Immigration bill draft released in House | USDA has two climate change reports coming
In Today’s Digital Newspaper
• Crude prices taking a hit
• RIN prices near record highs
• USDA releases S/D outlooks for major crops, livestock and dairy
• U.S. ag exports for fiscal year 2021 pegged by USDA at a record $157 billion
• Barron’s: Farming industry is rallying. Here are 6 stocks to watch
• Robinhood and Citadel CEOs were grilled by lawmakers
• Tsy Sec. Yellen urges major stimulus, sees bigger risk in not doing enough
• Yellen comments on tax policy ahead
• Shipping-container shortage snarls global supply chains for commodities, raising prices
• Farmers from Kansas to Alabama struggling with extreme winter weather
• More than 14 million Texan without safe drinking water
• Rains stabilize Argentine crops
• SovEcon slashes Russian wheat crop projection on weather and tax concerns
• Japan’s use of corn and sorghum in animal feed up from year-ago
• Midwestern economic outlook soars to highest level since 2011
• House Democrats release immigration reform package
• ICE issues new guidelines to narrow immigration enforcement
• Details of Democrats’ push for $1.9 trillion Covid aid package
• More ag and nutrition details in Democrats’ $1.9 trillion Covid aid package
• Ag panel Republicans outline opposition to partisan budget reconciliation effort
Energy & Climate Change:
• White House rescinds Trump proposal to restrict greenhouse gas consideration
• Climate change is already affecting the economy: Fed governor Lael Brainard
• USDA has two report deadlines ahead for climate change actions
• Single shot of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 85% effective
• USDA & FDA: ‘no credible evidence’ Covid is transmitted via food or food packaging
• Biden to commit $4 billion in funding to global vaccine initiative
• Covid-19 was spreading in China before first confirmed cases
Politics & Elections:
• Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz flew back from Mexico after being widely criticized
Other Items of Note:
• Biden administration offered to restart negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program
• Cotton AWP pushes further above 70 cents per pound
Equities today: U.S. equity futures are up. Crude prices are taking a hit while Treasury yields are ticking higher. In Asia, major stock benchmarks were mixed by the end of trading. The Shanghai Composite Index closed up 0.6%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 retreated 0.7%.
U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow lost 119.68 points, 0.38%, at 31,493.34. The Nasdaq declined 100.14 points, 0.72%, at 13,865.36. The S&P 500 was down 17.36 points, 0.44%, at 3,913.97.
Robinhood and Citadel CEOs were grilled by lawmakers in the wake of the GameStop saga. Executives of some companies involved in the recent stock-trading saga faced questions from the House Financial Services Committee. Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev apologized to customers for restrictions that prevented them from buying shares in GameStop and other hot stocks, while Citadel’s Ken Griffin urged regulatory reforms to help public exchanges recapture a larger share of market activity. Keith Gill (the day trader who goes by “Roaring Kitty” on YouTube) told Congress he'd still buy GameStop stock at its current price. The investor said his strategy is "rather aggressive" and his position is "based on the fundamentals… The idea that I used social media to promote GameStop stock to unwitting investors and influence the market is preposterous. My posts did not cause the movement of billions of dollars into GameStop shares.” He also noted that that some people lost money and "my heart goes out to them… For me personally, yes, I do find it's [GameStop] an attractive investment at this point." Further hearings are expected, likely featuring regulators. GameStop shares oscillated between losses and gains during the hearing and closed down 11%. This graphic from the New York Times is interesting…
Barron’s: The farming industry is rallying. Here are 6 stocks to watch. Link. The six: Fertilizer giant Nutrien (ticker: NTR), as well as other crop input providers such as Mosaic (MOS), Corteva (CTVA) and FMC ( FMC ). Equipment providers Deere (DE) and AGCO (AGCO )
On tap today:
• Last day of USDA Ag Outlook Forum.
• USDA Weekly Export Sales report, 8:30 a.m. ET
• John Deere reports earnings
• IHS Markit's U.S. manufacturing index for the opening weeks of February, due at 9:45 a.m. ET, is expected to tick down to 59 from 59.2 at the end of January, and the services index is expected to slip to 58.0 from 58.3.
• U.S. existing-home sales for January, due at 10 a.m., are expected to decrease to an annual pace of 6.6 million from 6.76 million the prior month.
• Baker Hughes rig count is out at 1 p.m. ET
• Federal Reserve speakers: Richmond’s Thomas Barkin on the economic outlook at 8 a.m. ET and Boston’s Eric Rosengren at the Yale Economic Development Symposium at 11 a.m. ET
• CFTC Commitments of Traders report, 3:30 p.m. ET
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urges major stimulus, sees bigger risk in not doing enough. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Thursday said a large stimulus package is still necessary to get the economy back to full strength, despite momentum suggesting that growth is off to a faster start than anticipated in 2021. In a CNBC interview, she said the $1.9 trillion proposal could help the U.S. get back to full employment in a year. “We think it’s very important to have a big package [that] addresses the pain this has caused — 15 million Americans behind on their rent, 24 million adults and 12 million children who don’t have enough to eat, small businesses failing,” Yellen said. “I think the price of doing too little is much higher than the price of doing something big. We think that the benefits will far outweigh the costs in the longer run,” she added.
Yellen said she’s not worried that all of the government spending could cause inflation down the road. “Inflation has been very low for over a decade, and you know it’s a risk, but it’s a risk that the Federal Reserve and others have tools to address,” she said. “The greater risk is of scarring the people, having this pandemic take a permanent lifelong toll on their lives and livelihoods.”
On tax policy, Yellen said that any tax increases sought by the Biden administration to help pay for big-ticket spending would be introduced gradually. Yellen added that the proposed tax increases would likely come later in 2021 as part of a larger legislative package. It would “involve spending and investments over a number of years” in agenda items such as education and infrastructure, the Treasury chief said. “And probably tax increases to pay for at least part of it that would probably phase in slowly over time.” During his campaign, President Joe Biden proposed raising the corporate rate to 28% from the current 21%. Prior to former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts, the U.S. corporate rate was 35%.
Links to USDA Ag Outlook Forum presentations on:
Summaries of outlook presenations:
Corn: Planted acres of 92.0 million and harvested acres of 84.4 million with a national average yield of 179.5 bushels per acre bring a crop of 15.150 billion bushels. Feed & residual use is pegged at 5.850 billion bushels, food, seed and industrial use is at 6.625 billion bushels—including 5.200 billion for ethanol—putting total domestic use at 12.475 billion bushels. With exports forecast to rise to 2.650 billion bushels, carryover is pegged at 1.552 billion bushels with a season-average price of $4.20 per bushel.
Soybeans: Planted acres of 90.0 million and harvested area at 89.1 million with a national-average yield of 50.8 bushels per acre nets a crop of 4.525 billion bushels. Crush is forecast at 2.210 billion bushels, with 124 million bushels of seed and residual use and exports of 2.200 billion bushels put carryover at 145 million bushels with a season-average price of $11.25 per bushel.
Wheat: Planted acres of 45.0 million with harvested at 37.2 million and a national average yield of 49.1 bushels per acre brings a crop of 1.827 billion bushels. Feed & residual use is seen at 140 million bushels, with food and seed use of 1.030 billion for total domestic use of 1.179 billion bushels. Exports of 925 million would pare ending stocks to 698 million bushels with a season-average price of $5.50 per bushel.
Rice: Planted area of 2.70 million and harvested at 2.65 million acres with an average yield of 7,657 pounds per acre nets a crop of 202.9 million cwt. Total domestic and residual use is pegged at 151.0 million cwt. with 91.0 million cwt. in exports for ending stocks of 39.3 million cwt. and a season-average price of $13.60 per cwt.
Cotton: Planted acres of 12.0 million with harvested at 10.0 million (16.7% abandonment) and a yield of 840 pounds per acre puts production at 17.5 million bales. With exports of 15.5 million bales and domestic use of 2.5 million bales, carryover would be at 3.8 million bales with a season-average price of 75.0 cents per pound.
Sugar: Beet sugar production is projected at 5.154 million short tons raw value (STRV), 2021 sugarbeet planted area is up slightly, sugarbeet yield is slightly higher, and beet sugar recovery rate is slightly lower. Cane sugar production is projected at 4.245 million STRV. Total imports are projected at 3.214 million STRV. Ending stocks are seen at 1.679 million STRV, with a stocks-to-use ratio of 13.5%.
Cattle/Beef: Beef production for 2021 is forecast at 27.5 billion pounds with total cattle slaughter seen up 1%, with total beef exports of 3.1 billion pounds and imports at 3.0 billion pounds. The 5-area steer price is seen at $115 per cwt. in 2021.
Hogs/Pork: Commercial production is seen at 28.7 billion pounds with higher inventories, but lower carcass weights compared with 2020. Pork exports are seen at 7.2 billion pounds with imports at 0.9 billion pounds. The national base 51% -52% lean, live equivalent prices is seen at $50.50 per cwt., as higher demand will support prices despite higher slaughter expectations.
Broilers: Record-large production of 44.9 billion pounds is forecast on higher bird weights, while broiler meat exports are seen at 17.4 billion pounds on demand from China and global economic improvement. National composite wholesale broiler price forecast at $0.85 per pound, up 15.4% versus 2020.
Dairy: Milk production is forecast at 227.4 billion pounds, with milk per cow seen rising more rapidly than in recent years. Exports on a fat-basis are seen at 10.1 billion pounds and on skim-solids basis they are forecast at 48.9 billion pounds. The all-milk price forecast is $17.15 per cwt.
U.S. ag exports for fiscal year (FY) 2021 are pegged by USDA at a record $157 billion, up from USDA’s prior outlook for exports of $152 billion. Imports are also forecast at a record mark up $137.5 billion, up from $137 billion in their November forecast.
The figures imply an ag trade surplus of $19.5 billion, which would be a $17.0 billion surge from last year's decades-low level. If the forecasts hold it would be the biggest ag trade surplus since $21.1 billion in FY 2017.
For China, USDA forecasts their FY 2021 imports at $31.5 billion, up $4.5 billion from their November outlook, “due to strong first quarter shipments and surging sales, most notably of corn,” USDA said. “China is forecast to remain the largest U.S. agricultural market in FY 2021.”
Covid factors into the outlook, but USDA Chief Economist Seth Meyer said that with vaccination efforts accelerating, “motor gasoline use is forecast to further recover and is likely to be the single largest determinant of the domestic use of ethanol and therefore the corn grind for ethanol in the 2021/22 corn balance sheet.” Plus, China’s efforts to recover from African swine fever (ASF) have resulted in the country buying large amounts of corn and soybeans on the global market. “What we have seen, though, in China, and what has sparked this big import of corn has been the spread between internal prices for corn in China and what corn prices are elsewhere in the world,” Meyer said, detailing the difference in price at round $150 per tonne. While China has had a tariff-rate quota on corn imports of 7.2 million tonnes, Meyer said the expectation is that will not be a limit on Chinese corn imports. USDA learned that the hard way, having stubbornly keeping its forecast of China’s total corn imports way too low for way too long until they got more realistic the past few months.
• Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is trading lower. Nymex crude oil futures prices are solidly down and trading around $59.00 a barrel. The U.S. wants to talk with Iran on its nuclear ambitions, and that could put more Iranian oil on the world market in the coming months. The U.S. 10-year Treasury note yield is fetching 1.308%. Government bond yields are on the rise, offering a more competitive asset class that may be pulling money away from the stock markets, analysts note.
• Oil slipped from its 13-month high as disruptions to the Texan oil supply from a severe winter storm were expected to ease in the coming days. Brent crude oil on Friday fell 1.7% to $62.87 a barrel.
• A shipping container shortage is boosting commodity prices. It has rarely been more expensive to move sugar, coffee and copper around the world by sea. Ocean freight rates began to soar last summer, and haven’t let up, reports the Wall Street Journal (link) which says that is partly because consumers, unable to spend money in restaurants, have splashed out on goods that move by sea. Retailers and manufacturers, meanwhile, have rushed to rebuild inventories. The shortage of 40-foot steel shipping containers has snarled global supply chains and driven prices for some raw materials higher.
• RIN prices are near record highs. Prices for renewable identification numbers (RINS), compliance credits for the Renewable Fuel Standard, are approaching historic levels, according to a report (link) from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Corn ethanol (D6) RIN prices surpassed $1 per gallon in late January and early February 2021, the highest price since 2013, according to EIA. D4 RINs for biodiesel neared $1.20 a gallon. Reasons for the price upticks, according to EIA: “Although the RFS Renewable Volume Obligations (RVO) for 2021 have yet to be released, RIN prices have been increasing because of limited fuel production as a result of lower fuel demand related to responses to Covid-19, fewer approved new Small Refinery Exemptions (SRE) since 2018, and uncertainty around future RFS levels.”
• Farmers from Kansas to Alabama are struggling with extreme winter weather. The unusual winter storms that knocked out power for millions of Texans this week have also battered the U.S. agriculture industry, killing livestock, disrupting processing and snarling transport operations. The disruptions and animal fatalities are expected to cost farmers and agriculture companies millions of dollars. And with still more snow in the forecast for Oklahoma and the mid-Atlantic region, the effects of the wintry blast could be felt for months to come, the Wall Street Journal reports (link). In Kansas, officials said the extreme weather would leave ranchers with skinnier cattle to sell and process since livestock burn more calories to stay warm. In Oklahoma, early estimates showed about 15% of newborn calves would die, leaving farmers scrambling to try and save their lives.
• Winter storm that slammed Texas has left more than 14 million people without safe drinking water, with cities including Austin, Houston and San Antonio under boil-water notices—and many residents without electricity for boiling and others with pipes that are dry. Many stores and restaurants cut hours or closed this week, making bottled water hard to find. The Biden administration said Thursday it had granted a federal emergency declaration for one Texas neighbor, Oklahoma, due to the weather and was processing a similar request from another, Louisiana. Meanwhile, a second major U.S. storm hit the Northeast. Estimates are that Texas still had some 500,000 homes and businesses without power as of midday Thursday, down from more than 3 million Wednesday.
After Texas Governor Abbott reversed his criticism of renewable energy for failing in the storm and prompting millions to lose power, an official with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) Thursday credited solar power with helping to restore power. “We had quite a bit of solar generation online,” Dan Woodfin, director of ERCOT system operations, told reporters. “When the solar generation was online, we started trying to bring back a lot of the load.”
Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include (Link to subscribe to FTT):
• Rains stabilize Argentine crops
• SovEcon slashes Russian wheat crop projection on weather and tax concerns
• Japan’s use of corn and sorghum in animal feed up from year-ago
• Midwestern economic outlook soars to highest level since 2011
— House Democrats release immigration reform package. The 353-page draft (link), called the U.S. Citizenship Act, would mark the first drastic overhaul of the U.S. immigration system in years. President Joe Biden sent a proposal to Congress on his first day in office, and the final product tracks closely with the summary he sent at the time.
- Creates an eight-year pathway for citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., including so-called Dreamers brought to the U.S. as children, who can pass a criminal background check, though waivers for convictions are available. Under the process, they could apply for “lawful prospective immigrant status,” which would allow them to work legally in the U.S. and travel internationally for short trips. After five years, they could become permanent residents.
- Expedites citizenship track for immigrants currently protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and to those with Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure, which gives temporary immigration protections to individuals from countries in crisis.
- Makes migrant farm workers eligible for that streamlined process if they worked at least 2,300 hours or 400 work days in the agricultural space during the preceding five-year period.
- Effectively eliminates an exemption for farms from federal overtime and minimum wage requirements in current law. Family members would continue to be exempt.
- Strikes word “alien” from the legal code, instead replacing it with “noncitizen,” and extends any immigration benefits to spouses to “permanent partners,” codifying protections for same-sex couples from countries where gay marriage is outlawed.
- Eases the green card process for families and eliminate a rule requiring foreign citizens to apply for asylum within one year of entering the U.S., among other sweeping changes. Increase the current 7% per-country caps on family-based green cards — which have kept immigrants from populous countries like India and China waiting decades for visas to become available — to 20% and eliminate those caps for employment-based green cards. Reclassifies spouses and minor children of legal permanent residents as “immediate relatives,” thus exempting them from the visa limits.
- Increases diversity visas, handed out each year in a lottery for foreigners from underrepresented nations, from 55,000 annually to 80,000.
- Increases caps that limit legal immigration to the U.S. and sets aside $4 billion to address root causes of migration from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Calls on the Secretary of State to implement a four-year strategy to address factors in Central America that drive migration, including corruption and trafficking. To discourage migrants from journeying to the U.S. border, the bill would also invest in increased refugee processing from Central America and calls on government officials to launch an “information campaign” on the dangers of traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border.
- Creates a pilot program allowing county or municipal officials to sponsor up to 10,000 foreign citizens annually for visas in occupations where there are shortages of U.S. workers. Also gives work authorization to the spouses of foreign workers on H-1B specialty occupation visas, codifying an Obama-era program that the Trump administration had threatened to end.
- Greenlights potential future efforts by the Biden administration to prioritize high-skilled work visas to foreign professionals offered the highest salaries — a change the former Trump administration made in a midnight regulation, which the new administration delayed.
- Invests in training and new technology at the border. Outlines a “technology deployment plan” to increase “nonintrusive” equipment at the border.
Republicans blasted the bill, zeroing in on border security. “Senate Democrats have embraced the Biden-Harris immigration plan of amnesty and open borders. Granting amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants, on a timeline quicker than any major legislation offered in recent history, without including any funding whatsoever to enhance border security is reckless and would fuel a never-ending cycle of illegal immigration,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said in his capacity as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm. “This is an unserious proposal that reflects how far left Senate Democrats have gone on the issue of immigration. Senate Republicans will not hesitate to share with the American people exactly how the Democrats’ open borders, amnesty proposal will put their families at-risk.”
Ag sector lobbyists note there is nothing in the bill’s language regarding hoped-for expansion in the H-2A program.
Some Democrats have signaled a willingness to break the bill up into smaller pieces, either to pass standalone portions that are able to get more bipartisan support, or to take aspects with a financial element and attempt to pass them through the reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority vote.
— ICE issues new guidelines to narrow immigration enforcement. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced new guidance Thursday instructing agents to focus resources on immigrants who threaten public safety or national security and on the border, as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to narrow immigration enforcement targets. The memo, effective immediately, establishes interim guidance for ICE agents and will remain in place until Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issues department-wide guidance on enforcement priorities in about 90 days, according to officials.
Under the memo, ICE is instructed to generally limit enforcement actions, including arrests and deportations, to immigrants who fall under one of three categories: suspected terrorists and threats to national security, individuals with aggravated felony convictions or gang ties, and migrants who crossed the border after Nov. 1, 2020. The categories are not exclusive, however, and immigrants who fall outside of those categories may still be priorities, DHS officials said on a call with reporters Thursday.
Bottom line: The memo signals a return to Obama-era immigration priorities.
— Details of Democrats’ push for $1.9 trillion Covid aid package. The House of Representatives is currently in the process of considering the next Covid relief bill. Nine of the 12 House committees have approved legislation. Below is a summary of the major elements of the $1.9 trillion plan from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:
In total, the bills together would increase on-budget deficits through 2030 by $1.94 trillion, which is slightly higher than the total envisioned for the House and Senate bills of $1.889 trillion. The overall bill will need to be made about $50 billion less costly in order to comply with reconciliation instructions in the Senate and be eligible to pass with a simple majority.
Because the bill is being enacted through reconciliation, each committee's bill is limited to a maximum cost specified in the budget resolution enacted earlier this month. The committee instructions are somewhat larger than the total to account for overlap in jurisdictions between committees. Although a few committees would have room to add additional policies and stay within their instructions, other committees would have to reduce the size of their sections to keep the overall size of the bill to $1.889 trillion, which is the sum of the instructions given to Senate committees.
— More ag and nutrition details in Democrats’ $1.9 trillion Covid aid package.
- Extends a 15% increase to monthly benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) through Sept. 30. Created by the year-end spending and coronavirus response package, the increase is scheduled to lapse on June 30.
- Provides $1.15 billion to states for SNAP administration, as well as $1 billion for grants for nutrition assistance programs in U.S. territories.
- Provides $490 million to the Agriculture Department to increase the amount of the cash-value voucher provided under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to as much as $35 during the pandemic. Participating states could apply the increase for as long as four months after opting in. The increased authority for both states and the department would end on Sept. 30.
- Provides $390 million to increase participation in WIC through outreach and program modernization.
- Directs USDA to reimburse emergency shelters under the National School Lunch Program for meals provided to individuals younger than 25 who receive services there.
- Extends the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program, established by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, through any school year or summer period following an academic year during a designated public health emergency. The program, which allows for food aid to be provided to families during school closures, had been limited to fiscal 2020 and 2021 and to school year 2020-2021. It would also include Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands in the program.
Other USDA Programs
- Appropriates $4 billion to USDA to purchase and distribute food and agricultural commodities and to make grants and loans to small and midsized food processors and distributors. From that total, the department would use:
— $300 million for monitoring and surveillance of animals susceptible to Covid-19 transmission.
— $100 million to reduce amount of overtime meat, poultry, and egg inspection costs at small establishments.
- Provides $500 million for a USDA emergency pilot grant program, supporting organizations providing Covid-19-related services in low-income rural areas.
- Appropriates such sums as may be necessary for loan modifications and payments to address “longstanding and widespread discrimination against socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers” in USDA programs.
- Provides $1.01 billion for grants and loans to improve land access for socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners, as well as scholarships, outreach, financial training, and other technical assistance.
- Provides $800 million for Food for Peace grants.
— Agriculture panel Republicans outline opposition to partisan budget reconciliation effort. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-Pa.), ranking Republican of the House Ag Committee, and fellow panel Republicans, outlined their opposition to the Majority’s budget reconciliation recommendations. “This partisan approach is particularly galling in the context of the Agriculture Committee, which has long prided itself on being the most bipartisan Committee in the House,” the submission states.
Thompson said “Democrats’ partisan opposition to commonsense relief includes, but is not limited to:
- Refusing to redirect a portion of the funds to support critical needs of rural communities, such as broadband infrastructure;
- Failing to unfreeze Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) funds, and;
- Rejecting an amendment to help rural residents see doctors and teachers safely throughout the pandemic with investments in the Distance Learning and Telemedicine program.
Link to the Minority Views on Committee Print.
ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE
— White House rescinds Trump proposal to restrict greenhouse gas consideration. The 2019 draft sought to prevent consideration of long-term emissions impacts deemed “remote or speculative” in analyses required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires environmental impact analyses to be carried out ahead of projects such as pipelines, highways and drilling on public lands. The 2019 guidance aimed to replace an Obama administration guidance. The White House is now encouraging agencies to consider all available resources in considering climate change impacts of their actions, including the 2016 guidance “as appropriate and relevant.” Link for Federal Register document.
— Climate change is already affecting the economy, Fed governor Lael Brainard said. Brainard’s speech reaffirmed that the central bank largely sees its climate change role as part of its oversight of financial firms. “Climate change is already imposing substantial economic costs and is projected to have a profound effect on the economy at home and abroad,” Brainard said in a speech. “There is growing evidence that extreme weather events related to climate change are on the rise—droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, and heat waves are all becoming more common,” she said. “Future financial and economic impacts will depend on the frequency and severity of climate-related events and on the nature and the speed at which countries around the world transition to a greener economy,” she said.
Brainard flagged the Fed’s newly launched Supervision Climate Committee, which she said will “work to develop an appropriate program to ensure the resilience of supervised firms to climate related financial risks.” Brainard also said the Fed’s interest in shoring up the financial system against climate change risks wasn’t in conflict with its legal mandate of promoting job growth. “Maximum employment is right at the heart of our monetary policy framework,” she said. “We will be very focused on trying to understand how the climate-related risks” and efforts to transition to a more sustainable economy and financial system “might affect our economic growth over the medium to long term.”
— USDA has two report deadlines ahead for climate change actions. USDA’s top climate policy adviser, Robert Bonnie, says the department has just over 30 days to carry out its outreach to farmers, ranchers and forest managers on climate policy. An executive order by President Joe Biden required USDA to get input on how agriculture should be involved in addressing climate change.
The next reporting timeline comes in about 75 days, Bonnie said at Thursday’s Ag Outlook Forum, when USDA must conclude a report on climate-smart agriculture.
Buzzwords like climate-smart agriculture are about the only thing consistent regarding the coming climate change debate. Words like: sustainability, resilience, carbon free/neutral, equity, carbon credit bank.
— Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are at 110,394,369 with 2,443,548 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 27,896,709 with 493,119 deaths. The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center said that there have been 57,737,767 doses administered, 16,162,358 have been fully vaccinated, or 4.94% of the U.S. population.
— A single shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 85% effective in preventing symptomatic Covid-19, an Israeli study found.
— USDA & FDA insist ‘no credible evidence’ Covid is transmitted via food or food packaging. There is “no credible evidence of food or food packaging associated with or as a likely source of viral transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus causing Covid-19,” according to a statement (link) issued by acting USDA Secretary Kevin Shea and acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock. “While there are relatively few reports of the virus being detected on food and packaging, most studies focus primarily on the detection of the virus’ genetic fingerprint rather than evidence of transmission of virus resulting in human infection,” the statement said. “Given that the number of virus particles that could be theoretically picked up by touching a surface would be very small and the amount needed for infection via oral inhalation would be very high, the chances of infection by touching the surface of food packaging or eating food is considered to be extremely low.”
The agencies said they were sharing the information “based upon the best available information from scientific bodies across the globe, including a continued international consensus that the risk is exceedingly low for transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to humans via food and food packaging.”
Further, the USDA/FDA statement indicated food products and food packaging has “not been attributed” as a transmission source via national or international surveillance systems. This comes as China has maintained that this can be a source of infection and a World Health Organization (WHO) team that investigated the situation in China indicated that further exam needs to be done on whether frozen foods and the cold supply chain are possible transmission methods.
— Biden to commit $4 billion in funding to global vaccine initiative. President Biden will announce today that the United States is sending $4 billion to Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, to support Covax, the global initiative to develop and distribute coronavirus vaccines to lower income countries. The $4 billion amount includes $2 billion in funding that will go out immediately. Biden will make the announcement during an appearance at a virtual meeting of Group of Seven (G7) leaders today, according to senior administration officials.
Covax is part of a global scheme co-led by an international vaccine alliance called Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, as well as the WHO. It was established to ensure equitable vaccine access for every country in the world, and aims to deliver 2 billion doses of safe, effective vaccines by the end of 2021. Only after each nation receives vaccine doses for 20% of its population would countries' Covid risk profiles be considered in a subsequent phase of vaccine distribution.
— Covid-19 was spreading in China before first confirmed cases. New evidence from China is affirming what epidemiologists have long suspected: The coronavirus was likely spreading unnoticed around Wuhan, infecting people for weeks, before it exploded in mid-December 2019.
POLITICS & ELECTIONS
— Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz flew back from Mexico after being widely criticized for taking his family on vacation during the emergency.
OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE
— Biden administration offered to restart negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, but it was not clear if Tehran would accept. The New York Times said the offer is “a major move toward restoring the Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration abandoned.” Diplomats hope to hold an in-person meeting of senior officials in the next few weeks, in what could potentially be a first step toward reviving the 2015 international nuclear agreement. Iran is expected to add between 2 and 3 million barrels a day to global production if sanctions are lifted.
— Cotton AWP pushes further above 70 cents per pound. The Adjusted World Price (AWP) for cotton rose to 73.17 cents per pound, effective today (Feb. 19), the second week above 70 cents per pound and the highest since it was at 73.79 cents per pound the week of Sept. 14, 2018. There has not been an LDP opportunity for 18 consecutive weeks. Meanwhile, USDA announced that Special Import Quota #18 will be established Feb. 25 for 43,469 bales of Upland Cotton, applying to supplies purchased not later than May 25 and entered into the U.S. not later than Aug. 23.