreage will now remain eligible for prevent plant payments even if replanted with a second uninsured crop. Previously, acreage replanted with a second crop, whether insured or not, was excluded from prevented plant coverage.


     Finally, producers will be allowed to use an intended acreage report for their first two years of planting, rather than just for the first year, provided they are planting in a county where they have not produced the crop previously.


     RMA said the prevented planting changes apply to most spring crops planted with coverage beginning in the 2021 crop year and will apply for all crops planted with coverage in the 2022 crop year.


Focus on seasonal produce moves to what the Trump administration will recommend on issue. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, USDA and Department of Commerce (DOC) have received two days of testimony via hearings Aug. 13 and 20 on the matter of imports of fresh and seasonal produce into the U.S. The sessions have seen produce growers from Florida and Georgia testify that shipments of these products from Mexico are negatively impacting US growers, but also that the produce industry and others indicate the situation merely is a case of market competition and not trade-distorting efforts by Mexico.


     The administration has pledged to develop a policy response by Sept. 1. Special Ag Trade Negotiator at USTR Gregg Doud remarked at the Aug. 20 session that he was struck by the “stark contrast” between growers and other ag groups. “Everybody has put a lot of time and effort into their testimony and next step is for the administration to put time and effort into how to move this forward and that’s exactly what we will do,” he said.


     USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue acknowledged the issue has been “one of the most frustrating things” his agency has dealt with. “Help us figure out how we can help and mitigate the issues that you’re facing and the challenges you are facing with something realistic that we can do under United States law and trade policy,” Perdue urged.


     Unclear is whether the administration will come back with a plan that will make it easier for U.S. produce growers to challenge imports from Mexico, a provision that was not included in the final U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).


Food and beverage industry update:

  • Almost 400 meatpacking plants in the U.S. have had outbreaks of Covid-19 as Aug. 19, according to Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting tracking. However, only roughly half of those plants have been publicly identified, despite calls for companies and government officials to identify them all.

    Meat and Covid

  • ProPublica: Meatpacking companies dismissed years of warnings but now say nobody could have prepared for Covid-19. In documents dating to 2006, government officials predicted that a pandemic would threaten critical businesses and warned them to prepare. Meatpacking companies largely ignored them, says a report from ProPublica, “and now nearly every one of the predictions has come true.” Link for details.
  • PepsiCo taps head of World Trade Organization for C-suite role. Roberto Azevedo will hold the newly created chief corporate affairs officer position, which brings the snack and beverage giant's public policy, government affairs and communications under one umbrella.
  • Japan begins to explore regulations for alternative meat products. To stimulate the use of non-traditional protein sources in the Japanese diet, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries established a public-private partnership to develop regulations for insect-based and plant-based foods derived through innovative technologies. In the last year alone, a number of large Japanese food companies have announced plans to develop plant-based “alternative meat” products. Link to USDA attaché report.
  • Mexico’s chicken meat and egg production have been affected by both the pandemic health emergency measures and domestic economic fallout, with lower than expected growth through the first half of 2020. However, the resilience of the poultry industry has allowed for a slight positive trend in 2020, expected to slightly improve in 2021 with a growth rate of up to 3 percent. The United States expanded its market share as Mexico’s main supplier for chicken meat and eggs, re-gaining market share lost by Brazil when Mexico’s third country tariff-rate quota (TRQ) for poultry expired. Through 2020 and 2021, domestic consumption of chicken meat will continue to grow due to increased household demand for a more affordable animal protein source. Link to USDA attaché report.

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

  • Reopening in Arizona: The state's Department of Health Services has given the OK for dozens of gyms, bars and theaters to reopen after reviewing their plans to limit the spread of Covid-19 at their businesses.
  • Airbnb announced a global ban on parties and events at Airbnb listings, with an occupancy cap of 16 people worldwide.
  • Some small cities will lose air service altogether in October as federal aid runs out. American Airlines said it would stop flights to 15 cities—some not served by any other carrier — once a requirement that it maintain the routes in exchange for federal aid expires. Efforts to extend funding have been mired in a broader stalemate over pandemic relief.
  • Flying is on the upswing. On a single day last week, nearly 863,000 fliers passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints around the country, the highest figure since March 17.

Coronavirus update:

  • Summary: Source: Johns Hopkins University as of 6:30 a.m. ET.

    — 22,703,716: Confirmed cases world-wide, and 584,556 deaths
    — 44,023: New U.S. cases recorded yesterday
    — 5,575,386: Total confirmed cases in the U.S.
    — 1,078: Deaths in the U.S. recorded yesterday
    — 174,290: Total U.S. deaths
    — 70,031,936: Tests conducted in the U.S.

    Link to Covid Case Tracker

    Link to Our World in Data

  • Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said on Thursday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the second senator known to do so. "I am strictly following the direction of our medical experts and strongly encourage others to do the same," he said in a statement.
  • A vaccine could be widely available by next spring, said Moncef Slaoui, co-director of Operation Warp Speed, adding that late-stage clinical trials of vaccine candidates from Moderna and Pfizer are going “very well."
  • On Russia's vaccine claim: World Health Organization officials in Europe said they have begun discussions with Russia concerning the potential Covid-19 vaccine the country recently approved.


  • Links

    2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map
    The Green Papers
    Days until election

  • Biden said he was prepared to steer the nation out of the coronavirus epidemic, as he formally accepted the Democratic presidential nomination and made his case for replacing President Trump. The former vice president called his opponent a national embarrassment who left Americans vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic and economic hardship. “Our current president has failed in his most basic duty to the nation. He has failed to protect us. He has failed to protect America,” Biden said after squarely blaming Trump for the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, the worst in the world. “My fellow Americans, that is unforgivable,” he said. “As president, I will make you a promise: I will protect America.”

    "If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst," Biden said during a speech that while spoken from the heart, did not detail much in the way he or the Democratic Party would govern the country. “I have always believed you can define America in one word: Possibilities,” Biden said. "Compassion is on the ballot, decency, science, democracy. They're all on the ballot," Biden said in his acceptance speech. “America’s history tells us that it has been in our darkest moments that we’ve made our greatest progress,” Biden said. “Let history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight, as love and hope and light join in the battle for the soul of the nation.”

    Biden did emphasize several economic priorities in his speech, including rebuilding American manufacturing, preserving Obamacare, introducing universal child care, reviving labor unions, raising wages and investing in green energy.

    He pledged to pay for it all by taxing the rich. “We can pay for these investments by ending loopholes and the president’s $1.3 trillion tax giveaway to the wealthiest 1% and the biggest, most profitable corporations, some of which pay no tax at all,” he said. “Because we don’t need a tax code that rewards wealth more than it rewards work.”

  • Schumer: Senate Democrats would ditch filibuster if needed to push Biden’s agenda through. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) made clear that eliminating the chamber’s legislative filibuster will be on the table if Democrats sweep into the majority with Biden in November. “We have a moral imperative to the people of America to get a whole lot done if we get the majority, which, God willing, we will, and keep it in the House, and Biden becomes president, and nothing is off the table,” Schumer said Thursday. “We will do what it takes to get this done. I’m hopeful, maybe if [President Donald] Trump goes and [Mitch] McConnell is no longer leader, some Republicans might work with us. But we’re going to have to get it done, whether they work with us or not,” he added. Schumer did not make an unequivocal declaration about doing away with the Senate’s rule requiring 60 votes to limit debate on legislation and other related procedural motions, but he did not shy away from it in an interview with radio host Joe Madison on SiriusXM. Schumer was asked about the filibuster, officially Senate Rule XXII, in the context of former President Barack Obama deriding it as an impediment to reviving protections of the Voting Rights Act.
  • Poll: Voters support domestic energy production. A new survey conducted by Morning Consult for the American Petroleum Institute has found that more than 60% of voters in key battleground states would vote for a presidential candidate who supports domestic oil and natural gas production, while 93% of respondents agreed that domestic production is necessary to ensure U.S. energy independence. "Proposals to ban U.S. energy production are out of step with bipartisan support for an all-of-the-above energy approach and would set America back by returning us to the days of relying on foreign energy," said API President and CEO Mike Sommers.
  • Biden campaign takes issue with Pa. fracking ad. Claims that Joe Biden would ban fracking are false, his campaign says, and the industry only contributes 20,000 jobs to Pennsylvania, not the 600,000 that an America First political advertisement cites. The campaign is asking Pennsylvania stations to stop running the pro-Trump super PAC's advertisement, noting that the outlets themselves have run programs debunking its accusations. Link for details.
  • Peterson talks about his re-election contest. House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson earlier this week spoke candidly to Fargo-Moorhead area business leaders. He said he expected a tough re-election contest heading into Nov. 3, but felt confident he could again win over voters in the district that firmly supported Trump in 2016. He pointed to GOP polling of the district that put GOP nominee Michelle Fischbach 10 percentage points ahead of Peterson and said it was "fictitious,” adding that “Everything that I see, my positives are higher than anybody else, my negatives are lower than anybody else, I think I'm doing my job. I've got tremendous support in the agriculture community, which frankly are mostly Republicans," he said. "We feel good but we're going to work hard. We'll put up with whatever nonsense people put out."
  • If defeated, what will Trump do? White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump will “see what happens” before deciding whether to accept the results of the election.
  • Trump warns of election fraud. President Trump called into a television program last night to claim there will be election fraud and assail Joe Biden just before his challenger was to accept the Democratic nomination. “This is going to be the most fraudulent election in history,” Trump told Fox News host Sean Hannity, saying mail-in voting will lead to widespread cheating, even though there’s been no evidence of that in previous elections.
  • House Democratic campaign leader predicts bigger majority. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chairwoman Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) said Thursday her party is likely to add to its 232-seat majority in Congress next year, and that the party is eyeing long-held Republican seats in states like Alaska, Indiana and Montana. In an interview for The Hill, Bustos said Democrats have taken aim at 31 Republican-held seats this year, a number that is likely to expand in the ten weeks before Election Day. “My prediction as we sit here is we will not only hold on to this Democratic majority, we will grow it,” Bustos said. “We’ve got the right candidates and resources, and we are ready to mobilize even in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.”
  • GOP raised $55.3 million in July. The Republican National Committee brought in $55.3 million in July, part of a $169.3 million haul for Trump’s re-election effort. The RNC ended the month with $109 million in the bank, putting Trump’s total war chest at more than $300 million. Biden and the Democratic National Committee announced earlier that they had $294 million cash on hand after raising $140 million in July.
  • Sierra Club calls on DNC to reinsert ending tax breaks, subsidies for fossil fuels into party platform. The Sierra Club has written the Democratic National Committee (DNC), demanding the party reinstate language into its platform that calls for an end of subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuels. “Instead of reassuring the American people that the Democratic Party is committed to putting public health over corporate polluters, the DNC has quietly endorsed Trump’s recklessness,” the group said in a letter to DNC Chairman Tony Perez. “The Democratic Party is not a party of climate change deniers. As the fossil fuel industry continues to shut down plants at record numbers, we must focus on redirecting fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy, which would give us a major boom in emissions reductions.” The group noted their endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden, noting that the Biden campaign “reaffirmed their plan to end fossil fuel subsidies and reinvest them in clean energy.” The letter concludes by the group simply stating, “It’s past time to end fossil fuel subsidies.” The situation has arisen following the DNC removing an amendment to their policy platform that called for an end to tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel, with the party saying it was included by error and then later saying the author of the amendment agreed to have it withdrawn, something which the author later denied was the case.
  • Former House Speaker Paul Ryan is jumping onto the blank-check acquisition company bandwagon as chairman of a vehicle that will seek to raise roughly $300 million in an IPO.




  • Former White House adviser Steve Bannon was arrested Thursday on charges that he and three others ripped off donors to an online fundraising scheme “We Build The Wall.” The charges were contained in an indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court. Federal prosecutors alleged that Bannon and three others “orchestrated a scheme to defraud hundreds of thousands of donors” in connection with an online crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $25 million to build a wall along the southern border of the United States. Prosecutors said that money was siphoned from the project and that Bannon used nearly $1 million to pay off his personal expenses. Bannon was arrested by federal postal inspectors and special agents on a $35 million yacht off the coast of Westbrook, Conn. The vessel is reportedly owned by controversial Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, per the Washington Free Beacon. Guo is a critic of the Chinese Communist Party and has been bankrolling Bannon's recent work. Bannon is now the sixth person linked to the senior leadership of the 2016 Trump campaign to be hit with federal charges.

    Separately, for a second time, a federal judge ruled that President Trump must provide his tax returns to the Manhattan district attorney.

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, underwent surgery Thursday to remove a polyp from his vocal cord that had been causing hoarseness, media reports said.
  • Trump threatens tariffs on U.S. companies. President Trump said during a campaign event Thursday that he will impose tariffs on U.S. companies that don't move jobs back to the country if he is re-elected.
  • Lighthizer lays out vision to revive WTO. U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer laid out his vision for overhauling the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is confronting the most challenging period in its 25-year existence with a looming leadership void and the virtual paralysis of its core functions. Lighthizer argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today (link) that nations should replace the defunct WTO appellate panel — where disputes are settled — with a single-stage process “akin to commercial arbitration.”
  • At least 4,800 chicks shipped to Maine farmers through the U.S. Postal Service have arrived dead in recent weeks after rapid cuts hit the federal mail carrier’s operations, Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) said. Pingree is raising the issue of the dead chicks and the losses farms are facing in a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, the Portland Press Herald reported (link).
  • Mississippi River Commission to hold public meetings on Aug. 24, 26, and 28. The Mississippi River Commission (MRC) will hold in-person public meetings on Aug. 24 in Caruthersville, Mo.; on Aug. 26 in Greenville, Miss.; and on Aug. 28 in Morgan City, La., during MRC’s annual low-water inspection trip. The meetings will cover national and regional issues affecting U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and MRC programs and projects on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. The events will also give an overview of current project issues in the St. Louis, Memphis, and Vicksburg Districts. Finally, local organizations and members of the public will express their views on issues related to USACE and MRC programs and projects.
  • DEA publishes rule to update regs based on 2018 Farm Bill. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has published an interim final rule which reflects the 2018 Farm Bill provisions on hemp and reflecting Controlled Substances Act (CSA) amendments that have already taken effect, saying the changes do not add additional requirements to the regulations. The DEA said there are no additional costs resulting from these regulatory changes and they are expected to result in annual cost savings for affected entities. Comments are due by Oct. 20. Link to rule.
  • Cotton AWP eases slightly. The Adjusted World Price (AWP) for cotton is at 48.60 cents per pound, effective today (Aug. 21), down from 48.92 cents per pound the prior week and the fifth week the AWP has been below 50 cents per pound. The rate still leaves the opportunity for an LDP of 3.40 cents per pound. USDA also announced that Special Import Quota #18 would be established Aug. 27 for the import of 8,311 bales of upland cotton, applying to supplies purchased not later than November 24 and entered into the U.S. not later than Feb. 22.


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