House Democrats release 'scaled back' aid package, including ag, food provisions
In Today’s Updates
* Markets flat ahead of presidential debate tonight in Cleveland
* World Bank: East Asia and Pacific economic growth to be slowest since 1967
* More RVs on the road haven't been nearly enough to make up for less overall driving
* Analyst: Markets can 'sleep through' U.S. presidential debate
* An oil/renewables fight outside ethanol RFS battles
* Can gold keep going?
* House Democrats unveil new $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid bill
* Ag and food policy provisions in latest House aid package
* Ag and food policy language in House aid bill portends changes in next farm bill
* CFAP 1 payments exceed $10 billion
* China focuses effort on further reforms in new five-year plan
* China to shift more than 7 million households from coal heating
* China reports cotton harvest underway in Xinjiang
* China seeks WTO review of whether they have altered wheat, rice supports
* SCMP: China ‘miles away’ from meeting Phase 1 purchase commitments
U.S. food & beverage industry update:
* New limits urged on Americans’ sugar consumption amid rising obesity concerns
* Cream of Wheat guy joins Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben in cancellation
Update on re-opening America... and around the world:
* Manhattan offices are nearly empty, threatening New York City’s recovery
* Covid-19 is killing on average more than 700 people a day in U.S.
* CDC issues new guidance discouraging Americans from packing into shopping malls
Politics & Elections:
* First of three presidential debates will have instant analysis, but watch markets
* Pelosi calls Trump taxes a national security issue
* Ilhan Omar investigated for ballot harvesting
Other Items of Note:
* EPA cites legal issues about California’s plan to ban new gas-powered cars
* Census deadline now Oct. 5
* Final round of Brexit talks kicks off today
Equities today: U.S. futures signal a flat opening ahead of tonight's first of three presidential debates. Ahead of the opening, shares of Abbott Laboratories rose 2.6% after President Trump said 150 million rapid coronavirus tests made by the pharmaceutical company would be shipped across the United States. In Asia, major stock benchmarks were mixed, with the Shanghai Composite Index advancing 0.2% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slipping 0.9%.
U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow rose 410.10 points, 1.51%, at 27,584.06. The Nasdaq gained 203.96 points, 1.87%, at 11,117.53. The S&P 500 was up 52.14 points, 1.61%, at 3,351.60.
On tap today:
• U.S. advance economic indicators report for August is out at 8:30 a.m. ET.
• S&P Case-Shiller home-price index for July is out at 9 a.m. ET.
• Conference Board's consumer confidence index for September, due at 10 a.m. ET, is expected to rise to 90.1 from 84.8 a month earlier.
• Federal Reserve: New York’s John Williams speaks to a U.S. Treasury Market Conference at 9:15 a.m., ET, Philadelphia’s Patrick Harker speaks to the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum at 9:30 a.m., Vice Chairman Richard Clarida speaks to a U.S. Treasury Market Conference at 11:40 a.m., Williams speaks at a University of California, Berkeley webinar at 1 p.m., and Vice Chairman Randal Quarles speaks to Harvard Law School at 1 p.m. and to the University of Maryland’s Center for Financial Policy at 3 p.m. ET.
• Japan preliminary industrial production for August is out at 7:50 p.m. ET.
• First of three U.S. presidential debates, Cleveland, 9 p.m. ET.
• China's official manufacturing and nonmanufacturing purchasing managers indexes for September are out at 9 p.m.
World Bank says East Asia and Pacific economic growth to be slowest since 1967. Economic growth in East Asia and the Pacific, including China, is expected to be 0.9% this year, the slowest growth since 1967, according to updated forecasts from the World Bank.
China’s growth is seen at 2%, helped by government spending to combat the pandemic, but slow domestic consumption is holding their performance down.
For the rest of the region, the World Bank predicts at 3.5% contraction, citing the pandemic and efforts to contain the virus leading to a “significant curtailment” of economic activity.
Some 33 million to 38 million more people in the region could be pushed into poverty, the report noted. "These domestic difficulties were compounded by the pandemic-induced global recession, which hit EAP (East Asia and Pacific) economies that rely on trade and tourism hard," the update noted. "Countries with well-functioning social protection programs, and good implementation infrastructure, pre-Covid, have been able to scale up more quickly during the pandemic.”
More RVs on the road haven't been nearly enough to make up for less overall driving. Gasoline demand this year is well short of last year's level.
• Markets can 'sleep through' the U.S. presidential debate as the event is unlikely to produce bold new initiatives, UBS says. The presidential debates are unlikely to produce "anything of substance" since bold new policy initiatives are usually not announced at televised debates, Paul Donovan, global chief economist at UBS Global Wealth Management said today.
• Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is down again on a corrective pullback after hitting a two-month high late last week. Nymex crude oil prices are weaker and trading around $40.40. Meantime, the yield on the U.S. Treasury 10-year note is trading around 0.65% today.
• Oil futures are under pressure ahead of the U.S. trading start as concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic and U.S. presidential debate are weighing on prices. U.S. crude was trading around $40.30 per barrel and December Brent crude around $42.60 per barrel. Crude oil prices moved lower in Asian action, with U.S. crude down 22 cents at $40.38 per barrel and December Brent crude down 19 cents at $42.68 per barrel.
• An oil/renewables fight outside ethanol RFS battles. Attacking their shift towards renewables, Russia's Rosneft lashed out at BPand Royal Dutch Shell for creating an "existential crisis" for oil supplies. "I think that to go away from your core business, which is what they are doing, somebody will need to step in... somebody will need to take that responsibility," Rosneft's Didier Casimiro told the Financial Times Commodities Global Summit. "It is an existential threat for supply. It is an existential threat for price volatility... we will have a [supply] crunch, price volatility, and yes higher prices."
• Can gold keep going? This year ranks as one of the best on record for investors in the precious metal, with futures prices up almost 24% for 2020 after hitting an all-time high in August. The events of this year are giving new life to those who insist the arc of financial history points toward the inevitable debasement of currencies like the dollar. Bullish investors contend that trend means new highs for gold are in store, the Wall Street Journal reports (link).
— House Democrats unveiled a new $2.2 trillion spending bill on Monday, with similar ag provisions as before and adding in funding for airlines, restaurants and schools. The restaurant industry would get a $120 billion “restaurant stabilization fund”, and the airline industry would get an additional $28.3 billion in payroll support. The bill also more than doubles Democrats’ proposed education funding to $225 billion, including $182 billion for grades K-12 and $39 billion for colleges and universities. It would provide another round of $1,200 payments and $600 per week extra unemployment insurance payments through January 2021, similar to the May proposal. The measure also includes $75 billion for coronavirus testing, tracing and isolation measures.
Democrats cut back some provisions, including reducing aid to state and local governments by roughly half to $436 billion rather than the original $915 billion.
Next steps: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to speak to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about it this morning. Democrats hope the new proposal could woo Republicans to come up from their $1.5 trillion bottom line. The Trump administration has yet to weigh in on the proposal.
Perspective: Even if the House aid bill or some provisions in it do not become law (see details below), the details on the ag- and food-related provisions signals changes likely ahead for food and farm bill, well ahead of the writing of the next farm bill.
— Ag- and food-related provisions of House Democrats' latest aid bill proposal. The ag and food-related provisions include:
• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps): $10 billion to support anticipated increases in participation and to cover program cost increases related to flexibilities provided to SNAP by other acts addressing Covid-19.
• Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC): Additional $400 million to provide access to nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the Covid-19 emergency.
• SNAP benefits: Increases both the SNAP benefit level by 15% and the minimum benefit from $16 to $30 per month for small households until Sept. 30, 2021 and provides $300 million through FY 2022 to defray administrative costs. Additionally, it lifts mandatory work requirements for SNAP for one year, excludes the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation as countable income for SNAP benefit calculation, increases waiver reporting requirements for USDA, and prevents students from losing SNAP eligibility due to work study or job loss during the pandemic.
• SNAP hot food purchases: Directs USDA to allow households to use SNAP to purchase hot foods at currently authorized SNAP retailers during this public health emergency.
• SNAP education flexibility: Provides flexibility for SNAP Nutrition Education in certain situations to assist with the distribution of non-congregate school meals.
• Flexibilities for seniors: Permits easing of current in-person rules to more safely and efficiently serve seniors during the public health emergency.
• Amends Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act to add authority for the Secretary to deal with removal and disposal of livestock and poultry due to supply chain interruption during a public health emergency.
• Requires congressional notification before disbursement of CCC funding. Clarifies the CCC reporting requirements to Congress.
• Establishes a livestock dealer trust fund to ensure that livestock producers making cash transactions are paid for their animals.
• Provides payments for livestock and poultry that are depopulated due to processing plant shutdowns and back-ups because of the health emergency. Payments may not exceed the average market value of the market ready livestock or poultry on the date of depopulation. Packer-owned animals are not eligible for coverage.
• $300 million to support improved animal health surveillance and laboratory capacity in this public health.
• Grants for improvements to meat and poultry facilities to allow for interstate shipment. Establishes a program to make facility upgrade and planning grants to existing meat and poultry processors to help them move to federal Inspection and be able to sell their products across state lines. The bill will also require USDA to work with all states and report on ways to improve the existing Cooperative Interstate Shipment program.
• Payments to contract producers. $1.25 billion to assist contract growers of poultry and livestock growers who face revenue losses due to reduced placements related to Covid-19.
• Requires a report on the availability and structure of U.S. meat and poultry processing, including ways to develop innovative processing partnerships that would increase resiliency and flexibility of processing capacity. The bill also requires a report on the availability of financing for new and existing meat and poultry processing and provides $16 million for grants for feasibility and marketing studies for new and existing meat and poultry processors.
• Support for processed commodities (biofuels plants, cotton textile mills): Direct support for biofuels plants and cotton textile mills that are impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
• Dairy direct donation program: $500 million to pay for milk to be processed into dairy products and donated to non-profit entities (food banks, feeding programs, etc.). Under the framework of the program, the dairy processor and non-profit develop a plan for donation and distribution, that plan is reviewed by USDA, and USDA pays for the milk associated with the donated products at the current appropriate Class value. The bill allows USDA to adjust the existing Milk Donation Program payments to match the level of payment provided by this new, emergency program.
• Supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage payments: Cash flow assistance to small- and mid-sized dairies that have grown over the last seven years by establishing supplemental margin coverage based on the difference between 2019 actual production and Dairy Margin Coverage production history.
• Recourse loan program for commercial processors of dairy products: $500 million for USDA to carry out a recourse loan program to make purchases of dairy products from dairy processors, packagers, and merchandizers.
• Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) premium discount for a 3-year signup. Supports DMC as an effective risk management tool, reducing the cost of DMC premiums for operations that commit to participating in the program for 2021-2023 by providing a payment worth 15% of annual premium costs.
• Support for specialty crop sector: $500 million in additional funding to support specialty crop farmers and address Covid-19 specialty crop supply chain issues at the state level via the farm bill's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
• Support for local agricultural markets: $350 million in additional funding to support local farmers, farmers markets, and value-added production for farmers and outlets who are impacted by Covid-19 market disruptions through the farm bill's LAMP program. The bill temporarily waives matching requirements for these additional funds.
• Support for farming opportunities training and outreach: $50 million to the farm bill's FOTO grants to support groups providing beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers with financial, operational, and marketing advice in this difficult market. The bill temporarily waives matching requirements for these additional funds.
• Support for farm stress programs: $84 million to be distributed as block grants to state departments of agriculture for use to support existing farm stress programs.
• Expands the Conservation Reserve Program Soil Health Incentive Pilot Program, giving producers facing uncertain planting and market conditions an option for a 3-year contract and the ability to receive an up-front, lump sum payment.
• Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): Includes $450 million to help local food banks meet increased demand for low-income Americans during the emergency. Including funding provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), TEFAP has received a total of $1.30 billion.
• Nutrition Assistance Programs: Provides $1.236 billion to Puerto Rico, $14 million to The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and $9.1 million to American Samoa for additional nutritional assistance.
• Agricultural Quarantine Inspection Program: $350 million to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to ensure continued inspections of agricultural products in order to keep pests and diseases from entering the U.S.
• Rural electric coops: $2.6 billion for grants to rural electric coops that are Rural Utilities Service electric borrowers to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic to support continued or expanded delivery of critical services.
• Rental Assistance Program: $309 million to the Rural Housing Service to assist rural tenants who lost income during the pandemic.
• USDA Office of Inspector General: $2.5 million to increase monitoring and oversight activities.
• Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network program: $20 million to strengthen activities and services that connect farmers and ranchers to stress assistance resources and programs.
• Food Assistance: $750 million to the World Food Program of the United Nations to address food shortages in the developing world.
— CFAP 1 payments top $10 billion. Payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 1 (CFAP 1) program are at $10.2 billion as of Sept. 27, including $5.0 billion for livestock, $2.6 billion for non-specialty crops, $1.8 billion for dairy and $102 million for specialty crops.
Funds paid for cattle total $4.3 billion, followed by $1.8 billion each for corn and milk, with $600 million for hogs and $509 million for soybeans.
Payouts by state still show Iowa topping the list at $968 million followed by Nebraska ($711 million), California ($653 million), Texas ($625 million), Minnesota ($608 million) and Wisconsin ($523 million).
Payment data for CFAP 2, where signup launched Sept. 21, “will be available in the coming weeks,” according to USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
— Update on China:
- China focuses effort on further reforms in new five-year plan. Deepening reforms and taking major moves to open up the country’s economic and social development will be keys in the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), according to decisions taken at a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, a China Daily report said. The Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee will hold its fifth plenary session Oct. 26-29 to consider the revised document, the report said. “Major reform and opening-up moves should improve resource allocation efficiency and mobilize the initiative of the whole of society,” the report said, citing a statement released after the meeting. “The meeting stressed the importance of solidifying the foundation, leveraging strengths and tackling areas of weakness as well as paying attention to fending off and defusing major risks and challenges.” The statement also noted the “complex international situation” and the Covid-19 pandemic, noting that the CPC Central Committee had dealt with the situation “in a calm way.”
- The Chinese Communist Party is pushing for more power over business. Officials have begun spreading a message of “United Front work,” the Financial Times reports (link/paywall). In return for helping the party, companies could receive more government aid and fairer treatment compared with state-owned rivals.
- China to shift more than 7 million households from coal heating. China said it will aim to switch some 7.09 million households over to natural gas or electric heating systems by the end of October, shifting those households from coal. The effort was unveiled in a draft plan released by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE). By 2019, China had moved at least 15.02 million households in northern China away from coal. The goal for this winter is down from the year-ago target of 7.22 million households. The effort involves paying subsidies to households to adopt cleaner energy sources for heating and the agency said there will be “no price increase as a result of the effort.
- China reports cotton harvest underway in Xinjiang. A “bumper” harvest of cotton in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is underway, according to the Xinhua News Agency, with the total area put at 2.51 million hectares, according to regional statistics. Mechanized harvesting is taking place on more than 90% of fields in northern Xinjiang and has been increasing in the southern portion, the report said, with some 40% of Xinjiang cotton area harvested via mechanization in 2019, the first time that level has been seen.
- China seeks WTO review of whether they have altered wheat, rice supports. China made its second request for the WTO to review whether or not the country has made changes to its domestic support programs for wheat and rice that bring it into compliance with an earlier WTO ruling. The U.S. has maintained that China’s changes are not enough to bring it into compliance with its WTO commitments. It’s not clear whether the WTO will agree with China’s assertions on this topic and the country also raised questions about whether the U.S. was exceeding its domestic support commitments on agriculture via recent aid efforts.
- South China Morning Post declares China is ‘miles away’ from meeting Phase 1 purchase commitments. While China’s buys of “some politically important” U.S. goods like soybeans, corn and cars have risen, the South China Morning Post is reporting that their analysis of the purchases by China have “failed to significantly moves the needle” toward meeting the purchase comments under the Phase 1 agreement between the two countries. Through August, China has bought less than one-third of the goods China committed to purchase, the report said, and proposed legislation targeting forced labor relative to cotton in Xinjiang adds pressure on trade. “The incremental increase came despite sales of corn to China soaring 513% in August compared with June —when the U.S. Census Bureau started compiling official monthly statistics to track trade deal purchases — while soybean sales surged 432% and car sales were up 97%,” the report detailed. China's purchases of U.S. soybeans saw a year-on-year increase of 15% in the first eight months of 2020 while pork purchase were up 134% and corn up 50%, the report said. Despite recent increased purchases of ag goods, China has met only 43% of the ag purchase targets through August, only 60% of the targets for manufactured products and only 27% of targets for energy products. As for the overall commitment for China to purchase $200 billion more in U.S. goods than it did in 2017, the report said China is still “miles away” from that level.
- U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link.
— Food and beverage industry update:
- New limits urged on Americans’ sugar consumption amid rising obesity concerns. A federal committee’s recommendation that Americans should limit their consumption of added sugars to 6% of their daily calories — down from the current guideline of 10% — generating pushback from makers of candy and sodas. The guidance, from a committee’s recommendations for new U.S. dietary guidelines, aims to address rising rates of obesity and the poor quality of most Americans’ diets. The new limit applies only to added sugars, found in processed foods from soda and pasta sauce to cereal and yogurt, as well as honey and sugar itself. The primary source of added sugars in Americans’ diets is sugar-sweetened beverages. The new recommendation for added sugars is part of the process of a coming revision of the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is updated every five years. The committee released its recommendations in July; now USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services will review them and issue final guidelines by the end of the year.
- Cream of Wheat guy joins Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben in cancellation. Add Cream of Wheat to the list of brands that are getting a makeover due to “offensive” advertising. B&G Foods, the parent company of Cream of Wheat, released a statement confirming the move on Monday. “For years, the image of an African American chef appeared on our Cream of Wheat packaging. While research indicates the image may be based upon an actual Chicago chef named Frank White, it reminds some consumers of earlier depictions they find offensive,” the company told Good Morning America in a statement. “Therefore, we are removing the chef image from all Cream of Wheat packaging.
— Update on reopening America... and around the world:
- Manhattan offices are nearly empty, threatening New York City’s recovery. The city's office employees are returning to work at a slower pace than most, raising the risk that New York faces a more protracted and painful recovery than much of the rest of the country.
— Coronavirus update:
- Summary: Source: Johns Hopkins University as of 6:30 a.m. ET.
— 33,389,891: Confirmed cases world-wide, and 1,002,296 deaths
— 33,037: New U.S. cases recorded yesterday
— 7,150,118: Total confirmed cases in the U.S.
— 316: Deaths in the U.S. recorded yesterday
— 205,085: Total U.S. deaths
— 102,342,416: Tests conducted in the U.S.
Link to Covid Case Tracker
Link to Our World in Data
- Covid-19 is killing on average more than 700 people a day in the U.S., which accounts for more than a fifth of the nearly 33.4 million cases reported globally. The outbreak has been even more deadly as a percentage of cases in some other countries such as Mexico, where more than 10% of observed cases have ended in death. The disease has also dealt a crushing blow to developing nations such as India, where infections have topped more than six million and the virus kills on average nearly 1,000 people a day. President Trump declared the U.S. was “rounding the corner” Monday, while announcing new details of a plan to distribute 150 million rapid coronavirus tests in the coming weeks to vulnerable populations and states to help open economies and schools.
- CDC has issued new guidance that discouraged Americans from packing into shopping malls or standing in long lines before, on or after Thanksgiving. The agency added Black Friday, which recently has become a multiday event, to a list of activities with a higher likelihood of contributing to the spread of Covid-19.
POLITICS & ELECTIONS
— 2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map
— The Green Papers
— Real Clear Politics
— 2020 Political Atlas
— 2020 Demographic Swingometer
— Presidential debates: Scheduled to occur Sept. 29, Oct. 15 and Oct. 22.
— VP debate: Scheduled for Oct. 7.
— Days until election
- First of three presidential debates will have instant analysis by the mostly biased network and cable station “analysts”... traders say they will let actual market reactions determine whether or not the debate has any lingering impacts. History suggests that debates rarely offer a boost. According to the Economist’s analysis, since 1976 the average change in the incumbent party’s poll rating from two weeks before the first debate to two weeks after the last one has been 0%. Since 1960 the lead has changed only once during debate season, in 2000, when George W. Bush briefly overtook Al Gore (Gore won the popular vote, but lost in the electoral college). Nonetheless, trends can be bucked, the analysis notes. “Trump must convince voters that he can do a better job in his second term. His problem is that many have already made up their minds.”
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the candidates will forego the customary pre-debate handshake, and the audience will be limited to less than 100 people. Neither will wear a face covering onstage. Viewership is expected to be high, possibly surpassing 2016’s record-setting 84 million viewers. The debate will focus on six key topics, including Covid-19, the Supreme Court, the economy, election integrity, the recent protests across U.S. cities, and “The Trump and Biden Records.” RealClear Politics’ average of national polls released Sunday shows that Biden continues to have a lead over the president nationally as well as in key swing states.
- Pelosi calls Trump taxes a national security issue. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday called a report that President Donald Trump has more than $300 million in loans coming due in the next few years a “national security issue” and argued it raises questions about whether foreign nations or individuals could have “leverage” over the president. Trump has refused to disclose his tax documents, but the New York Times reported on Sunday that that financial documents seen by the newspaper show he is personally responsible for repaying the loans.
- Ilhan Omar investigated for ballot harvesting. The Minneapolis Police Department is investigating claims by right-wing activist group Project Veritas (PV) that individuals tied to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) engaged in illegal ballot harvesting before the election. The investigation purports to show a ballot harvester claiming that he received money to obtain ballots. It also highlights an alleged harvester who boasts about the number of ballots he's collected for a local official. PV also claims to have spoken with a former campaign worker who indicated that Omar's team paid voters for ballots.
OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE
- EPA notes legal issues about California’s plan to ban new gas-powered cars starting in 2035. California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mandate could strain electric grid, said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. In a letter to Newsom on Monday, Wheeler said a statewide shift to electric vehicles would strain California’s electric grid. “California’s record of rolling blackouts — unprecedented in size and scope — coupled with recent requests to neighboring states for power begs the question of how you expect to run an electric car fleet that will come with significant increases in electricity demand, when you can’t even keep the lights on today,” Wheeler wrote in the letter. He also noted the order likely wouldn’t be able to be implemented by the California Air Resources Board without approval from the EPA, recalling the Trump administration in 2019 took away California’s power to set its own vehicle tailpipe emissions standards.
- Census deadline. Days after a judge ordered the Census Bureau to extend its in-person counting for another month past its planned Sept. 30 end date, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced Monday that the agency intends stop counting on Oct. 5.
- Final round of Brexit talks kicks off today before a self-imposed deadline for reaching a trade agreement by Oct. 15. The discussions are intended to bridge gaps on EU boats' access to U.K. fishing waters and the amount of support that governments are allowed to give businesses.