White House, House and Senate Leaders More Upbeat on Next Aid Package

Posted on 08/05/2020 7:51 AM

U.S./China trade leaders to meet mid-August amid rising tensions

 


In Today’s Updates


 

Market Focus:
* Rising food prices get attention of Fed Chairman Powell
* ADP private jobs data disappointing
* Gold prices hit another record
* U.S. refining sector feels coronavirus hammer
* Shipping consultant expects big shrink for growth in container capacity at ports

 

Policy Focus:
* Coronavirus aid talks make progress; goal for accord by end of week, vote next week
* Is biofuel/ethanol aid in next relief package on the ropes?
* Grassley: Congress might pass 'skinny' aid package and leave ag until Sept.
* Grassley: EPA receives recommendations on retroactive biofuel waivers
* Stabenow reiterates stance she will not back more ag aid sans nutrition funding bump
* Pro sports players associations oppose corporate immunity
* Trump signs conservation law in GOP-only ceremony
* U.S./China high-level talks set for on or around Aug. 15
* China’s Ambassador to U.S.: Covid-19 has impacted normal trade flows
* China to import most wheat in seven years to ensure food supply
* China accuses U.S. of 'outright bullying' over TikTok
* Alex Azar to visit Taiwan in coming days, likely upsetting China


U.S. food & beverage industry update:
* Tyson Foods: Allowing Covid-19 wrongful death lawsuit would 'open the floodgates;
* Beyond Meat's grocery sales nearly tripled, but...


Update on reopening America... and around the world:
* Some Calif. elementary schools may be able to re-open for in-person classes this fall
* Norwegian cruise line has stopped all trips and apologized for procedural errors
* Northwestern University football team paused its preseason workouts
* United Nations: Many countries have not yet announced date for schools to reopen


Coronavirus update:
* California: weekly reduction in new confirmed coronavirus cases first time in 12 weeks
* N.Y. City’s health commissioner resigns
* Another vaccine shows promise

 

Politics & Elections:
* In Kansas, Marshall wins GOP Senate nod
* Kansas Republicans ousted freshman lawmaker facing voter fraud charges
* In Missouri, Black Lives Matter activist Cori Bush shocked longtime Rep. Lacy Clay
* And after six weeks, New York declares winners of two House primaries
* Biden's VP search enters the end zone
* Axios: Biden VP choices narrowed to Kamala Harris and Susan Rice


Other Items of Note:
* Lebanon eyeing a state of emergency following massive explosion in Beirut
* Lebanon’s main grain silo at Beirut port and wheat inside was destroyed by blast
* EPA's Wheeler: Deregulatory work to continue under Trump
* EPA plan on ag worker protection standards under review at OMB
* Menezes confirmed for DOE’s number two spot
* Senators note opposition against phosphate tariffs
* Bayer swung to a net loss of €9.55 billion ($11.23 billion) in second quarter
* State ag officials urge Postal Service to stop delivering mysterious seed packages
* FAS details how USMCA changes Canadian regs on U.S. wheat imports

 


MARKET FOCUS


 

Equities today: The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.5%, while the Topix closed little changed. In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 Index climbed to a one-week high. U.S. equity futures signal a stronger opening as traders await progress from Washington on a new coronavirus aid package. On the trade front, reports suggest that U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu will meet in mid-August to discuss the Phase 1 trade deal between the U.S. and China.

 

     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow closed up 164.07 points, 0.62%, at 26,828.47. The Nasdaq gained 38.37 points, 0.35%, at 10,941.17. The S&P 500 gained 11.90 points, 0.36%, at 3,306.51.

 

On tap today:

 

     • Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda speaks at a Columbia Business School webinar at 8 a.m. ET.
     • ADP employment report for July is expected to show a gain of 1 million jobs from the prior month. (8:15 a.m. ET)
     • U.S. trade deficit for June is expected to narrow to $50.3 billion from $54.6 billion a month earlier. (8:30 a.m. ET)
     • IHS Markit's U.S. services index for July is expected to register at 49.6, unchanged from a preliminary reading. (9:45 a.m. ET)
     • Institute for Supply Management's nonmanufacturing index for July is expected to fall to 55 from 57.1 a month earlier. (10 a.m. ET)
     • Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester speaks on the economic outlook at 5 p.m. ET.

 

ADP private jobs data disappointing. The private sector added 167,000 jobs in July, according to the ADP Employment report, well below expectations for an increase of 1.88 million in private sector payrolls.

 

Factory orders up more than expected In June. The Commerce Department on Tuesday reported that factory orders were up 6.2% in June. Economists had expected a 5.0% increase. However, year-over-year, factory orders were down 10.1%. Orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft, viewed as a proxy for business investment plans, were up 3.4%, ahead of expectations of a 3.3% increase. (Chart source: Bloomberg)

 

     Factory rise

 

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned last week that food remains an exception to consumer prices that have mostly been kept in check by weak demand. Nearly every category of food became more expensive at some point since February, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Beef and veal prices saw the steepest spike (20.2%), followed by eggs (10.4%), poultry (8.6% and pork (8.5%).

 

Market perspectives:

 

     • Gold futures up over $30 an ounce today and hitting a record high of $2,045.20 overnight, basis October Comex futures. Silver hit a seven-year high of $26.975, basis September Comex futures.

 

     • Crude oil futures were weaker in overnight Asian action as traders awaited US inventory data due later this morning. US crude was down eight cents at $41.62 per barrel while Brent crude eased four cents at $44.39 per barrel. However, crude oil has risen sharply as the US session nears as traders reacted to the American Petroleum Institute data showing a big drop in crude inventories. U.S. crude is up 4% to trade around $43.35 per barrel while Brent is up a similar amount to trade above $46.10 per barrel.


     • U.S. refining sector feels coronavirus hammer. U.S. refiners including Phillips 66, Valero Energy and Marathon Petroleum dialed back crude processing and idled some plants in the second quarter as fuel demand cratered due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, global oil demand could remain weak long after the pandemic subsides, and that prospect is prompting refiners to consider switching to alternative fuels. Link to WSJ article.

 

        Energy consumption

 

     • Port slowdown. The volume of goods arriving at U.S. ports in the four weeks through July 23 is down 12% from January levels. Relative to developments elsewhere in the global economy, though, they appear surprisingly robust, Bloomberg Economics says.

 

     • Drewry Shipping Consultants expects growth in container capacity at ports will likely shrink by at least 40% over the next five years, the Wall Street Journal reports (link), in a new sign of the retrenching of a sector that is central to global trade. Drewry says in a report that port projects starting over the next couple of years are already being delayed, and that many projects at an earlier stage of planning now are under review. Few plans have been canceled so far, but governments around the world are already coping with reduced revenues that could undermine plans ranging from channel-deepening to cargo terminal construction. “The grim outlook from Drewry suggests the maritime sector is bracing for a prolonged slowdown as companies reset and resize their supply chains,” the WSJ item concludes.

 


POLICY FOCUS


 

Coronavirus aid bill talks make progress; goal for accord by end of week. Democrats and the White House say they've both made concessions and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the plan is for negotiators to agree by the end of the week, with votes on the possible agreement next week. However, the two sides remain far apart on key issues such as unemployment insurance and aid for states and cities.

 

     The Senate is scheduled for an August break on Friday and the House is already out. But lawmakers could be brought back to vote on 24 hours notice.

 

     Some give and take by top Senate leaders. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled that he might be open to extended $600-per-week unemployment assistance payments, a sticking point in negotiations. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the two sides are exchanging proposals on paper but “we’re still far away on a lot of the important issues.” He added that Republicans “made some concessions which we appreciated; we made some concessions which they appreciated.”

 

     Markets also latched on to comments from San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly that the U.S. economy will need more support than initially thought.

 

Grassley says Congress might pass a 'skinny' coronavirus aid package and leave agriculture and other issues until September. Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday said he does not believe that the $20 billion for agriculture in the Senate GOP proposed measure “has even been thought of” by the four top negotiators. “That doesn’t mean it won’t get fair consideration,” Grassley said, noting that both the House bill and the Senate bill have money for agriculture. But he cautioned that Congress might “end up with a skinny bill” this month and leave the rest of the aid package until September.

 

Is biofuel/ethanol aid in next relief package on the ropes? Says one congressional observer: “Right now it’s a dead issue. It could be resuscitated. Senate Republican leadership points to processing language in direct $20 billion in aid in the Senate proposal as the necessary authority for biofuels to go argue for it before the Ag Secretary. As we know, I don’t think that’s necessarily convincing to Secretary Perdue. It’s by no means a forgone conclusion.” Another congressional contact said, “USDA seems disinclined to provide assistance unless specifically directed to... pointing to “processing” isn’t going to get it done....”

 

Grassley: EPA receives recommendations on retroactive biofuel waivers. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has completed reviewing retroactive requests from refiners for exemptions from the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and has sent recommendations on how to address those requests to the Environmental Protection Agency, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

 

     EPA has 90 days to review the recommendations, said Grassley. EPA will consider 58 pending requests for compliance years 2011 through 2018, EPA data showed.

 

     Reuters reported that DOE's recommendations included partial exemptions, citing two sources familiar with the matter. If granted, the requests would help bring oil refiners into compliance with a court ruling from earlier this year. EPA is in charge of granting exemptions, after the Energy Department reviews applications and makes recommendations.

 

     Though the law allows refineries to file for relief, it fails a “common sense test” for facilities to allege hardship as far back as 2011 if they didn’t seek waivers at the time, Grassley told reporters in a conference call Tuesday.

 

     Biofuel advocates urged EPA to reject the retroactive requests.

 

     "These 'gap year' waivers need to be thrown in the garbage and the 10th circuit decision applied nationwide," said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). In January, the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that waivers granted to small refineries after 2010 had to take the form of an "extension." That cast doubt over the waiver program because most recipients of waivers in recent years have not continuously received them each year since 2010.

 

     Background: Under the RFS, oil refiners must blend billions of gallons of biofuels into their fuel or buy credits from those that do. Small refiners that prove the rules would financially harm them can apply for exemptions. EPA is in charge of granting exemptions, after the Energy Department reviews applications and makes recommendations.

 

Stabenow reiterates stance she will not back more ag aid without nutrition funding bump. Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) on Tuesday reiterated her stance to Politico that she will not back any additional aid for farmers and ranchers in the next Covid-19 aid plan unless there is an increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). “There’s not going to be more if we can’t help hungry families,” she told Politico. “I’ve made it very clear that I will object to anything else being done in the agriculture space if we do not get a basic increase in SNAP.” This is a stance that Stabenow has taken since late July as the Senate plan was being developed.

 

     However, she noted it appears Republicans are “now indicating an openness” and that there are “good discussions going on right now.”

 

     Her frustrations are tied to USDA so far not doling out most of the aid in the CARES Act that was passed in March. She said she wants to keep the aid mix around 50-50 for farm aid and nutrition assistance. “I’d like to keep it in that range,” she noted.

 

     Stabenow has been critical of USDA aid efforts, in particular the Market Facilitation Programs run for 2018 and 2019, maintaining that aid was unevenly distributed across the sector and was tilted toward farmers that had not suffered huge trade losses.

 

Pro sports players associations oppose corporate immunity. The players associations of the major U.S. professional sports leagues are opposed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) corporate immunity proposal.

 

     The executive directors of the NFL, NBA, NHL Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer players associations sent a joint letter to congressional leaders raising concerns about giving corporations immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits. “The introduced language by Senate Republicans, as we understand it, would federalize all Covid-19 work claims and provide employers with an immunity that is so broad that not even egregious behavior would be actionable,” the letter states.

 

     "We question whether any such type of special immunity is warranted at all, as there has been no showing that state laws are inadequate," the players associations state.

 

     Liability supporters stress that the GOP legislation explicitly does not provide liability protections for those who engage in willful misconduct or grossly negligent behavior, providing a tighter scope on the bill's safe harbor than the players association asserts.

 

     "We understand there are no perfect solutions, at least not yet," the players associations wrote. "At the same time, we also recognize the importance for the country for many of us to return to work, and to find ways to return to the office, the factory, and arenas and stadiums. We do not believe, however, that the risk of doing so should be borne exclusively by employees."

 

Trump signs conservation law in GOP-only ceremony. President Trump on Tuesday signed the Great American Outdoors Act, a sweeping public lands package passed last month by bipartisan margins in Congress. “The Republican Party has been unbelievably active in this,” Trump said. “At some point, they will have to start thinking about the Republican Party and all the unbelievable things we have done on conservation.”

 

     In an information sheet, the White House says the bill is the “single largest investment in America’s national parks and public lands in history. This legislation marks the most significant conservation accomplishment since the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.”

 

     Trump touted the legislation ahead of an election in which Democrats are attacking him for his environmental record and inaction on climate change. “We are proving we can protect the environment without bludgeoning workers and punishing businesses,” Trump said at the signing ceremony with only Republicans asked to attend. Trump acknowledged GOP Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana, both in tight re-election races, convinced him to make the bill a priority. It “would not have been possible” without Gardner and Daines, Trump said. “This was very important to them.”

 

     The law provides $900 million annually in full and permanent federal funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which provides money to federal, state, and local governments for buying land and waters to improve national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other public areas, along with creating a fund of billions of dollars to pay for a massive maintenance backlog in national parks and other federal lands.

 

Update on China:

  • U.S./China high-level talks set for on or around Aug. 15. U.S. Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will participate in talks on or around Aug. 15 to assess the progress of the Phase 1 agreement with China, according to sources quoted by the Wall Street Journal and later by other media outlets. The two will meet via videoconference with the focus expected to be on China’s purchase commitments of U.S. agriculture, energy and manufactured goods while China is expected to raise the issue of the U.S. cracking down on Chinese tech companies. The dateline echoes what Lighthizer told AgriTalk during an interview last month. The session comes as Chinese President Xi Jinping and other top leaders are set to meet for two weeks in the Chinese resort town of Beidaihe, a session typically aimed at discussing strategies and setting policies for key issues.

    White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, asked in a briefing about China falling short of promised energy targets, said: “We encourage China to fulfill their obligations in the Phase 1 China deal and to fulfill their end of the agreement.”

    China target update

     
  • U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link.
     
  • China’s Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai said the Covid-19 situation has impacted normal trade flows. Tiankai also commented that the “two economic teams have been in contact with each other,” a view that U.S. trade sources have repeatedly signaled. He also said China was “doing its best to implement the deal.”
     
  • China to import most wheat in seven years to ensure food supply and is likely to increase purchases from the U.S. to help meet commitments under the Phase 1 trade deal. The country is set to buy 6 million tons in the 12 months starting June, up from just over 4 million tons in the previous year, according to the China National Grain and Oils Information Center, the government forecaster. That would be the highest since 2013-14. Corn prices are around five-year highs, driven by recovering demand for hog and poultry feed, and corn is already more expensive than wheat in some areas, spurring more farmers to use wheat. Wheat used in animal feed is likely to rise by 4.5 million tons to 20 million tons in the coming year, it said. (Chart source: Bloomberg)

    China wheat

     
  • China accuses U.S. of 'outright bullying' over TikTok. China accused the United States on Tuesday of "outright bullying" over popular video app TikTok, after President Donald Trump ramped up pressure for its U.S. operations to be sold to an American company. "This goes against the principles of the market economy and the (World Trade Organization's) principles of openness, transparency and non-discrimination," said foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin. A day earlier, President Trump gave TikTok six weeks to sell its U.S. operations, in the latest escalation to an ongoing political and trade battle between Washington and Beijing.

    In an editorial on Tuesday, the China Daily newspaper accused Washington of “bullying” Chinese tech companies and warned that there were “plenty of ways to respond if the administration carries out its planned smash and grab.” The editor-in-chief of the Global Times newspaper called the move “open robbery,” and accused Trump of “turning the once great America into a rogue country.” The editor-in-chief of the Global Times newspaper called the move “open robbery,” and accused Trump of “turning the once great America into a rogue country.”

     
  • Alex Azar, America’s health secretary, said he would visit Taiwan in the coming days — a move likely to provoke fury in Beijing. Azar will be the highest-ranking American official to visit the island-state, which China is determined to reclaim, since 1979. Under its long-followed “one-China policy,” America does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

Food and beverage industry update:

  • Allowing Covid-19 wrongful death lawsuit to proceed would “open the floodgates to potentially thousands of speculative claims,” Tyson Foods argued in court. As lawmakers argue whether Covid-19 liability shields for employers should be built into the next stimulus package, Tyson Foods told a court in Texas that it can’t be held liable for the death of one of its employees because his family can't prove he contracted the virus at work.
     
  • Beyond Meat's grocery sales nearly tripled, but... “While Beyond’s quarterly grocery sales surged, its U.S. food service sales, which include restaurants and universities, plunged 60.7 percent,” CNBC reports. “But extra costs related to the pandemic resulted in a quarterly loss. Shares of the stock fell 7% in extended trading.”

Update on re-opening America... and around the world:

  • Some California elementary schools may be able to re-open for in-person classes this fall under a strict waiver system announced by state officials.
     
  • Norwegian cruise line has stopped all trips and apologized for procedural errors after an outbreak on one ship infected at least five passengers and 36 crew members.
     
  • Northwestern University football team paused its preseason workouts in Evanston, Ill., after someone involved tested positive. “NU is the sixth Big Ten program to pause its preseason workouts at some point this summer, following Indiana, Ohio State, Rutgers, Maryland and Michigan State,” per the Daily Northwestern (link).
     
  • United Nations said in a 26-page report (link) that as many as 100 countries have not yet announced a date for schools to reopen. The report says over 1 billion students are impacted, and at least 40 million children worldwide have missed out on education “in their critical preschool year.” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video address accompanying the report that this poses the threat of “a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress and exacerbate entrenched inequalities... We are at a defining moment for the world’s children and young people,” Guterres said. “The decisions that governments and partners take now will have lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people, and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come.”

Coronavirus update:

  • Summary: Source: Johns Hopkins University as of 6:45 a.m. ET.

    — 18,560,630: Confirmed cases world-wide, and 584,556 deaths
    — 57,540: New U.S. cases recorded yesterday
    — 4,771,519: Total confirmed cases in the U.S.
    — 1,399: Deaths in the U.S. recorded yesterday
    — 156,830: Total U.S. deaths
    — 58,239,438: Tests conducted in the U.S.

    Link to Covid Case Tracker

    Link to Our World in Data

     
  • A Los Angeles Times analysis found that California has experienced a weekly reduction in new confirmed coronavirus cases for the first time in 12 weeks. For the seven-day period ended Sunday, California reported 59,697 new coronavirus cases, a drop of 9% from the previous week’s 65,634 cases, which was a pandemic record. If the trends continue, it would mark a turning point after weeks of record hospitalizations that began in mid-June, the result of California starting to rapidly reopen the economy in May.
     
  • New York City’s health commissioner resigned, citing her “deep disappointment” with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s handling of the outbreak.
     
  • Another vaccine shows promise. Novavax, which received $1.6 billion from the U.S. government to produce a coronavirus vaccine, announced encouraging results in two preliminary studies: In one, volunteers produced a high level of antibodies without dangerous side effects; in the other, the vaccine strongly protected monkeys from infections. Novavax’s vaccine is protein-based — the same proven technology used for existing vaccines against infections like shingles.
     

POLITICS & ELECTIONS


  • Links
    2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map
    The Green Papers

     
  • In Kansas, Marshall wins GOP Senate nod. Rep. Roger Marshall defeated former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, plumbing business owner Bob Hamilton, and eight others in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Kansas. As of 10:25 p.m. ET, Marshall had received 37% of the vote followed by Kobach and Hamilton with 26% and 20%, respectively. No other candidate received over 10% of the vote. Incumbent Pat Roberts (R), who was first elected in 1996, is not seeking re-election. Roberts endorsed Marshall on July 21. Marshall will face Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier, a former lifelong moderate Republican who received national attention at the end of 2018 by switching parties. GOP leaders have worried for months about Bollier’s ability so far to raise more in contributions than the top GOP candidates combined. Democrats will be trying to flip a seat that by the end of this year will have been in Republican hands for 152 out of 160 years in existence.
     
  • Kansas Republicans nixed a freshman lawmaker facing voter fraud charges as they ousted Rep. Steve Watkins, weeks after the freshman lawmaker was charged with voting illegally in a 2019 election and then obstructing the inquiry. State Treasurer Jake LaTurner was projected to win the primary in Kansas’s 2nd Congressional District, according to the Associated Press.
     
  • In Missouri, Black Lives Matter activist Cori Bush shocked longtime Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), "ending his 20-year hold on Missouri's 1st congressional district and putting her on a path to become the first Black woman to represent Missouri in the nation's capital," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (link).
     
  • And after six weeks, New York declared the winners of two House primaries In the city’s 12th Congressional District anchored by the Upper East Side, Rep. Carolyn Maloney beat two-time challenger Suraj Patel on her way to securing her 15th term in Congress, where she is the newly elected chair of the House Oversight Committee. In the Bronx, City Council member Ritchie Torres beat a crowded field for an open seat and will probably join another freshman from New York, Mondaire Jones in Westchester County, as the first two openly gay Black or Latino members of Congress.

    The contests have been mired in controversy over an influx of mail-in votes that overwhelmed election boards and the Postal Service and foreshadowed potential hurdles in counting ballots in Nov. 3 elections.

     
  • Biden's VP search enters the end zone. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) remains a favorite in the “VP market” and her price spiked last Tuesday after Biden was spotted with talking points on the California senator. But various news reports have also suggested other strong contenders, like Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) are being considered. Former Ambassador to the United Nations and national security advisor Susan Rice has also been mentioned. Sen. Harris' odds at 49¢ is 27¢ clear of the second-placed Rice. Link to out all of the top candidates hoping to be the former vice president's pick.
     
  • Confidants of Joe Biden believe his choices for vice president have narrowed to Sen. Kamala Harris and Susan Rice — and would be surprised if he picks anyone else, Axios reports, adding that In third place is Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), “who had a faltering performing on the Sunday shows after revelations about her past views on Cuba and Scientology.”
     
  • Biden plan would reverse much of Trump’s immigration policy. McClatchy reports (link) that advisers to Joe Biden’s campaign on Tuesday “released staples of his plan for Latinos during a call with reporters, laying out the former vice president’s intent to reverse much of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and take steps to provide improved healthcare and education to Hispanic communities.” Biden “would grant permanent legal status to Venezuelan exiles in the US if he becomes president, end the federal government’s deputizing of local law enforcement on immigration matters, and, on his first day in office, file an immigration bill creating a ‘legal road map’ for roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status.”

 


OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE


 

  • Lebanon is eyeing a state of emergency following a massive explosion that rocked Beirut with the force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday and caused widespread damage across the capital. At least 100 people were killed and more than 4,000 wounded, while local officials linked the blast to some 2,750 tons of confiscated ammonium nitrate that were being stored at a port warehouse for the past six years. Lebanon's GDP fell 6.9% in 2019, while the Lebanese pound has lost over 60% of its value in just the past month, and 80% of its value since October.

    Lebanon’s main grain silo at Beirut port and all of the wheat inside was destroyed by the blast, the country’s economy minister, Raoul Nehme, said, adding the country now has “a bit less than a month” worth of wheat reserves and that Lebanon needs at least three months of supply to ensure food security for the country’s 6 million people.

     
  • EPA's Wheeler: Deregulatory work to continue under Trump. The Environmental Protection Agency will continue its deregulatory agenda, which includes the agency-wide rollout of its cost-benefit and science in rulemaking measures, if President Donald Trump is elected to serve another term, says Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "We will finalize our science transparency regulation before the end of this year, and then we will take the same approach that we are taking for our cost-benefit process...will go through each of our major statutes for science transparency, and we will complete that process by the end of 2023," he said. Source: InsideEPA.
     
  • EPA plan on ag worker protection standards under review at OMB. The final rule from EPA relative to proposed changes to the requirements in the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) to clarify and simplify the application exclusion zone (AEZ) requirements is under review at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). EPA published its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on the matter in November 2019 and sent the final rule to OMB for review July 31. The administration’s unified agenda released earlier indicates that the agency plans to issue the final rule in September.
     
  • Menezes confirmed for DOE’s number two spot. The Senate on Tuesday easily confirmed Mark Menezes in a 79-16 vote to be deputy secretary at the Energy Department. Menezes currently leads policy at DOE as the undersecretary of energy and was formerly chief counsel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a lobbyist at Berkshire Hathaway Energy. Only two Republicans opposed the nomination – Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. Their opposition to Menezes’ nomination is no doubt linked to biofuels policy. In his June confirmation hearing, Menezes pledged that the Department of Energy would act on requests submitted for small refinery exemptions (SREs) for prior compliance years. Some 58 are pending for the 2011 through 2018 compliance years (see related item above). Grassley and Ernst have pressed EPA to reject those requests.
     
  • Senators note opposition against phosphate tariffs. Imposition of duties on imports of phosphate from Morocco and Russia would result in higher input costs for U.S. farmers, according to a letter dated Aug. 3 sent by eight Republican senators to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Jason Kearns, chairman of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). “The decrease in fertilizer prices, which has been driven by market forces, has been helpful to U.S. farmers and does not warrant intervention into the market by imposing duties that will have long term consequences,” the letter noted. It was signed by Jerry Moran, Kansas; John Boozman, Arkansas; Ben Sasse and Deb Fischer, Nebraska; Joni Ernst, Iowa; John Cornyn, Texas; Todd Young, Indiana; and Roger Wicker, Mississippi. Mosaic on Monday said expects the ITC will announce the results of its preliminary injury investigation on or about Aug. 7 on whether there has been harm to the US industry from the imports. If the ITC votes yes, then a preliminary decision on countervailing duties and/or anti-subsidy duties would be due from the Commerce Department Sept. 21. The investigation is to focus on the impacts to the fertilizer industry, not on whether potential duties would negatively impact others — in this case farmers. But the American Farm Bureau Federation has already expressed its concern to ITC about the impacts the fertilizer duties would have. Indications are that if the investigation moves forward, that could prompt additional imports of phosphate fertilizer ahead of any potential preliminary duties.
     
  • Bayer swung to a net loss of €9.55 billion ($11.23 billion) in the second quarter on provisions for its multibillion-dollar settlement with plaintiffs alleging the company’s Roundup herbicides cause cancer. The German firm slightly lowered its outlook due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sales in the crop science division rose 0.3%, helped by higher sales in Latin America, Asia and North America. Bayer Tuesday said it remains committed to finding a viable solution to resolve potential future lawsuits relative to Roundup. The recent sale of its animal health division will help pay for the settlements and Bayer also issued bonds with a total volume of €6 billion at the beginning of July to increase its financial flexibility. Bayer has repeatedly argued that Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate are safe and appealed three jury verdicts that had sided with plaintiffs. Bayer lost an appeal to go to trial linking its Roundup weedkiller to cancer, though the California court considerably reduced the amount of damages awarded. Bayer said Tuesday it is considering whether it will appeal to the Supreme Court of California.
     
  • State agriculture officials are urging the U.S. Postal Service to stop delivering the mysterious seed packages that have been arriving in mailboxes across the country, mailings that federal officials believe are coming from China.
     
  • FAS details how USMCA changes Canadian regs on U.S. wheat imports. Under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that came into effect on July 1, Canada agreed to allow grain grown in the U.S. to receive an official Canadian grade as long as the grain is of a variety approved in Canada, USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) explained in a report. Canada also agreed to remove requirements for official inspection certificates to indicate that grain grown in the U.S. is of foreign or mixed origin, but the country of origin will continue to be cited on the phytosanitary certificate upon request of the importing country, FAS said. Link to report.

 

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