USDA Chief Economist Johansson Reflects on U.S. Ag Sector Financials, Outlook

Posted on 09/25/2020 7:16 AM

Ethanol industry, farm-state lawmakers racing a winding down clock with EVs

 


In Today’s Updates


 

Market Focus:
* Dollar's best week since April
* U.S. stocks see third-biggest outflow ever
* Costco is booming
* Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index is poised to gain more than 1.5% this week

* China’s demand for industrial commodities has been strengthening
* Gold and silver bulls are perplexed
* USDA Chief Economist: ag difficulties brewing for years, aggravated by Covid-19
* USDA’s Johansson on U.S. ag export situation
* Federal 1040 tax form will now ask about virtual currencies

 

Policy Focus:
* Democrats begin drafting a new coronavirus relief/stimulus bill
* Senate set up consideration of CR before leaving for four-day weekend
* Farm, food groups tell Trump WTO is important to U.S. agriculture
* Is Next Generation Fuels Act the future for renewable fuels?
* EPA's Wheeler scoffs at California plan ban all new gasoline-fueled cars after 2035
* Biden advocates widespread adoption of electric cars, national charging network
* WSJ: New electric-vehicle startups hoping to replicate success of Tesla
* House clears clean energy measure that faces veto threat

 

U.S. food & beverage industry update:
* Darden Restaurants CEO on restaurant woes


Update on re-opening America... and around the world:
* Pac-12 will play football this fall
* Times Square New Year’s Eve organizers say event will go virtual


Coronavirus update:
* Cuomo orders vaccine review

 

Politics & Elections:
* GOP pushback on Trump
* Cook Political Report unveils 2020 Demographic Swingometer
* Trump signs executive order on health care
* Trump promises to send older Americans $200 discount cards for prescription drugs
* Biden’s spending to drive faster U.S. recovery, economists predict


Other Items of Note:
* Oil executives forecast peak demand, fret Biden would make it worse
* Corps of Engineers launch project to deepen Lower Mississippi River Ship channel
* Court: Trump agency can reverse ban on pesticides
* End to cigarettes?
* Cotton AWP eases slightly

 


MARKET FOCUS


 

Equities today: Global stock markets were mixed to mostly weaker overnight. U.S. stock futures signal a lower opening and are set to score a fourth week in a row of declines.

 

     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow finished up 52.31 points, 0.20%, at 26,815.44. The Nasdaq rose 39.28 points, 0.37%, at 10,672.27. The S&P 500 gained 9.67 points, 0.30%, at 3,246.59.

 

     U.S. stock funds bled $25.8 billion in the week through Sept. 23, according to Bank of America Corp. and EPFR Global data, in a reversal from the previous week’s biggest inflow in more than two years. Investors exited the hottest sector of the rebound, pulling the most money out of tech funds since June 2019.

 

     Of note: Most of the market focus appears to be on breakthroughs in stimulus talks after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) confirmed discussions. Covid-19 cases are meanwhile growing across the U.S., with infections rising in 22 states over the past week. The U.S. is now averaging roughly 43,000 new cases per day, a 16% increase from a week ago (testing is up by almost 22% over the same period).

 

On tap today:

 

     • U.S. durable goods orders for August are expected to rise 1.8% from the prior month. (8:30 a.m. ET)
     • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hosts a Financial Stability Oversight Council meeting at 11:15 a.m. ET.
     • Federal Reserve: New York Fed President John Williams speaks to community development and nonprofit leaders at 9 a.m. ET, Kansas City Fed President Esther George speaks to the Independent Bankers of Colorado at 12:15 p.m. ET, and Mr. Williams speaks on young adult perspectives on the Covid-19 job market at 3:10 p.m. ET.
     • Baker Hughes rig count is out at 1 p.m. ET.
     * CFTC Commitments of Traders report, 4 p.m. ET.

 

Costco is booming. Americans continue to turn to Costco Wholesale to buy bulk quantities of groceries and cleaning supplies. They have also been loading carts with home furnishing. “As people are spending less on travel and dining out they seem to have redirected some of that spending,” said Costco financial chief Richard Galanti. The warehouse retailer reported a 14.1% jump in comparable sales for the quarter ended Aug. 30, excluding gas and currency effects.

 

     Costco

 

USDA Chief Economist Johansson says ag difficulties have been brewing for years, aggravated by Covid-19. A blog post this week from USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson (follow this link to read his post) outlines several factors that have been impacting U.S. agriculture, including global overproduction of several commodities.

 

     “Between 2014-2019, producer prices of corn, for example, fell 44% from $6.15 per bushel to $3.47, and prices of soybeans fell 35% — almost 5 dollars per bushel,” Johansson said. “However, cost of production for these commodities in 2019 was higher or only marginally lower than five years earlier.”

 

     Global competitors have ramped up their output over that time, including Black Sea wheat producers and South American corn, soybean and cotton producers.

 

     Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Johansson noted that “financial distress” in agriculture was already evident via less equipment investment, rising farm debt and borrowing against land.

 

     Johansson acknowledged the contribution government payments have had, including the rise in inflation-adjusted farm income in 2019 that came about “only when including federal farm aid payments and indemnities for crop insurance.” The pandemic’s impact on agriculture was “immediate and severe,” Johansson said, including the drop in miles driven, the “immediate and drastic decline in food demand” from restaurants and hotels which caused commodity prices to decline “significantly.”

 

     Unemployment declines in rural areas have lagged urban areas, but Johansson pointed out the reliance on off-farm jobs for farm families means the impact “could be extreme particularly for farms for which operating margins are so thin right now.”

 

     Noting February expectations for improving ag conditions, the pandemic has “severely dampened” the outlook for 2020 and 2021. While he cited indicators of farm financial stress in terms of loan delinquencies, Johansson also observed, “And while the timing and pace of the economic recovery remain uncertain, the fundamentals of U.S. agriculture are sufficiently strong to withstand the crisis.” Still, he commented that the “immediate outlook for the sector remains highly uncertain.”

 

     While the aid efforts such as the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and “the recent surge in exports” of some commodities has helped, Johansson concludes, “with much uncertainty still clouding the horizon, it’s hard to tell whether the tough times are over for farmers or more still lie ahead.”

 

USDA’s Johansson on U.S. ag export situation. USDA Chief Economist Rob Johansson’s blog post on the U.S. ag situation also delved into the recent rise in Chinese purchases of US ag commodities. He points out that U.S. agriculture is “highly competitive in global markets, and the trade outlook is looking more favorable with expected global economic recovery in 2021.” He stated U.S. overall ag exports “appear to have been holding up relatively well compared to overall U.S. exports.” U.S. ag exports the first seven months of 2020 have been down 3.5% versus year ago, while non-ag exports have fallen 18%.

 

     “Just recently we have seen a major uptick in Chinese purchases,” he said, detailing, “while U.S. soybean exports had started off slow this year, since July, China has purchased 14 MMTs [million metric tons]. Over the past few months, China has also signaled the intent to purchase corn at amounts exceeding its 7.2 MMT quota if they all finalized. Purchases are up across the board, with total accumulated sales for wheat, sorghum, cotton, pork and beef exceeding the pace of 2017 levels year-to-date.”

 

     The ag export situation shows “demand for food is relatively income-inelastic, and that marine transportation used for most agricultural products (in particular bulk products) has not been significantly disrupted.” He pointed to the U.S. ag export forecast for Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 of $140.5 billion, up $5.5 billion from FY 2020, noting it is “primarily driven by higher exports of soybeans and corn.”

 

     Growing demand by China and reduced exports from Brazil are forecast to boost US soybean export volumes 26% year over year. He noted higher corn and horticultural export values are seen for FY 2021 along with higher livestock, poultry and dairy exports.

 

     Johansson’s views on the overall farm economic situation and exports underscore the mixed picture currently for U.S. agriculture and his cautions on the uncertainties ahead signal that even with solid demand from China, the US agricultural outlook remains uncertain and one that is dependent on government financial infusions for not only agriculture but the economy in general.

 

     Perspective: Johansson mentions China has signaled its intention to go beyond its corn import TRQ, something his office in post-WASDE comments in an online discussion indicated needed some “official” commitment by China in order for USDA to incorporate that into their official forecasts. Johansson’s views on the overall farm economic situation and exports underscore the mixed picture currently for U.S. agriculture and his cautions on the uncertainties ahead signal that even with solid demand from China, the U.S. agricultural outlook remains uncertain and one that is dependent on government financial infusions for not only agriculture but the economy in general.

 

Market perspectives:

 

     • Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index is poised to gain more than 1.5% this week, the biggest five-day advance since April. Technicals suggest more gains are in the pipeline. The gauge had dropped over 10% from its March highs to this year’s low in September, with hedge funds turning bearish on the dollar for the first time since May 2018.

        
Dollar and rates

 

     • Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is up and near this week’s two-month high. Nymex crude oil prices are near steady and trading around $40.30. Meantime, the yield on the U.S. Treasury 10-year note is trading around 0.66% today.


     • China’s demand for industrial commodities has been strengthening, a clear signal of an improving Chinese economy.

 

     • Gold and silver bulls have been perplexed this week by their metals’ prices plunging despite the keener trader and investor anxiety that history suggests should support the precious metals markets.

 

     • Federal 1040 tax form will now ask about virtual currencies — right under your name and address — as the IRS takes aim at millions of cryptocurrency holders who aren’t complying with U.S. tax laws.

 

Alexa, activate the home drone.” Amazon unveiled the Ring Always Home Cam, a camera-equipped drone that can fly around your house when you’re not around. (The drone makes a noise when it’s activated, Amazon says, to make it clear when it’s recording.) It will go on sale next year for $250.

 


POLICY FOCUS


 

Democrats begin drafting a new coronavirus relief/stimulus bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told her Committee leaders to kickstart a new round of negotiations over another round of coronavirus stimulus spending by drafting a new, roughly $2.4 trillion package. They’ll need to trim around $1 trillion from the May bill (HR 6800) while also making room for new provisions such as restaurant and airline aid.

 

     A new definition of “smaller”: With talks between the White House, Senate Republicans and Democrats absent for weeks, Pelosi is betting a “smaller package” than the $3.5 trillion measure House Democrats passed in May will bring Republicans to the negotiating table. Pelosi has pledged to keep the House in session until a deal is reached. The Senate is scheduled to leave Oct. 12.

 

     Details: The plan would reportedly include federal unemployment payments, direct aid to taxpayers, more funding for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, and aid for airlines.

 

     Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier this week said that he and Pelosi have “agreed to continue to have discussions.” He also endorsed a bill (S 4634) from Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) that would extend airline payroll aid through the end of March.

 

     "The president and I want more support," Mnuchin told the Senate Banking Committee. "I've probably spoken to Speaker Pelosi 15 or 20 times in the last few days on coronavirus relief, and we've agreed to continue to have discussions about the CARES Act." "We will be hopefully soon to the table with them, very soon, showing you where our money wouldn't be spent," Pelosi added.

 

     House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Thursday that the House wants “to get a deal or an agreement with Mnuchin and the Senate because we want a bill passed and signed … before we go home.”

 

     House Democrats’ new plan could pass next week, but any progress beyond that would be contingent on a deal with Senate Republicans and the White House. With the atmosphere in Washington, D.C., so acrimonious, that may be difficult to achieve.

 

     Perspective: Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has frequently urged Congress for more fiscal stimulus. When Congress balked, equity markets cratered on no new cash flow to help pay bills and boost demand for food and other products. House Dems will now offer what they claim is a more targeted plan, but its price tag is too high without further changes. If not, it's a messaging exercise before the elections. As one contact put it, “Pelosi's latest approach is like this: I offer to buy your car for 10k but you want 40k. You come back at me and say how about 30k, saying it is more targeted.” Washington-style arithmetic would count that as a savings of $10,000....

 

     Meanwhile, Republicans have been skeptical of a large new round of deficit spending and have expressed more confidence that the economic recovery was on a solid footing after a sharp slump earlier this year.

 

     Deficit and aid

 

     One observer texted: “If you go out into the countryside there is no clamoring for government to spend more money keeping people on unemployment and bailing out state and local governments that spend too much while cutting police funding. None whatsoever.” On the other hand, there are signs that the economic rebound is losing steam. Applications for jobless benefits rose last week, with about 825,000 Americans filing for state unemployment benefits. Others note that an additional 1.6 million Americans were working as of mid-September, according to new data published by the Census Bureau. The figures are in line with other signs of a pickup in employment since mid-August.

 

Senate set up consideration of a House-passed stopgap spending bill (HR 8337) before leaving for a four-day weekend. They’ll return Tuesday to take a cloture vote on the bill. The motion would allow for 30 hours of debate on the bill, which if used would push a final vote to late Wednesday, just hours before a partial government shutdown at midnight.

 

Farm, food groups tell Trump WTO is important to U.S. agriculture. More than 50 agriculture groups and businesses say the U.S. should remain a World Trade Organization (WTO) member and work with other members to revamp rules to modernize the global institution. WTO supporters are concerned that President Trump might withdraw the U.S. from the institution. Many in U.S. agriculture say that could be detrimental to farm and food sectors that rely on export markets.

 

     In a Sept. 23 letter (link) to U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer, the groups and businesses said U.S. agriculture has largely benefited under the WTO, but said the body's rules need updating. The letter was also sent to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees and to the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance committees.

 

     “While the WTO has been beneficial for U.S. agriculture, its rules have not kept pace with changes in the global economy, and improvement is needed to hold members accountable and improve the organizations’ governance,” the letter said.

 

     “Continued U.S. membership and active participation will help ensure that necessary reforms are undertaken, and that the WTO will continue to play an important and effective role in economic development of the United States and our trading partners. As long as exports are important to U.S. agriculture, WTO membership will be essential as well,” the groups said.

 

     American agriculture’s future lies in expanding access to foreign markets and eliminating barriers to exports, they said.

 

Is Next Generation Fuels Act the future for renewable fuels? Ethanol proponents hope so, but the growing number and increased efficiencies and more competitive cost of electronic vehicles are major hurdles ahead.

 

     The Next Generation Fuels Act, introduced by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), one of the industry's go-to lawmaker, recognizes the high octane, low carbon benefits of corn ethanol (link to Bustos release). The legislation is designed to transition to a higher octane fuel in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and meet future needs of more advanced vehicles. The legislation establishes a minimum octane standard for gasoline and requires sources of the added octane value to reduce carbon emissions by at least 30% compared to baseline gasoline. The legislation limits the use of harmful aromatics in meeting this new higher octane standard, as well as in current-market gasoline. Using more petroleum-based sources to increase fuel octane would produce more carbon emissions, erase GHG reduction benefits from improved fuel economy and result in more emissions of harmful hydrocarbon aromatics, which degrade air quality and respiratory health, according to Bustos’ office.

 

     The Act establishes a new 98 Research Octane Number (RON) standard for gasoline. This will ensure the progress already made to lower emissions through cleaner renewable fuels continues. A new 98 RON would support mid-level blends like E25 and E30 which would generate new corn and ethanol demand — a key reason for the legislation.

 

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler scoffed at California Governor Newsom’s pledge to ban the sale of all new gasoline-fueled cars after 2035, calling it “more aspirational” than realistic. “I don’t think the public is ready for that at this point,” Wheeler said yesterday at the Concordia Annual Summit conference, held online. The EPA has reviewed data showing that the public isn’t interested in buying electric vehicles in enough numbers to make the California plan possible, he said.

 

     Facts and figures. Less than 8% of new vehicles registered in California through the first half of the year were electric ones. And in 2035, BloombergNEF (BNEF) projects about half of U.S. passenger vehicle sales will be battery and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Nichols said that the next 15 years will be ones of transition, as automakers put forward more cars, consumers become more comfortable driving electric and the cost of batteries drops. Tesla’s “Battery Day” on Tuesday didn’t go unnoticed in Sacramento. Mary Nichols, chair of the powerful California Air Resources Board and a possible candidate to head any Biden administration EPA, told Bloomberg that the electric carmaker’s plan to halve the cost of batteries and, consequently, build EVs that more people can afford to buy. “It’s an electric race to get to cheaper and more effective batteries, and it’s one that manufacturers around the world are competing in,” Nichols said. “That’s the prize: the zero-emission vehicle that’s affordable to everybody.”

 

     Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has advocated for the widespread adoption of electric cars and a national charging network to power them.

 

     Meanwhile, California’s plan is the latest in a series of aggressive emissions targets around the world, the Wall Street Journal reports (link), and the tighter rules from Europe to the U.S. are accelerating manufacturers’ efforts to shrink their carbon footprint. Those rules are drawing investors toward new electric-vehicle startups hoping to replicate the success of Tesla. The European Union is moving to tighten its car-emission targets for the next decade and China is ramping up its support for electric vehicles. “California’s ban will likely land in court, but the car industry is fully invested in pivoting toward electric vehicles with products that will change big parts of automotive supply chains. The trucking sector is looking at how to use electric technology to meet environmental targets without losing weight and range for big rigs,” the WSJ article concludes.

 

House clears clean energy measure that faces veto threat. The House approved the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act (HR 4447) 220-185, largely along party lines as 18 Democrats voted no and 7 Republicans voted yes.

 

     The $135 billion package does not include major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that some Democrats had sought, but focuses on certain clean energy technology investments such as solar, wind, geothermal energy, hydroelectric power and carbon capture and sequestration.

 

     Research efforts in advanced energy would get a significant boost as would modernizing the U.S. power grid.

 

     The plan would set a June 1 deadline for small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and require public disclosure of those seeking the exemptions.

 

     While Democrats viewed it as a starting point for negotiations with the Senate on energy legislation should that chamber be able to approve its own energy-related legislation.

 

     The veto threat also dims expectations for the House-passed version and the Senate outlook for their legislation is less than certain given the legislative expectations are minimal for the chamber to clear any major legislation ahead of the elections with a Supreme Court nomination expected to garner most of the chamber’s focus.

 

Food and beverage industry update:

  • Darden Restaurants CEO on restaurant woes. “You wake up every day and you’re $300,000 short just in that one restaurant. That’s our best restaurant in the Olive Garden system. We do over $15 million there, and now we’re doing $2,500 a day.” — Gene Lee, the CEO of Darden Restaurants, on the urgency of reopening the Olive Garden in Times Square.

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

  • Pac-12 will play football this fall, reversing earlier decision and making it the last Power Five conference to start its season. The Pac-12 said it plans to begin playing a seven-game schedule on Nov. 6.
     
  • Times Square New Year’s Eve organizers say event will go virtual, no crowd on scene. But select groups and families representative of certain communities will be invited.

Coronavirus update:

  • Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are now at 32,255,574 with 983,417 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU). The U.S. case count is at 6,974,874 with 202,819 deaths.

    Link to Covid Case Tracker

    Link to Our World in Data

     
  • Cuomo orders vaccine review. New York will rely on its own health experts instead of trusting the Trump administration on a Covid vaccine, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said. New York will launch a Clinical Advisory Task Force comprised of scientists and doctors to advise residents on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, Cuomo said at a briefing today. With recent polls showing a growing mistrust of any vaccine, Cuomo said, “frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion.”

 


POLITICS & ELECTIONS


 

  • Links
    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

     
  • GOP pushback on Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Twitter that the winner of the Nov. 3 election will be inaugurated on Jan. 20, and that the transition will be orderly just as it has been every four years since 1792. His comments come as lawmakers from both parties reaffirmed their commitment to the democratic process in response to President Donald Trump's refusal to commit to an orderly transition.
     
  • Cook Political Report unveils 2020 Demographic Swingometer. Cook Political Report's David Wasserman writes, “Over the past few months, I've been working on an interactive project to allow users to input their own assumptions and estimate the impact of demographic turnout/support shifts on the Electoral College. Ever wondered what the 2020 map would look like if...

    - Biden restores Black turnout to Obama-era levels?
    - Trump does better w/ Hispanics than last time?
    - College-educated whites swing to Biden?
    - Non-college white turnout surges?

    “I was lucky to find and enlist two data-wiz prodigies — Stanford cs/math student Sophie Andrews and Harvard applied math/econ student Leo Saenger — who helped the Cook Political Report and NBC News bring the concept to life beyond our wildest expectations. We're excited to launch our (addictive?) new 2020 Demographic Swingometer. Now you can choose your own election adventure. Our accompanying story finds that demographic shifts since 2016 alone could be enough to defeat Trump, but that the story of America's changing electorate remains complex.” Link

     
  • Trump signs executive order on health care. The order is designed to signal to voters his intent to protect people with pre-existing health conditions and jump-start Capitol Hill negotiations on surprise medical billing. It would not on its own create substantive new policies without separate legislation or regulations, but could serve as talking points for Trump on the campaign trail. Trump signed the order in North Carolina, a key swing state, after making remarks on his health care record and how he would approach the topic during a second term.

    The 2010 health care law already guarantees that people with pre-existing medical problems cannot be denied coverage or charged more for that coverage. The Trump administration is backing a lawsuit to overturn the law, and the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on Nov. 10, one week after Election Day.

     
  • President Trump promised to send $200 discount cards for prescription drugs to 33 million older Americans, a $6.6 billion gift to court a key voting demographic. Link to NYT article for details.
     
  • Biden’s spending to drive faster U.S. recovery, economists predict. Biden’s plans to boost government spending would help the U.S. economy bounce back faster from the coronavirus slump if the Democratic challenger beats Trump in November’s election, according to two new reports that crunched numbers from the candidates’ platforms. If Dems also take the Senate, the U.S. economy could grow at a 4.2% average pace during Biden’s first term, the economists found. That compares with a likely rate of between 3.1% and 3.5% if Republicans keep the White House, the Senate or both, according to a study by Mark Zandi and Bernard Yaros at Moody’s Analytics.

 


OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE


  • Oil executives forecast peak demand; fret Biden would make it worse. Most executives (66%) from 154 oil and gas companies polled by the Dallas Fed (link) said they believe U.S. oil production has peaked, according to a survey released Wednesday. In comments attached to the survey, oil executives from companies active in Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana, expressed alarm about the state of the industry, especially if Joe Biden were to become president. “A Biden administration would wreak havoc on our industry,” said one executive from an exploration and production firm. “It would put us out of business.” A second executive said, “A Biden administration would absolutely kill our industry.”Another executive said, “We are in a period of energy transition away from fossil fuels,” and predicted “going forward, large investment pools of capital will not invest in petroleum.”
     
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers launches new project to deepen Lower Mississippi River Ship channel to 50 feet. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) New Orleans District has launched Phase 1 of its project to deepen the Lower Mississippi River ship channel to 50 feet. The launch follows the signing of an agreement by USACE and the State of Louisiana in late July. The entire project aims to deepen the final 256 miles of the River between the Gulf of Mexico to Baton Rouge, where river transportation ships more than 50% of U.S. corn and soybeans to the U.S. export markets. Started on September 11, 2020, Phase 1 will dredge the Southwest Pass from the Head of Passes (considered the mouth of Mississippi, the starting point from which mileages on the Lower Mississippi River are measured) to Belmont Crossing. This phase will create approximately 175 miles of 50-foot-deep channel up to New Orleans. The next phase of the project will focus on deepening select locations between New Orleans and Baton Rouge where the river current slows and deposits sediments. The Corps estimates it will finish the entire project by 2024.
     
  • Trump agency can reverse ban on pesticides. Conservation groups failed to show they would be harmed by the Fish and Wildlife Service’s reversal of a previous ban on certain insecticides and genetically modified crops in national wildlife refuges, a Washington federal court said yesterday in dismissing their lawsuit. Injuries alleged by individual members of the groups are also too speculative to establish standing, according to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
     
  • End to cigarettes? "With the right regulatory encouragement and support from civil society, we believe cigarette sales can end within 10 to 15 years in many countries," declared Philip Morris CEO André Calantzopoulos, speaking at the Concordia Annual Summit. "Yes, that’s right," he added. "An end to cigarettes within 10 to 15 years in many countries." Calling cigarettes "the most harmful way of consuming nicotine," Calantzopoulos would prefer to focus on products "that do not involve combustion." Over 11.2 million people, he said, have switched to his company's IQOS and stopped smoking.
     
  • Cotton AWP eases slightly. The Adjusted World Price (AWP) for cotton is at 50.44 cents per pound, effective today (Sept. 25), down slightly from 50.88 cents per pound the prior week. The level still leaves the potential for a 1.55 cent LDP. Meanwhile, USDA announced Special Import Quota #23 will be established Oct. 1 for the import of 10,760 bales of upland cotton, applying to supplies purchased not later than Dec. 29 and entered into the U.S. not later than March 29.

 

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