USDA Admits Goof on Payment Limit Eligibility Rule

Posted on 11/19/2020 7:17 AM

China starts to temper meat imports | No progress on next Covid aid package


Note: Today's dispatch is longer than usual, in part due to a big news day plus new information regarding a likely new Biden administration once the official announcement is made.


In Today’s Updates


Market Focus:
* Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations focus of money managers
* Fed’s Williams says lack of fiscal aid could challenge economy
* Dollar index dropped to one-year low on Wednesday
* Goldman Sachs forecasting bull markets in raw commodities

* Euro toppled the dollar in global payments
* Iron ore soars to contract high as Australian shipments drop
* As price of Bitcoin approaches records, JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon weighs in
* Global crop supply fears send soybeans to highest in six years
* USDA 2021 Ag Outlook Forum virtually for first time; registration free
* Group: China’s demand for beans to climb 3% to 4% annually over next decade

• Argentina quickly ends tugboat strike

• Just shy of 12 cents of every dollar spent on Thanksgiving goes to farmers

• Cash cattle prices soften in northern locations, hold steady to the south


Policy Focus:
* USDA admits a goof on payment limit eligibility rule
* White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows: Up to Congress to proceed re: aid


U.S./China update:
* China’s voracious appetite for imported meat is starting to wane
* Australia trade war
* Trump to represent U.S. at this week's virtual APEC summit

* Will Joe Biden reverse Trump's China policy after he assumes presidency?
* Senate panel releases majority report re: China


Trade Policy:
* Georgia GOP senators in runoffs seek Mexican produce probe
* U.K. and Canada on brink of signing new trade agreement: Bloomberg
* India trade pact with U.S. likely to be delayed: Financial Express
* Farm, alcohol groups urge USTR to ‘deepen discussion’ with EU on tariffs

Energy & Climate Change:
* Barrasso seeks top Senate Energy panel spot
* Greenhouse gas emissions bill unveiled
* Biden and India Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed climate change
* Biden urged to put carbon removal first
* Senate panel clears FERC nominees
* House bill introduced to force EPA to act on biofuels applications
* Boris Johnson announces plan for 'green industrial revolution'


U.S. food & beverage industry update:
* Ahold Delhaize buys majority stake in FreshDirect
* More time to weigh food traceability rule

Coronavirus update:
* Oxford Covid-19 vaccine shows promise
* New York City will close schools for in-person learning to curb Covid outbreak
* Finland and Norway bucking Covid-19 trend


Politics & Elections:
* Biden approaching more than 80 million votes
* Recount in two Wisconsin counties
* Why were some election results closer than polls had predicted?
* Georgia on track to certify its election results on Friday
* Georgia Secretary of State: Recount won't change result

* McEnany: Up to GSA to decide when to trigger transition process
* House Democrats re-elect Pelosi as House leader

* Warren urges likely Biden administration to use 'all tools in their toolbox'

Other Item of Note:
* Judges weigh reviving Trump water jurisdiction rule in Colorado




Equities today: U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward lower openings. Money managers are focusing on the latest data showing jumping transmission rates in Europe and the U.S., where deaths from the illness surpassed 250,000. Some shares in Tokyo fell too as the city raised its alert to the highest of four levels. Overnight the MSCI Asia Pacific Index slipped 0.5% while Japan's Topix index closed 0.3% higher. Equities in Europe are also seeing declines. The Stoxx 600 was recently down 0.8% with losses of up to 1% in regional markets.


     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow shed 344.93 points, 1.2%, to 29,438.42, closing near its lows after coming within striking distance of a record earlier in the session. The S&P 500 fell 41.74 points, 1.2%, to 3,567.79 and the Nasdaq lost 97.74 points, 0.8%, to 11801.60.


     The Dow is up about 11% through Wednesday and the S&P 500 is up more than 9% in November. The Nasdaq is up more than 8%.


On tap today:


     • U.S. jobless claims are expected to rise to 710,000 in the week ended Nov. 14, up from 709,000 a week earlier. (8:30 a.m. ET)
     • Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing survey for November is expected to fall to 22 from 32.3 a month earlier. (8:30 a.m. ET)
     • USDA Weekly Export Sales report, 8:30 a.m. ET
     • U.S. existing home sales for October are expected to fall to an annual pace of 6.46 million from 6.54 million a month earlier. (10 a.m. ET)
     • Conference Board's leading economic index for October is expected to climb 0.7% from the prior month. (10 a.m. ET)
     • European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde speaks at a virtual Women’s Forum Global Meeting at 10:15 a.m. ET.
     • Kansas City Fed's manufacturing survey for November is out at 11 a.m. ET.
     • Federal Reserve: Cleveland’s Loretta Mester speaks at a financial stability conference at 8:30 a.m. and again at 12:30 p.m. ET, and Boston’s Eric Rosengren speaks at 1 p.m. ET.


Fed’s Williams says lack of fiscal aid could challenge economy. Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams said Wednesday that if elected leaders don’t deliver new aid for the economy, the path of the recovery will likely be slower than if help were provided. Fiscal aid has “been a critical part of why the economy has recovered as well as it has,” Williams said in a virtual appearance at an event held by the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, a journalists’ association. “When that money runs out and some of these programs expire, I think that cuts off some of the support that small businesses and households were getting, and that’s going to slow the economy over coming months,” Mr. Williams said. He added that the recovery so far has been uneven but much stronger than expected.Without a renewal of this aid, the economy will face additional challenges in the coming months, Williams said. He did add, however, that news of effective coronavirus vaccines gives him hope for the economic outlook.


Market perspectives:


     • Outside markets: The WSJ Dollar Index, which measures the dollar against a basket of currencies, on Wednesday dropped to a new one-year low at 87.05, having fallen for four consecutive trading days. This morning it edged up 0.3% to 87.30. The other important outside market sees crude oil prices lower and trading around $41.15 a barrel. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note futures is currently trading at 0.85%.

     • Goldman Sachs is forecasting bull markets in raw commodities as a hedge against impending inflation. Goldman forecast a return of around 27% over the next 12-months on the Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI) index, with a 19% return for precious metals, 40% for energy, 3% for industrial metals and a -1% return on agriculture. The grain futures markets are already in a major bull run. Goldman reportedly kept its target of $2,300 an ounce for gold and $30 an ounce for silver.


     • U.S. oil demand fell last week to 19.6 million barrels per day after jumping 10% to 20.2 m/bd the week prior, the Energy Information Administration reported in its Weekly Petroleum Status report. Gasoline and jet fuel consumption were up down, while diesel was up. EIA reported crude inventories rose by 0.8 million barrels last week to 489.5 million barrels, a smaller increase than the American Petroleum Institute reported. Oil prices were higher Wednesday on hopes that OPEC+ will decide to postpone its planned production increase in January.


    • The euro toppled the dollar in global payments, according to data from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, the first time it has outpaced the dollar since February 2013. Trade upheaval, a pandemic-induced recession and political disharmony renewed pressure to reduce the share of international payments in dollars. The U.S. currency has weakened more than 11% from its March peak, with predictions of more downside.


     • Iron ore soars to contract high as Australian shipments drop. Dalian iron ore rose 2.6%, spot hits 2-month high. Singapore iron ore extended its rally into a fourth session. Meanwhile, Australia shipments are the lowest since September, according to Refinitiv data. Link to details from Reuters.


     • As the price of Bitcoin approaches records, JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon weighed in at the DealBook Online Summit: “We’re a believer in cryptocurrency, properly regulated and properly backed. Bitcoin is kind of different, and that’s not my cup of tea.”

       Bitcoin price


     • Global crop supply fears send soybeans to highest in six years. Increasing demand from top importer China and dry weather in the major producing areas of South America are spurring growing concerns over global supplies. Prices have climbed more than 40% since March after China started snapping up cargoes to feed a massive increase in hog numbers as the country recovers from African swine fever. Imports by China may reach 100 million tons next year and grow 3% to 4% annually over the next decade, according to the U.S. Soybean Export Council. The U.S. and Brazil have already sold a large part of their crops for shipment in coming months. Meanwhile, soyoil is putting upward pressure on palm oil prices (now at multi-year highs). Palm oil also got a boost from production concerns in Malaysia (labor shortages).


     • USDA will hold the 2021 Ag Outlook Forum virtually for the first time and registration will be free for the event. The two-day Forum will take place on Feb. 18-19, 2021. The theme of the 2021 forum is “Building on Innovation: A Pathway to Resilience.” USDA Chief Economist Robert Johansson will unveil the department’s full outlook for U.S. commodity markets and trade and discuss the U.S. farm income situation. Link for details.


Items in Pro Farmer’s First Thing Today include (Link to subscribe to FTT):

• U.S. Soybean Export Council: China’s demand for beans to climb 3% to 4% annually over next decade
• Argentina quickly ends tugboat strike
• Just shy of 12 cents of every dollar spent on Thanksgiving goes to farmers

• Cash cattle prices soften in northern locations, hold steady to the south




USDA admits a goof on payment limit eligibility rule. USDA officials now say they made a mistake when releasing a rule in August that required family members to start meeting management time requirements to qualify for commodity program payments. USDA released a correction Wednesday (link) to the August rule that had expanded the eligibility requirements.


     The August rule required all potential subsidy recipients meet the eligibility requirements for being “actively engaged” in farming. Those requirements mean a payment recipient must provide either 25% of a farm’s total management hours on an annual basis or perform at least 500 hours of management annually.


     "After publication of the rule, stakeholders notified FSA of concerns regarding potential non-intended, adverse effects to farming operations comprised solely of family members. In streamlining the definitions for consistency, these revised definitions were inadvertently made applicable to farming operations solely owned by family members,” according to the correction notice.


     K-Coe Isom, an accounting firm, claimed credit for recognizing the impact of the change and urging Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on behalf of its clients to repeal the regulation. K-Coe Isom said the August rule would have:

     ▪ Created financial incentives to push founders out of the farming businesses they created;

     ▪ Set up barriers to bringing the next generation of family farmers into the business; and

     ▪ Allowed two farms with the exact same losses to receive different disaster payments, based on how their businesses are structured.


White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows: Up to Congress to proceed with any aid talks. Obviously those discussions — if they happen — will be dictated by the House and the Senate,” Meadows told reporters when asked about stimulus talks following a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “We haven’t seen a real willingness by our House colleagues to look at that.”


     Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been the primary negotiators on Covid-19 relief with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) before the election.


     Meadows' remarks signal the White House is pulling back from the discussions but he said getting another stimulus “has been a priority for the president.”


     McConnell ridiculed the $2.4 trillion Democratic bill that Pelosi and Schumer have said should be the starting point for negotiations.“The problem is that their proposal is a multi-trillion dollar laughing stock that never had a chance of becoming law,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. McConnell reiterated his demand that any package be “targeted” and around $500 billion.


     Senate Democrats on Wednesday morning upped the ante by introducing a new proposal to provide $10 billion for personal protection equipment for inclusion in the next relief package.


     Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon criticized lawmakers for a monthslong deadlock over a second round of coronavirus relief to help unemployed Americans and struggling businesses. “I know now we have this big debate, is it $2.2 trillion, $1.5 trillion,” Dimon said Wednesday, referring to what had been competing visions for a relief bill from Democrats and Republicans, at the New York Times’ DealBook conference. “Just split the baby and move on. This is childish behavior on the part of our politicians,” he added.


White House appears ready to accept omnibus spending package. The Trump administration appears ready to sign off on a a $1.4 trillion, full-year omnibus appropriations bill rather than a simple short-term government funding extension, according to congressional sources.


     Key Senate leaders met separately on Wednesday with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). The sessions dealt with year-end legislative priorities. Meadows also had lunch with GOP senators on Wednesday.


     "It's our hope, and I think this is [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's] view as well, that we can come together on an omnibus and pass it," McConnell told reporters. "I believe that that's the preference of the White House as well."


     Shelby said the Trump administration will support an omnibus. “We went over where we are as far as trying to put the omnibus together and we talked about some parameters between us and the House,” Shelby said. “I thought our meeting was very positive, and he indicated to me that the president and the administration, they want a bill and we do too, and so that's good.”


     Next step: Appropriators are working on aligning the topline numbers for fiscal 2021 spending bills.


Update on China:

  • China’s voracious appetite for imported meat is starting to wane, as domestic pork prices fall and consumer worries grow about the coronavirus lingering on food, the Wall Street Journal reports (Link ). For more than two years, Chinese farmers have battled outbreaks of African swine fever, a highly contagious disease that reduced the country’s domestic herds in 2019 by as much as 41%, causing pork prices to more than double. Swine fever outbreaks are still occurring, but the country has moved to repopulate its pig farms, cumulatively adding 60 million hogs since the start of 2020, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics. China’s hog population currently stands at 370 million, down from roughly 430 million pigs before African swine fever was first detected in the country in August 2018.

    Pork now costs slightly less than it did a year ago. Wholesale prices have fallen 18% since the start of September to the equivalent of about $2.75 a pound, according to Wind, a Chinese financial data provider. Pork prices should continue to fall next year, says Feng Yonghui, chief analyst at pig-industry portal, as the rebuilding effort continues and farmers send more pigs to slaughter.

    The country is the world’s largest producer and consumer of pork and has increased imports of meat — including beef and lamb — to help cover the domestic shortfall. In the first 10 months of 2020, China’s meat imports were valued at $25.4 billion, up 75% from a year earlier. The growth has recently slowed, with October import volumes at levels last seen in February, according to data from China’s General Administration of Customs.

    China meat peak
    China pig progress

  • Australia trade war. A leaked document (link) shows what Beijing wants from Canberra in order to end the unofficial but comprehensive restraints on Australian trade in recent weeks: an end to efforts to combat Chinese interference in Australia; silence on Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Xinjiang; and the embrace of Huawei products. The report (link), given to Nine News by the Chinese Embassy in Australia, accuses Australia of “poisoning bilateral relations.”

    More details on the list of grievances: government funding for "anti-China" research at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, raids on Chinese journalists and academic visa cancellations, "spearheading a crusade" in multilateral forums on China’s affairs in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang, calling for an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19, banning Huawei from the 5G network in 2018, and blocking 10 Chinese foreign investment deals across infrastructure, agriculture and animal husbandry sectors.

    "The ball is very much in China's court to be willing to sit down and have that proper dialogue," Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Wednesday.

  • Trump to represent U.S. at this week's virtual APEC summit, official says, according to Reuters. The virtual Asia-Pacific summit this week also will have Trump's Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping participating, a U.S. official told Reuters. Trump's participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum hosted virtually by Malaysia on Friday will be his first in the event since 2017, the only time he has participated.
  • Will Joe Biden reverse Trump's China policy after he assumes the presidency? "Given the consensus in Washington, it's going to be nearly impossible for Joe Biden to have a new course in U.S./China relationship," Xie Tao, professor of political science at Beijing Foreign Studies University, told CGTN. "The Biden administration will try to demonstrate that it's tougher than the Trump administration on China — but smarter. It won't be the preoccupation fixation with a bilateral trade balance," said Graham Allison, Douglas Dillon professor of government at Harvard, who is also the founding dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. "Biden believes in multilateral efforts, alliances, multilateral institutions and initiatives," he said. Allison pointed out that a Biden presidency will "bury" American unilateralism and focus instead on a multilateral approach to dealing with global crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change. Link for more.
  • Senate Committee on Foreign Relations chairman releases majority report re: China. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Wednesday released a majority report entitled “The United States and Europe: A Concrete Agenda for Transatlantic Cooperation on China” to advance greater collaboration between the United States and Europe on the challenges posed by China. Risch is convening a virtual event to mark the release of the report with Member of European Parliament David McAllister, chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Member of Parliament Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Link to report.
  • U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link.




Georgia GOP senators in runoffs seek Mexican produce probe. Georgia GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are urging U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer to broaden USTR's current Section 332 of the investigation into Mexican produce exports to include cucumbers and squash imports on Southeastern markets. Perdue and Loeffler are both facing Jan. 5 runoff elections that will determine control of the Senate.


     “Fruit and vegetable imports from Mexico continue to dramatically impact U.S. markets and threaten the future of domestic farm production of perishable produce,” the lawmakers said in a letter (link) to Lighthizer. “Prices are now well below U.S. production costs for several of these commodities and appear to correlate directly with increasing fall shipments from Mexico.”


     The USTR last week asked the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to begin monitoring Mexican strawberry shipments. Meanwhile, there is an ongoing ITC investigation of blueberries coming.


The U.K. and Canada are on the brink of signing a new trade agreement, Bloomberg reports, replace the existing deal Britain has through European Union membership. Without it, the U.K. and Canada would face tariffs on trade from Jan. 1, when the Brexit transition period ends and the U.K. will no longer be part of CETA, the EU/Canada trade agreement that came into force in 2017. Canada is the U.K.’s 12th-biggest trade partner, with total trade between the two countries worth about 17 billion pounds ($23 billion) in 2019. The U.K. is Canada’s third-largest export market after the U.S. and China. In the first nine months of this year, Canada has exported C$14 billion ($10.7 billion) in merchandise exports to the U.K., while it imported C$6.9 billion. Last year, Canada was the U.K.’s 15th-largest export market.Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week said the two countries could wrap up negotiations on a new trade deal by Jan. 1. Britain agreed to terms with Japan in late October. Meanwhile, trade negotiations are ongoing with countries including Australia, New Zealand and the U.S.


India trade pact with U.S. likely to be delayed, according to the Financial Express (FE). If the proposed interim India/U.S. trade agreement is designed to cover barely 15% of the trade between the two countries, “Washington seems in no great hurry to clinch even this limited deal. This is even as New Delhi, unenthused about revisiting the China-dominated Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), seeks to counterbalance any potential damaging effect of the bloc on its foreign trade with bolstered ties with the U.S. and EU, two among its three largest export markets,” the article noted, adding the proposed "limited deal" with the U.S. could cover an annual trade of about $13 billion. The U.S. is India's largest export destination.

     GSP is India's focus. Under the "limited" deal, India was pushing the US for a complete restoration of duty benefits for it under the so-called Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). This will mean duty-free Indian supplies of over $6 billion a year (the tariff forgone for the U.S. was only $240 million in 2018). This deal is expected to be almost evenly balanced in terms of trading value for both the partners.

     With a likely Biden administration taking over early next year, India may be willing to even expand the coverage of the deal on a reciprocal basis, a source told the FE. In that case, the limited deal “may be converted into a preferential trade agreement involving dozens of key products, which will set the stage for an FTA subsequently.” According to the source, India may consider opening up its dairy and poultry sectors partially if it gets a good deal from the U.S. in textiles and garment and pharmaceuticals. In garments, for instance, the U.S. import duties for India currently range between 16.5% and 32%.

     As part of the limited deal, India reportedly offered to reduce tariffs on high-end bikes like Harley Davidson, extend greater market access in farm products, including cherries, and sweeten its initial offer on easing price caps in medical equipment.


Farm, alcohol groups urge USTR to ‘deepen discussion’ with EU on tariffs. A coalition of U.S. groups organized by Farmers for Free Trade and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States on Wednesday asked U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer to “deepen trade discussions” with the European Union over World Trade Organization compliance and removal of EU retaliatory tariffs targeting U.S. food and ag exports. On Nov. 10, the EU imposed American food and agricultural exports, including certain cheeses, agricultural equipment, distilled spirits, potatoes, nuts, fruits, juices, chocolate, and ketchup, the groups noted. Link to letter.

     American whiskey exports to the EU have tumbled by 41% since the EU’s 25% retaliatory tariff went into effect in June 2018, and new EU tariffs on U.S. rum, vodka and brandy were just imposed last week, according to Robert Maron, vice president for International trade for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

     “Farmers are battling to stay above water, and any new tariff in this time of crisis is a big concern,” said Brian Kuehl, co-executive director of Farmers for Free Trade. “We know these tariffs are part of a long legal battle, but anytime farmers become collateral damage it is unacceptable. American farmers need stability, and that means predictable exports into markets like the EU. We are urging this administration and the next one to double down on their effort to resolve this dispute in a manner that frees our farmers from harmful tariffs.”




Barrasso seeks top Energy panel spot. Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) announced Wednesday that he plans to become the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, a move that would vacate his leadership role on the Environment and Public Works panel. Barrasso would be filling the seat vacated by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who’s leaving under Republican conference rules that limit the number of terms a senator can be the chair or ranking member of a committee.

     He's also been generally supportive of the fossil fuel industry and has opposed biofuel blending requirements for oil refineries. He's also been supportive of nuclear energy, introducing a bipartisan nuclear infrastructure bill this week.


Greenhouse gas emissions bill unveiled. House Ag members Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) on Wednesday introduces legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by increasing production of cellulosic biomass into renewable fuels. The bill would also compel the EPA to act on outstanding applications from biofuels producers.


Biden and India Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed “tackling the threat of climate change” in a phone call earlier this week, according to a readout. The U.S. and India, along with Brazil, are the only three of the 10 largest economies yet to commit to a net-zero emissions goal. India, along with China, resisted adopting targets as strict as developed countries during the Paris negotiations. India’s cumulative emissions are much lower than China and the United States.


Biden urged to put carbon removal first. Carbon180, a climate-focused nongovernmental organization, wants a likely Biden administration in its first 100 days to prioritize carbon removal efforts across several federal agencies. That would include working with Congress to launch a “CarbonShot” innovation program to reduce the cost of “robustly verified carbon removal” to less than $100 per ton CO2 by 2025, and creating a White House carbon removal interagency task force. Carbon removal involves strategies and technologies that can capture and remove carbon from the air.


     Other report recommendations include:


     • Create an assistant secretary of industrial decarbonization position at Energy;
     • Expedite the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) permitting approval process for prescribed burns on federal lands to maintain forests as important carbon sinks;
     • Relocate and restaff USDA's Economic Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, agencies the Trump administration moved from Washington, D.C. to Kansas City, Mo., last year; and
     • Introduce a carbon removal leadership forum at the State Department to facilitate research, design, and development of carbon removal technologies across countries.


Senate panel clears FERC nominees. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the nominations of Republican Mark Christie and Democrat Allison Clements to be commissioners on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The approvals came on voice vote, but Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) were recorded as opposing Clements while Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) was recorded as voting against Christie.

     The attention now shifts to whether or not the full Senate will be able to take up the nominations yet this year, a situation acknowledged by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in her opening remarks as the panel prepared to consider the nominations. “It’s too early to say what the floor schedule will allow in December, but if these nominees are confirmed, we would have a full complement of commissioners in 2020-2021, which is better than what we had in 2017,” she observed.


House bill introduced to force EPA to act on biofuels applications. Reps. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) introduced the Streamlining Advanced Biofuels Registration Act, a bill to force the Environmental Protection Agency to act on outstanding applications and compel the EPA to accept applications if, after 90 days, the fuel could participate in at least one state’s clean transportation program. Link to summary of bill.

     Lawmakers comment on proposed bill. “By cutting red tape and ensuring that producers receive a timely response from the EPA, we can encourage the use of cellulosic biomass in low-carbon, renewable fuel production and continue to create cleaner, more environmentally-friendly fuels,” Bustos said. “By forcing the EPA to make timely decisions on these applications, we are opening new markets that will power southern Minnesota communities and the nation’s economy. I’m extremely pleased to work in bipartisan fashion with Congresswoman Bustos on this important initiative,” Hagedorn said.


     The Renewable Fuel Standard requires energy producers to utilize low-carbon, renewable fuels such as cellulosic biomass, but EPA must approve applications on behalf of biofuels producers and has refused to act on dozens of applications, Hagedorn and Bustos said.


     Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.


Boris Johnson announced a 12-billion-pound ($15.9 billion) plan for a “green industrial revolution” that would ban new sales of petroleum and diesel cars by 2030 en route to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. He would allow sales of hybrid vehicles until 2035.

     Johnson also vowed to make the U.K. the “Saudi Arabia of wind,” quadrupling offshore production to 40 gigawatts by 2030, with enough capacity to power every home by that year.

     He promised major investments in hydrogen, new nuclear power — including small reactors — electric vehicles, green buses, and energy efficiency.

     The U.K. will remove 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide this decade through carbon capture, Johnson said, and plant 30,000 soccer fields' worth of trees.

     Britain’s commitments come ahead of it hosting next year the G7 and the U.N. Climate Change Conference, where Biden is expected to work together with European allies to press for stronger pledges to the Paris agreement.


Food and beverage industry update:

  • Supermarket giant Ahold Delhaize bought a majority stake in FreshDirect, the grocery delivery company. Link for details from the Wall Street Journal.
  • More time to weigh food traceability rule. After food and beverage companies asked for more time to digest a Sept. 23 proposal that sets new food traceability standards, FDA said it has agreed to extend the deadline. “After hearing concerns from several stakeholders that more time is needed to adequately review and analyze the information collection provisions with consideration to the entire proposed rule, the agency intends to formally announce an extension to the comment period for these provisions in a forthcoming notice in the Federal Register,” FDA said Wednesday (Nov. 18). The 120-day comment period is not enough because of the complexity of the rule, the pandemic limitations and the looming holiday season, the Food and Beverage Issue Alliance wrote FDA this month. “It includes numerous different complete and partial exemptions, introduces significant new terminology, and would substantially affect the information sharing among different entities within the food supply chain,” the alliance wrote. Among the sweeping new requirements, FDA published the Food Traceability List, which is comprised of high-risk foods that would trigger additional recordkeeping up and down the supply chain.

Coronavirus update:

  • Summary: Sources: Johns Hopkins University as of 6:30 a.m. ET; Hospitalization figures from the Covid Tracking Project as of yesterday.

    — 56,358,603: Confirmed cases world-wide, and 1,351,381 deaths
    — 170,161: New U.S. cases recorded yesterday
    — 11,530,345: Total confirmed cases in the U.S.
    — 1,848: Deaths in the U.S. recorded yesterday
    — 250,548: Total U.S. deaths
    — 79,410: Tests conducted in the U.S.

    Link to Covid Case Tracker

    Link to Our World in Data

  • Oxford Covid-19 vaccine shows promise. More positive vaccine news with the University of Oxford confirming the one it is developing with AstraZeneca Plc produced strong immune responses in older adults in their 60s and 70s. Preliminary results revealed that the vaccine, ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, prompted what's known as a "T-cell response" within 14 days of the first dose, as well as an antibody response within 28 days of a booster dose."We hope that this means our vaccine will help to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society," said Dr. Maheshi Ramasamy, a co-author of the study at the University of Oxford. Phase 3 trials of the vaccine are still ongoing, with early efficacy readings possible in the coming weeks.
  • New York City will close schools for in-person learning to curb Covid outbreak, Mayor de Blasio says. The schools will close even as indoor dining at restaurants and the city’s gyms, which experts say are at high risk for spreading virus, remain open at a reduced capacity. De Blasio has said that the city would try to safely reopen the schools as soon as possible if they were closed due to the outbreak. New York has 1,800 schools that serve over a million students.
  • Finland and Norway are bucking the Covid-19 trend. While the U.S. and Europe struggle to contain an autumn surge in coronavirus infections, two small nations are bucking the trend, keeping cases under control without stringent restrictions. Finland and Norway boast the West’s lowest rates of mortality linked to Covid-19 and a low incidence of coronavirus infections even though they have kept their economies and societies largely open. Their recipe: a brief, targeted lockdown in March, followed by tight border controls with mandatory testing and quarantine for all travelers, according to the Wall Street Journal (link).

    Bucking Covid
    U.S. cases



  • Joe Biden is approaching more than 80 million votes won in his presidential campaign. Biden's total continues to rise as Democratic strongholds like California and New York process their remaining ballots. He will likely have won the White House by a greater margin than any other president this century other than Barack Obama in 2008, according to the Associated Press.
  • Wisconsin's Elections Commission has agreed to issue an order today to recount ballots cast in Milwaukee and Dane counties as requested by Trump after hours of discussion. Trump paid the $3 million required for the recount.
  • Why were some election results closer than polls had predicted? “Shy” Trump voters? Pandemic effects? The Pew Research Center lists some theories and possible solutions — and what it all means for issue polling. Pre-election polls in the United States pointed to the likelihood that Joe Biden would win a popular and electoral vote majority over Donald Trump. That came to pass. But the election was much closer than polls suggested in several battleground states and more decisive for Trump elsewhere. And, polls and pundits were wrong to very wrong relative to House and Senate races. Link for details.
  • Georgia is on track to certify its election results on Friday, with Michigan, Pennsylvania and Nevada expected to follow next week, Arizona by Nov. 30 and Wisconsin by Dec. 1.
  • Georgia Secretary of State: Recount won't change result. Georgia Secretary of State: Recount won't change result. Brad Raffensperger said Wednesday he doesn’t expect the state’s hand recount of presidential votes will reverse Joe Biden’s lead there.“I don’t believe at the end of the day it will change the total results,” Raffensperger, a Republican, said on CNN. Asked if he thinks Biden will be declared the winner in Georgia, he said, “I believe that’s the way it will turn out.” The secretary of state’s office plans to release the audit results around noon Thursday, said Gabriel Sterling, voting-system implementation manager at the secretary of state’s office.

    Biden’s lead over Trump dipped to 12,781 votes, as some counties identified votes not previously tallied in the results. Before the audit, Biden was leading by a little more than 14,000 votes.

    The audit caught some errors, which election officials attributed to human mistakes. That included Republican-leaning Fayette County, where 2,755 votes on a memory card initially hadn’t been uploaded, the secretary of state’s office said. The batch included 1,577 votes for Trump and 1,128 for Biden. GOP stronghold Floyd County identified about 2,600 votes that initially weren’t counted, the secretary of state’s office said, which provided a net increase of 778 votes for Trump.

  • McEnany: Up to GSA to decide when to trigger transition process. In an appearance on Fox News’ Fox & Friends, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was asked if Joe Biden is declared the winner of the presidential election, will the transition be “peaceful.” McEnany responded that President Trump “has always said he will engage in a peaceful transfer of power if the facts bear out that way. But the president believes, and so too do many others, that if every legal vote is counted, he will remain president. He is pursuing litigation.” McEnany added, “The administration is doing everything statutorily required for a transition. It is up to the GSA to what we call reach ‘ascertainment’ for an election. They’re independent of us, and they haven’t declared that just yet. The former vice president receives an intelligence briefing; he’s been getting that for months.”
  • House Democrats re-elected Pelosi as House leader; she reaffirms that next term as speaker will be her last. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) must still win a majority of votes from the full chamber when the new Congress begins in January. But on Wednesday, Pelosi reiterated a pledge she made to her caucus two years ago that she would give up the gavel after the next, 117th Congress. Ahead of the 116th Congress, Pelosi made a deal with several members threatening to vote against her for speaker on the floor. To win their support, Pelosi agreed to allow the caucus to vote on proposed term limits for the top three Democratic leaders and to abide by the proposal herself regardless of whether it was adopted. The term limit plan, which would have limited the top three leaders from serving beyond the 117th Congress, was not brought before the caucus as scheduled, amid a partial government shutdown. The members pushing for the term limits proposal agreed to drop it indefinitely, but noted they could always bring it up again if needed.

    Keeping a promise. At a press conference Wednesday, shortly after the Democratic Caucus nominated Pelosi to serve as speaker again, she revealed her intention to keep her promise from two years prior. “What I said then is whether it passes or not, I will abide by those limits that are there,” Pelosi said. “I don’t want to undermine any leverage I may have, but I made the statement,” Pelosi said.

    “If my husband is listening, don’t let me to have to be more specific than that because we never expected to have another term now,” she added. “I consider this a gift. And I can’t wait to be working with Joe Biden and preparing us for our transition into the future.” Pelosi had said after the 2016 election that she had planned to retire if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, but she decided to stay on to ensure there’d be a woman at the leadership table with President Donald Trump and male congressional leaders.

    Possible successor: House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and newly elected Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) are considered potential successors to Pelosi.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) urged the likely Biden administration to use “all tools in their toolbox” — including executive orders and actions by federal agencies — to carry out Democrats’ priorities in the face of a potentially split Congress. Those goals include raising the minimum wage, canceling student debt and investing in child care. Warren, in remarks at the DealBook Online Summit, declined to say whether she wants a role in the administration, but emphasized her belief that “personnel is policy.” That may not mean an entirely Wall Street-free administration. “Remember, I hired people whose background was on Wall Street when I set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” she said. “It is important to have a team that brings a lot of different perspectives.”




  • Judges weigh reviving Trump water jurisdiction rule in Colorado. Federal judges are weighing whether to revive the Trump administration’s contentious water jurisdiction rule in Colorado. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit yesterday heard competing arguments from state and federal government lawyers on whether a lower court overstepped when it blocked implementation of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule within the state’s borders.


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