Aid Negotiators Far Apart with Today's Self-imposed Deadline at Hand

Posted on 08/07/2020 7:10 AM

Trump increases attacks on China tech, imposes tariffs on Canadian aluminum

 


In Today’s Updates


 

Market Focus:
* Slower jobs growth expected in today's July update
* Lumber futures price climbs to record as Covid-19 sets off building boom
* Oil price forecast improves slightly
* Brown presses CFTC for review of possible oil market manipulation

* Glencore, a mining and commodities giant, scrapped its planned annual dividend
* Better demand has stabilized plunge in phosphate-fertilizer prices
* Organizations urge governor to address California’s declining port market share

 

Policy Focus:
* Blame game continues as aid negotiators still confronting big issues
* Trump to re-impose aluminum tariffs on Canada
* Conservative GOP senators want to nix wind and solar tax credit extenders
* U.S. ethanol firm doesn't want to rely on Trump's EPA, but will try to help itself
* Some energy/biofuel groups trim lobbying expenditures
* APHIS seeks feedback on list of animal and plant pest and disease threats

U.S./China update:
* U.S./China relations: From Cold War to Frigid War?
* Trump seeks crackdown on Chinese companies with shares traded in U.S.
* Trump signs executive orders re: WeChat and TikTok
* Top U.S. officials travel to Taiwan and China is reacting
* Second Canadian sent to China’s death row
* China's exports surged in July as trade recovery continues; imports fell


Update on re-opening America... and around the world:
* L.A. mayor to cut off water & electricity at houses repeatedly hosting large parties


Coronavirus update:
* Cases in France are spiking again
* Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) tests positive
* Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) tests negative after initially testing positive
* N.Y. mayor: Out-of-state travelers could face up to $10,000 in fines
* ASCE releases report on effects of Covid-19 on America’s Infrastructure
* South Korean study shows asymptomatic carry virus in high amounts

 

Politics & Elections:
* Election Day is 88 days away
* Bill Hagerty wins bitterly divisive Republican Senate primary in Tennessee
* Biden apologizes for comments on racial diversity among Blacks
* Biden’s lead in the RealClearPolitics national polling average is down to 6.4 points
* Latest U.S. tool to fight election meddling: Text messages

* Sen. Stabenow hosts virtual roundtable with farmers on Biden farm policy


Other Items of Note:
* STB announces final rule on railroad market dominance
* Soybean Transportation Guide: Brazil 2019
* USDA offers installment deferral option for Farm Storage Facility Loan borrowers
* Senate confirms SEC commissioners
* Senate clears pipeline safety legislation
* FERC extends timeline for fourth LNG train at Freeport LNG terminal
* USDA outlines actions for consumers receiving unsolicited seed packages
* Farming influencers on the rise
* Cotton AWP moves higher

 


MARKET FOCUS


 

Equities today: Global stocks fell amid escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing after President Trump moved to impose new limits on two Chinese social-media apps. Futures tied to the S&P 500 ticked down, signaling a lower open. The gauge is still on course to close the week up about 2%. Jobs data, due at 8:30 a.m. ET., will assess the recovery in the American labor market. In Asia, major markets fell. The Shanghai Composite dropped almost 1%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell nearly 2% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 index dropped 0.4%.

 

     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow finished with a gain of 185.46 points, 0.68%, at 27,386.98. The Nasdaq rose 109.67 points, 1.00%, at 11,108.07. The S&P 500 gained 21.39 points, 0.64%, at 3,349.16.

 

On tap today:

 

     • U.S. nonfarm payrolls for June, due at 8:30 a.m. ET, are expected to rise by 1.482 million from the prior month and the unemployment rate is expected to fall to 10.6% from 11.1%.
     • Baker Hughes rig count is out at 1 p.m. ET
     • U.S. consumer credit for June is out at 3 p.m. ET
     • Commitments of Traders report, out at 3:30 pm. ET

 

Slower jobs growth expected in today's July update. The rate of rise in nonfarm payrolls in July was expected to ease to 1.5 million, still a gain but down from the June level of 4.8 million jobs added. The unemployment rate was expected to ease to around 10% from a June level of 11.1%. Unlike “normal” jobs updates, the headline numbers will be the main focus as the pandemic-fuel recession has altered other usual watch points like hourly earnings, the labor force participation rate and the average workweek. The key factor remains the Covid-19 pandemic which is a situation out of the control of businesses. The easing in the pace of jobs growth is expected to be most notable in states where the virus numbers have been rising at a stronger rate. And some of the easing is likely from states where higher virus numbers have prompted actions to curtail business activity for a second time.

 

     BLS UR

 

Market perspectives:

 

     • Lumber futures price climbs to record as Covid-19 sets off building boom. Lumber futures ended Thursday at a record high, with September delivery gaining 3.1%, or $19, to settle at $641.60 per thousand board feet, topping the old $639 high mark for the most actively traded lumber contract, reached during 2018. Mill owners acknowledge an inability to add much more wood to the market given the time lost when many mills were shut down in March and April and the challenges of operating mills in the midst of the pandemic.

 

        Lumber prices

 

     • Crude oil futures were mixed in overnight Asian action on selling continuing after mild losses in US Thursday trading. US crude was down 12 cents at $41.83 per barrel while Brent crude was up 10 cents at $44.90 per barrel. Futures have shifted lower in both markets ahead of the US trading start, with losses of around 0.9%, taking U.S. crude to around $41.55 per barrel and Brent around $44.75 per barrel.

 

     • Oil price forecast improves slightly. Oil prices could surpass $50 per barrel in the second half of 2021, research group IHS Markit projected Thursday, as the market faces a “delicate pivot point” with demand recovering, supply coming back, but the trajectory of the coronavirus unknown. “The record cuts set in motion in May and June by Saudi Arabia and its OPEC+ partners played a pivotal role in accelerating the improbable rebalancing of global oil markets,” said Roger Diwan, IHS Markit’s vice president of financial services. “With demand recovering from April lows and after giving markets an extra month to find their footing, these exporters have now moved from managing the immediate surplus of the crisis towards managing the recovery.” IHS Markit upgraded its price outlook for Brent crude, the international benchmark, to an average price of $42.35 per barrel in 2020 and $49.25 per barrel in 2021—up $7.09/bbl and $5.25/bbl, respectively, from its May forecast. Prices have stabilized in recent months above $40 per barrel, but many producers require prices to rise at least $50 per barrel to make a profit.

 

     • Brown presses CFTC for review of possible oil market manipulation. Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs ranking member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) sent a letter (link) to Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chair Heath Tarbert requesting the agency conduct a review of potential oil market manipulation earlier this year, following a Bloomberg News report that documented how a small London firm made as much as $500 million when the price of crude went negative in April. He also questioned comments Tarbert has made about what happened on April 20, when the price of oil hit -$37 a barrel.


     • Glencore, a mining and commodities giant, scrapped its planned annual dividend, worth $2.6 billion. The company blamed the uncertain economic outlook caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and pledged to reduce its debt instead. The company made a net loss of $2.6 billion in the first six months of this year.

 

     • Fertilizer boost. Better demand as farmers expand planting in 2020 has stabilized the plunge in phosphate-fertilizer prices near term, Bloomberg intelligence writes.

 

     • Organizations urge governor to address California’s declining port market share. A broad coalition of trade associations sent a letter (link) urging Governor Newsom and the California Legislature to take action to prevent continued loss of California’s port market share. The group notes the West Coast ports’ market share has declined 19.4% since 2006. To address the major causes of the market share loss, the letter proposes promoting California ports, meeting the challenge from East and Gulf Coast States’ ports, evaluating current State and regional regulations, and reconciling State laws encouraging environmental and efficiency mandates with the need to retrain workers.

 

You do what you have to do to catch a breeze...

 

    Squirrel

 


POLICY FOCUS


 

Progress cited in aid talks, but still big differences on major issues; Trump says he’ll extend aid himself. President Donald Trump said he plans to sign orders today or this weekend extending enhanced unemployment benefits and imposing a payroll tax holiday as lawmakers were unable to reach agreement on stimulus legislation that includes such provisions. But lawmakers from both parties questioned whether he has that authority. “I don’t think they know what they are talking about,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. “The one thing the president can do is to extend the moratorium and that would be a good thing, if there is money to go with it,” she said, referring to Democrats’ calls to also provide assistance to landlords to cover missed rent.

 

     After over three hours of negotiations Thursday evening, both sides blamed each other, accusing each other of not moving enough in bridging the $1 trillion proposed by Senate Republicans and the $3.5 trillion backed by Democrats. The White House and congressional Democrats are up against a self-imposed deadline today to strike a deal.

 

     “We’re still a considerable amount apart in terms of a compromise that could be signed into law,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said after leaving a meeting with Democratic leaders. “The differences are still significant.”

 

     “We’re very far apart,” said Pelosi. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that, “They were unwilling to meet in the middle. They said it mostly had to be their way.”

 

     Next step: Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said they will consult with Trump and call Pelosi and Schumer today to determine if it makes sense to meet. Schumer made clear Democrats are willing to keep talking. If today's jobs report comes in better than expected, it could embolden resistance of the White House to spending anywhere close to $3.5 trillion Democrats have been demanding. A worse than expected report could hasten them to a conclusion.

 

     Biggest issue: aid to states. Mnuchin noted large differences over the Democrats’ push to appropriate $1 trillion for state and local governments. “The president is not going to do a deal that has a massive amount of money to bail out state and local,” he said.

 

     Saturday is the deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program, designed to help small businesses keep workers on payroll. Senate leaders have been trying to strike an agreement to extend the program, which still has more than $100 billion remaining, and allow small businesses to have more access to the program.

 

Trump to re-impose aluminum tariffs on Canada. President Trump will reimpose a 10% tariff on Canadian aluminum, just over a month after implementation of the USMCA trade pact meant to lower barriers. “Earlier today I signed a proclamation that defends American industry by reimposing aluminum tariffs on Canada,” President Trump said during a speech Thursday at a Whirlpool factory in Clyde, Ohio. “Canada was taking advantage of us, as usual,” he said. “The aluminum business was being decimated by Canada, very unfair to our jobs and our great aluminum workers." The announcement only pertained to the 10% tariff on aluminum from Canada, not the 25% tariff on steel.

 

     In May 2019, Trump exempted Canada from his Section 232 tariffs on aluminum and steel to ease the passage of the USMCA. But the agreement let the U.S. reimpose 10% tariffs if Canadian imports surge “meaningfully beyond historic volumes of trade over a period of time.”

     Jim McGreevy, president of the Beer Institute, which represents American beermakers, said the tariffs were a mistake: “The United States imports more primary aluminum from Canada than from any other country, making Canada a key player in many American manufacturing processes, including the beer supply chain,” McGreevy said, adding that the beverage industry alone had paid $582 million in tariffs since they first took effect in 2018. “We strongly oppose the decision to re-implement aluminum tariffs on one of our nation’s most important allies.”

 

     Facts and figures. U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer told the Senate Finance Committee in June that Canadian steel and aluminum imports have risen “substantially.” Aluminum imports are higher than a year ago, but first-quarter imports of primary aluminum this year were slightly lower than first-quarter imports in 2017, according to Census Bureau data. Imports of primary aluminum from Canada for the first six months of 2020 were nearly 5% lower than during the same period in 2017.

 

Conservative GOP senators want to nix wind and solar tax credit extenders. Extending the deadlines for wind and solar tax credits, as approved in House Democrats’ infrastructure bill, would cost at least $13 billion, a group of more than two dozen free market conservative groups say. “[A]fter decades and billions of dollars in subsidies the solar and wind industry are more than capable of supporting themselves without federal ‘incentives,’” the groups wrote in a letter (link) Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). The letter from the groups — which include Americans for Prosperity, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, Heritage Action, and Americans for Tax Reform — comes as seven Senate Republicans recently called on McConnell to include support for clean energy in any next coronavirus relief bill.

 

U.S. ethanol firm doesn't want to rely on Trump's EPA, but will try to help itself. U.S. ethanol makers have for years been reliant on a government policy that mandates biofuel use. But industry leader Green Plains wants to break away from that dependence and instead is investing in projects that will help itself, from high-quality proteins to fish feed and alcohol for disinfectants. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company has lost faith that the ethanol industry will get the support it needs from parts of the Trump administration, said CEO Todd Becker. As a result, it’s investing in products that will neutralize from 2023 any impact of ethanol volatility for earnings. Link to Bloomberg item for details.

 

Some energy/biofuel groups trim lobbying expenditures. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) spent $339,676 on lobbying efforts during the second quarter, down 12% from the year-ago quarter and 4% from the prior quarter, Reuters reported based on data from a U.S. Senate database tracking lobbying disclosures. The American Fuel and Petrochemicals Manufacturers (AFPM) spent $567,144 on lobbying in the second quarter, a drop of more than 30% from year ago.

 

     RFA President Geoff Cooper told Reuters the reduced spending is because their “resources are more limited today because of Covid-19 and the impact on the industry.”

 

     The AFPM, however, said neither Covid-19 nor industry economics prompted the spending decline as the year-ago spending was higher due to work on cleaner marine fuel policy activity.

 

APHIS seeks feedback on list of animal and plant pest and disease threats. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is seeking feedback on its proposed list of pests and diseases of concern that are likely to pose a high risk to U.S. agricultural and natural resources. Section 12203 of the 2018 Farm Bill requires pest- and disease-planning activities that mirror the extensive planning efforts APHIS already performs. Specifically, it requires APHIS to develop a uniform list of pests and diseases that represent the gravest threat to the United States and to develop comprehensive response plans to ensure Federal and State governments are prepared to respond to them. APHIS is publishing the list on its website (link).

     The agency will review comments from the public about the list, including suggestions of pests or diseases that should be added or removed. In providing comments, individuals should keep in mind that the Farm Bill definition of a pest or disease of concern limits this list to those that are “likely to pose a significant risk to the food and agricultural critical infrastructure sector” and is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all possible pests or diseases. Comments may be submitted to link.

 

     After reviewing feedback and potentially revising the list, APHIS will ensure it has fully developed comprehensive response plans to address the pests and diseases on the list. Additionally, it will continue to work with its State partners on response plans they wish to create. The Agency will also continue to periodically test those plans to ensure awareness of each organization’s roles and responsibilities.

 

APHIS said if a threat emerges that is not on the list, it will respond appropriately.

 

Update on China:

  • Trump administration seeks crackdown on Chinese companies with shares traded in U.S. Chinese companies with shares traded on U.S. stock exchanges would be forced to give up their listings unless they comply by 2022 with American accounting requirements under a plan recommended by the Trump administration.
     
  • Trump signed executive orders Thursday night barring Americans or those subject to U.S. jurisdiction from transactions with the China-based owners of WeChat and TikTok, effective 45 days from Thursday. It also essentially imposes a 45-day deadline for an American company to purchase TikTok’s U.S. operations. Shares of Tencent Holdings plunged up to 10% in Hong Kong, hours after Trump signed the order targeting its WeChat app. Bottom line: It amounts to isolating Chinese software, mobile networks and more, and encouraging non-Chinese companies to withdraw from Chinese app stores. While TikTok said it will pursue all remedies available, including American courts, it also faces a Sept. 15 deadline before its services are banned in the U.S.

    Tencent stock

     
  • Top U.S. officials travel to Taiwan and China is reacting. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will lead a delegation to Taiwan on Sunday to meet with senior Taiwanese officials in a rare high-profile visit to the island. Planned discussions will focus on the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the visit comes as tensions between Washington and Beijing have rapidly escalated. It is expected to provoke a strong reaction from China as China considers Taiwan to be a part of its national territory, and it has blocked the island from joining several international bodies.

    Background. The U.S. broke off formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979 as it began cultivating a closer relationship with Beijing, but it has continued to sell weapons to the country and continues to be its biggest arms supplier. Members of the U.S. government occasionally make trips to the island but visits by Cabinet officials are rare. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the U.S. was negotiating a deal that would send four large, sophisticated drones to Taiwan, meaning the island nation will join an exclusive cadre of U.S. allies that have been allowed to purchase U.S.-made drones.

    China threatens countermeasures. In advance of Sunday’s visit, China threatened to take “strong countermeasures in response to the U.S. behavior.” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Wenbin did not provide details on what retaliatory action Beijing might take, but it threatened to sanction the U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin last month for selling weapons to Taiwan.

     
  • Second Canadian sent to China’s death row. The death sentences both handed down this week come amid unresolved tensions between Beijing and Ottawa over Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
     
  • China's exports surged in July as trade recovery continues. China's export growth surged past expectations in July, up 7.2% from a year earlier in U.S. dollar terms, data released by the Chinese Customs Administration today showed.

    Imports, however, fell 1.4% from year ago, after having risen 2.7% in June. Expectations were for an increase of 1.0%.

    China's trade surplus rose to $62.33 billion, above expectations for a trade surplus of $42.5 billion and well above the June mark of $46.42 billion. Some of the import drop was tabbed on lower commodity prices. The country reported record imports of iron ore and copper along with a sharp rise in crude oil.

    China reported its trade surplus with the U.S. rose to $32.46 billion in July from $29.41 billion in June, as imports rose 3.6%, down from the 11.3% rise in June. However, China's imports from the U.S. over the January-June period are down 3.5% from the year-ago period.

    Pork to China

     
  • U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link.

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

  • Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) said he will cut off water and electricity at houses that repeatedly host large parties. Hundreds of young people have flocked to large parties held at private homes and rental properties in the Hollywood Hills. Link to more from the LA Times.

Coronavirus update:

  • Summary: Source: Johns Hopkins University as of 4:30 a.m. ET

    — 19,111,123: Confirmed cases world-wide, and 584,556 deaths
    — 59,692: New U.S. cases recorded yesterday
    — 4,883,657: Total confirmed cases in the U.S.
    — 1,250: Deaths in the U.S. recorded yesterday
    — 160,104: Total U.S. deaths
    — 59,652,675: Tests conducted in the U.S.

    Link to Covid Case Tracker

    Link to Our World in Data

     
  • Cases in France are spiking again. The country recorded its highest daily total of new infections since May on Wednesday, with at least 1,695 new positive cases. Neighboring Spain also recorded a new uptick, fueling concerns across Europe.
     
  • Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) tested positive. In a statement, the congressman said he’s showing no symptoms other than “higher-than-normal temperature.”
     
  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) tested negative for the coronavirus after initially testing positive earlier Thursday, his office announced.
     
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said out-of-state travelers could face up to $10,000 in fines if they break the state’s two-week quarantine rule and that checkpoints will be set up at entry points to the city. Link for details. Meanwhile, more than 13% of health care workers in the greater New York City area tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, according to a newly published study.
     
  • ASCE releases report on the effects of Covid-19 on America’s Infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released a status report (link) on the pandemic’s effects on the Nation's bridges, dams, inland waterways, ports, and roads. ASCE projects a 30% revenue decline in the next 18 months for State Departments of Transportation (DOTs) because of declining gas tax revenue. To maintain bridges, roads, and transit systems as safe and reliable and aid the Nation’s long-term economic recovery, ASCE recommends Congress provide $50 billion in immediate, short-term relief for State DOTs. ASCE’s recommendations to Congress include quickly enacting various other long-term infrastructure-enhancing measures as well. The 2021 ASCE Infrastructure Report Card will be released in Feb. 2021.
     
  • South Korean study shows asymptomatic carry virus in high amounts. A new study in South Korea, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, offers more definitive proof that people without symptoms carry just as much virus in their nose, throat and lungs as those with symptoms, and for almost as long,

 


POLITICS & ELECTIONS


 

  • Links
    2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map
    The Green Papers

     
  • Bill Hagerty, Trump’s former ambassador to Japan, won a bitterly divisive Republican Senate primary in Tennessee. The race pitted Trump, who endorsed Hagerty, against prominent conservatives like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, who endorsed his chief opponent.
     
  • Biden apologizes for comments on racial diversity among Blacks. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden apologized late Thursday for comments he made earlier in the day that suggested that the African-American community was not diverse. “In no way did I mean to suggest the African-American community is a monolith — not by identity, not on issues, not at all,” Biden said via several tweets. In an interview with Black and Latino journalists published early Thursday, Biden said that “unlike the African-American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly diverse attitudes about different things.”
     
  • Biden’s lead in the RealClearPolitics national polling average is down to 6.4 points, having not long ago been above 8. In the top battleground states, Biden’s edge over Trump is 4.7 points. A Hill/HarrisX poll shows the presumptive Democratic nominee ahead by just 3 points, a margin consistent with Rasmussen. An Emerson College poll has Biden up by 4.
     
  • Latest U.S. tool to fight election meddling: Text messages. The U.S. government sent text messages to cellphones in Russia and Iran yesterday offering up to $10 million for information about people trying to attack American voting systems. Link to details from the New York Times.
     
  • Sen. Stabenow hosts virtual roundtable with farmers on Biden farm policy. Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) Thursday hosted a virtual roundtable with farmers to discuss agriculture and trade policies that would be pursued by former Vice President Joe Biden. Michigan crop farmer Tim Boring labeled trade policy as the number-one priority for the next president, supporting Biden’s plan to pursue a “trade policy that works for American farmers.” He noted that such a focus would provide better opportunities for his farm. “We’ve damaged our relationships across the world,” he noted. “The last couple years haven’t been very good in agriculture.” Stabenow said the Trump administration’s trade policy has resulted in “chaos, loss of markets and loss of prices for farmers.” She said Biden understands the issues and "would work to create opportunities for exports. Biden understands we need consistency and relationships, and we do this together while creating jobs here and exporting our products, where agriculture exports are number one.”

 


OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE


  • STB announces final rule on railroad market dominance. The Surface Transportation Board (STB) issued its a final rule on evaluating market dominance in rate reasonableness proceedings. Per the final rule, a complainant must demonstrate these seven conditions to have a prima facie showing of market dominance: (1) the movement has a revenue-to-variable cost ratio of 180% or greater; (2) the movement would exceed 500 highway miles between origin and destination; (3) there is no intramodal competition from other railroads; (4) there is no barge competition; (5) there is no pipeline competition; (6) the complainant has used trucks for 10% or less of its volume (by tonnage), subject to the rate at issue over a 5-year period; and (7) the complainant has no practical build-out alternative (regardless of transportation mode), because of physical, regulatory, financial, or other issues (or combination of issues). Complainants who cannot demonstrate the presence of these seven conditions still retain the option of making a traditional market dominance case, which involves a more thorough qualitative analysis of whether there are any feasible transportation alternatives sufficient to constrain the railroad’s rates. Either approach provides opportunity to defendant railroads to rebut a complainant’s evidence. The final rule will be effective on Sept. 5, 2020.
     
  • Soybean Transportation Guide: Brazil 2019 (link) provides a visual snapshot of Brazilian soybean transportation in 2019. Released annually, the guide provides data on the cost of shipping soybeans, via highways and ocean, to Shanghai, China, and Hamburg, Germany. It also includes information about soybean production, exports, railways, ports, and infrastructural developments.
     
  • USDA offers annual installment deferral option for Farm Storage Facility Loan borrowers. To assist Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) borrowers experiencing financial hardship from the pandemic and other challenges in production agriculture, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is offering a one-time annual installment payment deferral option. No fees or prepayment penalties apply for borrowers who choose this FSFL loan flexibility option. Link for details.
     
  • Thune unveils biofuel bill. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced the Adopt Green Act, a measure that would make the Environmental Protection Agency update its greenhouse gas models for ethanol and biodiesel. Link for details.
     
  • Senate confirms SEC commissioners. Hester Peirce and Caroline Crenshaw will serve as SEC commissioners after receiving the Senate’s endorsement by voice vote yesterday. Peirce, a Republican, has been a commissioner since 2018 under a term that expired in June. Her second term will end in 2025. Crenshaw will succeed her former boss, Democratic-leaning independent Robert Jackson, who left in February. The chamber also confirmed Jason Myung-Ik Chung to be director of the Asian Development Bank and Steven Dowd to be director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Separately, the White House sent the nomination to the Senate of Michael Finkel to be a director of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation.
     
  • Senate clears pipeline safety legislation. Legislation reauthorizing Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) pipeline safety programs through 2023 was cleared via voice vote by the Senate Thursday evening. The measures cleared after Democrats inserted language into the bill that would require natural gas operators to put the latest methane leak technology in place and to minimize methane leaks as part of their inspection and maintenance plans. Companion legislation in the House has not yet been acted on by that chamber.
     
  • FERC extends timeline for fourth LNG train at Freeport LNG terminal. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) published a notice extending the timeline for Freeport LNG Development to construct and put into service a fourth natural gas liquefaction train and pretreatment unit and interconnecting pipelines and utility lines at the Freeport LNG Quintana Island terminal. The extension is through May 17, 2026. The original order authorizing the project required it be completed and put into service within four years of the order being granted May 17, 2019. FERC said Freeport LNG cited “unforeseen constriction delays” in its request for an extension.
     
  • USDA outlines actions for consumers receiving unsolicited seed packages. USDA is urging anyone who receives an unsolicited package of seeds to mail those seeds to the location listed for their state. If more than one location is listed, consumers are being told to select the location closest to their residence. Persons receiving the seeds are instructed to place the unopened seed packet and any packaging, including the mailing label in a mailing envelope. If the seed packets are open, they are being told to first place the seeds and their packaging into a zip-lock bag, seal it, and then place everything into a mailing envelope. Those sending seeds are asked to include their name, address and phone number so a state or federal agriculture official can contact them for additional information, if needed. There is a listing of information by state that has a link for information to be entered on line and either an address to send the seeds to or an advisory that the information will be provided once an electronic submission is made. If there is no mailing address listed, consumers are advised to contact their APHIS State plant health director to arrange a no-contact pick up or to determine a convenient drop-off location.
     
  • Farming influencers on the rise. For years, many small farmers have tried to find new ways to make a living beyond selling crops alone. “The sleigh rides, the alpacas, the therapy ponies, the pick-your-own hemp,” writes Ellen Barry, the New York Times' New England bureau chief. “It is a new thing, though, to make farm life into reality TV.” Link for details.
     
  • Cotton AWP moves higher. The Adjusted World Price for cotton increased to 49.94 cents per pound, effective today (Aug. 7), up from 47.71 cents per pound the prior week. This marked the third week in a row the AWP has been under 50 cents per pound and the new rate leaves an LDP opportunity of 2.56 cents per pound. Meanwhile, USDA announced it will establish Special Import Quota #16 for 8,311 bales of upland cotton, a reflection of the declining mill use for cotton as it is the seasonally adjusted average of the rate for the period from April-June 2020. The import quota will be established Aug. 13 and will apply to upland cotton purchased not later than Nov. 10 and entered into the U.S. not later than Feb. 8.

 

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