Biden Taps SPR to ‘Lower Prices for Americans’; Other Countries Take Similar Action

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Impact of Powell’s renomination at Fed | USDA and renewable diesel projections  


In Today’s Digital Newspaper


Market Focus:
• Biden taps the SPR; 50 million barrels to ‘lower prices for Americans’
• 32 mil. barrels in exchange and 18 mil. barrels acceleration of sales previously approved
• Watch now is on OPEC+ to see if they reduce announced production levels 

• Biden nominates Powell for second term as Fed chair; Brainard for Vice Chair
• U.S. inflation at highest rate in 31 years
• U.S. home sales on track for biggest year in 15 years
• FedEx, United Parcel Service and Postal Service may avoid holiday crunch: WSJ
• $15-an-hour minimum wage coming for federal contractors
• Labor strife at Deere & Co. is casting shadow for farm equipment sales: WSJ
• European Central Bank ‘serious’ about ending emergency bond-buying program
• Ag demand update

• Corn and soy complex lower, wheat mixed to firmer overnight
• U.S. announces SPR release in coordination with other countries
• Consultant’s bias shifts for Brazilian soybean crop
• SRW CCI rating now below five-year average for first time this fall
• China clears Brazilian beef certified before BSE cases
• Looking for early week cash cattle trade
• Hog market cash fundamentals weaken

Policy Focus:
• CFAP 2 payouts rise again 

China Update:
• China clears Brazilian beef certified before BSE cases 

Trade Policy:
• Canada halts potato exports from Prince Edward Island to U.S. over fungus 

Energy & Climate Change:
• USDA’s baseline projections did not project big increase in renewable diesel ahead. Why?
• Europe growing increasingly reliant on coal

Livestock, Food & Beverage Industry Update:
• Sen. Warren asks Justice Dept. to open antitrust investigation into poultry industry
• Thanksgiving dinner may be missing Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce

Coronavirus Update:
• More than 90,000 coronavirus cases being reported each day in U.S.
• Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal workers seems to be working
• Europe again the center of coronavirus pandemic
• U.S. not thinking about lockdowns, etc., to put a damper on infections
• Canada Covid update

Politics & Elections:
• CBS News poll: 67% disapprove of Biden’s handling of inflation
• Sean Parnell suspends GOP Senate bid in Pennsylvania
• Dem Rep. Peter Welch launches Senate bid for Leahy’s seat
• Competitive House districts are getting wiped off the map: WaPo 

• Thomas Jefferson statue removed from N.Y. City Hall after 187 years

Other Items of Note:
• Justice Dept. to pay about $130 million to Parkland shooting victims
• Biden administration =weighing sending military advisers, equipment to Ukraine
• U.S. levied sanctions on ship involved in completing Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline


MARKET FOCUS


Equities today: Global stock markets were mostly down in overnight trading. The U.S. Dow opened slightly higher. Japan was closed for a holiday. Asian equities were mixed with Japan’s market closed for a holiday. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 299.76 points, 1.20%, at 24,651.58. China’s Shanghai Composite was up 7.01 points, 0.20%, at 3,589.09. European equities are mostly lower in early trade activity. The Stoxx 600 was down 0.8% while most other markets are posting losses of 0.2% to 0.8%. However, British shares were slightly higher.

     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow managed a higher close despite a late drop that nearly wiped out the session's gains. The Dow ended up 17.27 points, 0.05%, at 35,619.25. The Nasdaq ended down 202.68 points, 1.26%, at 15,854.76. The S&P 500 lost 15.02 points, 0.32%, at 4,682.94.

     Stocks

On tap today (see detailed list of events and reports below):

     •  IHS Markit's preliminary U.S. manufacturing index for November is expected to rise to 59.0 from a final reading of 58.4 in October. The services index is forecast to tick up to 58.9 from 58.7. (9:45 a.m. ET)
     • Richmond Fed's manufacturing survey is expected to rise to 17 in November from 12 one month earlier. (10 a.m. ET)
     • Bank of England Gov. Andrew Bailey and Deputy Gov. John Cunliffe speak at an Economic Affairs Committee hearing on central bank digital currencies at 10 a.m. ET
     • President Biden will speak about the economy and lowering prices, 2 p.m. ET. Biden will comment on his decision to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  

Biden nominates Powell for second term as Fed chair; Brainard for Vice Chair. The White House Monday released a statement from President Joe Biden announcing his intention to nominate Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell for a second term and for Lael Brainard to serve as Vice Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. On Friday, Biden called Powell and Brainard to inform them that he had made his choice. The decision was influenced by Biden’s belief that he and Powell are philosophically aligned when it comes to keeping interest rates low and continuing to support the economy until more people are working and wages are rising. Biden said he believed the Fed had more work to do to get to “maximum employment.” Said Biden: “Put directly: at this moment both of enormous potential and enormous uncertainty for our economy, we need stability and independence at the Federal Reserve.”

     Powell comments. Appearing alongside the president and Brainard at the White House, Powell acknowledged the challenge ahead. “We know that high inflation takes a toll on families, especially those less able to meet the higher costs of essentials like food, housing and transportation,” he said, adding that the Fed would “use our tools both to support the economy and a strong labor market and to prevent higher inflation from becoming entrenched.”

     A White House statement said the two Fed members “share the administration’s focus on ensuring that economic growth broadly benefits all workers. That’s why they oversaw a landmark re-evaluation of the Federal Reserve’s objectives to refocus its mission on the needs of workers of all backgrounds. And they’ve advanced key priorities that the President shares, like addressing the financial risks posed by climate change, and staying ahead of emerging risks to our financial system.”

     Biden still has three vacant seats on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors to fill, including the important position of Vice Chair for Supervision — one vacant governor role, and two more seats will open early next year, giving Biden room to appoint at least three of seven governors. The president must also fill several leadership roles, including the Fed’s vice chair for supervision, a powerful position given its influence on bank oversight. He intends to make those appointments beginning in early December and is “committed to improving the diversity in the Board’s composition.”

     While some Democratic senators have opposed Powell’s reappointment, other Democrats were more supportive, including Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who praised Powell for helping steer the economy through the pandemic. Brown’s position is important — he is the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, which oversees the Fed and will handle the confirmation hearings for both Powell and Brainard.

     Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.), ranking member on the Senate Banking Committee, said he would support Powell’s nomination, as did several other of his party’s senators. But that support did not extend to Brainard, however, with Toomey and other Republicans saying they had some concerns about her views on financial regulation and other issues.

     Bottom line: Sen. Elizabeth (D-Mass.) said she would oppose Powell’s reappointment, even as other prominent Democrats backed him. Republicans, many of whom support Powell, expressed concern about Brainard, who enjoys broad support among Democrats. Both Powell and Brainard must win 60 votes to be confirmed by the Senate. Powell’s renomination is widely expected to be approved by the Senate Banking Committee and then the full Senate.

     Market impacts: Bets on a quicker withdrawal of monetary stimulus pushed up Treasury yields and the dollar and contributed to a final-hour selloff in tech shares that left most U.S. stocks in the red. Bank of America’s top U.S. economist, Michelle Meyer, said that Powell’s reappointment reaffirmed “our confidence in higher U.S. interest rates.” Adam Posen of the Peterson Institute for International Economics said he now expected three rate increases next year instead of two. Bond investors appeared to agree, pushing up yields yesterday. More than three-quarters of investors now think rates will have been increased from near-zero following the Fed's meeting in June 2022, according to CME Group's FedWatch tool. Goldman Sachs predicted Monday that the Fed will stick with its plan to gradually lift interest rates beginning in July.

     Fed announcement
     AFP via Getty Images

U.S. inflation is at its highest rate in 31 years, with consumers seeing prices rise sharply for a variety of goods and services because of persistent supply and labor shortages and strong demand. It has become one of the most vexing problems facing economists and government policy makers. "I think we do have to be concerned about inflation. It's reached the levels that concern most Americans who are seeing it and their pocketbook when they go to the store to buy food or to fill up their cars," said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who chaired the Fed from 2014 to 2018. "Over the longer run, the Fed needs to play an important role to make sure that [inflation] doesn't become endemic. And I know they can be counted on to do that."

     Inflation
     Inflation recap
     Car price inflation

U.S. home sales are on track for their biggest year in 15 years. Existing-home sales in October increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.34 million, the National Association of Realtors said. Low mortgage-interest rates have spurred a large wave of home-buying demand since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. At the same time, the number of homes on the market has remained low, prices have been rising and new homes that are listed for sale are often snapped up quickly.

     Home sales

FedEx, United Parcel Service and the U.S. Postal Service may wind up having a much easier time dealing with the holiday crunch than some forecasters predicted, the Wall Street Journal reports (link). They say it is partly due to an uptick in people buying gifts in stores and doing their shopping early because of concerns about the global supply chain. Those factors — along with added capacity, an extra shipping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas and Covid-19 vaccines available for workers — have shipping executives and consultants saying the peak shipping season may not be as bad as they thought.

     Daily shipping

U.S. to release oil from SPR. The U.S. will release 50 million barrels of crude from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in concert with China, Japan, India, the United Kingdom and South Korea, the White House said in a statement — an unprecedented, coordinated attempt by three of the world’s largest oil consumers to tame prices that could prompt a backlash by OPEC+. The decision to collectively discharge stockpiled crude after OPEC+ countries rebuffed calls to significantly boost production marks a diplomatic win for the U.S. and a challenge to the grip that Saudi Arabia, Russia and other OPEC+ producers have on the market.

     White House announced they will tap 50 million barrels of crude supplies in the SPR — 32 million barrels will be an exchange and 18 million barrels will be acceleration of sales previously approved (link). Under the exchange, the supplies will eventually be returned to the SPR over time with the White House pointing out the re-stocking will take place “automatically.” The statement said the action is geared “to lower prices for Americans and address the mismatch between demand exiting the pandemic and supply.”

     Details of the U.S. tapping of SPR supplies: The Department of Energy (DOE) announced the exchange will be conducted with crude oil from all four SPR storage sites with a maximum amount from the following storage sites:

     • Approximately 10 million barrels from Big Hill, Texas;

     • Approximately 10 million barrels from Bryan Mound, Texas;

     • Approximately 7 million barrels from West Hackberry, Louisiana; and

     • Approximately 5 million barrels from Bayou Choctaw, Louisiana.

     Bids will be due from companies no later than 10 am CT Dec. 6 and the contracts will be awarded to successful bidders no later than Dec. 14. The deliveries will take place January through April 2022, with early deliveries accepted in late December. The exchange crude oil will be returned to the SPR in calendar years 2022, 2023, and 2024. A Notice of Sale for up to 18 million barrels of SPR crude oil will be announced no sooner than Dec. 17, 2021.

    India plans to sell about 5 million barrels of oil from its strategic petroleum stockpiles as part of the coordinated move with the U.S. and other nations, according to a person familiar with the situation. The release may come within a week, and India and other countries may look at selling more crude later, the person said, asking not to be identified as the matter is private. India currently holds around 25.5 million barrels in its strategic stockpile.

     It is not clear how much Japan will release but the country has around 145 days’ worth of petroleum consumption its government reserve, above the minimum of 90 days required by law. Private Japan companies hold 175 million barrels of crude, or about 90 days’ worth of consumption, above the minimum of 70 days they are required to hold.

    Meanwhile, a House Democrat who’s urging the White House to reduce oil prices by banning exports of U.S. crude says he was told the idea is under consideration. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said he disagrees with several industry analysts and economists who have said the idea could backfire. “The economics of it makes sense,” said Khanna, who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s environmental subcommittee.

     Impact: The Energy Information Administration Administrator Stephen Nalley last week told Congress that releasing 15 million barrels to 48 million barrels of oil from the SPR would lower crude prices by around $2 per barrel, the equivalent of 10 cents per gallon for gasoline. The muted oil price action today reflects an expectation that OPEC+ will take action to mute the move. But it also shows the limited impact these types of temporary actions have.

     OPEC+ officials warned they’re likely to respond to these plans, setting up a fight for control of the global energy market. The Saudi-based International Energy Forum said producers may change their plans for output increases if there is a sale of reserves.

$15-an-hour minimum wage coming for federal contractors. Federal contractors, including janitors, security guards and child-care workers who provide services to the government, will soon be paid a $15-an-hour minimum wage. Starting Jan. 30, all new contracts or contract extensions will require the higher minimum wage, which will be indexed to inflation, the Labor Department said in announcing it had finalized a rule President Biden called for earlier this year. The rule would raise the minimum wage for contractors from $10.95 an hour.

Labor strife at Deere & Co. is casting a shadow over the high season for farm equipment sales. A five-week strike by unionized workers dented production of tractors, combines and other equipment, the Wall Street Journal reports (link), and analysts expect Deere to both raise prices and increase production to pay for the cost of the new six-year contract. Labor accounts for some 15% of the company’s overall cost of goods sold, and a pay raise and bonus in the agreement could shave nearly 1 percentage point off Deere’s operating margin. Strong demand for farm and construction machinery should help backfill lost production and sales. Net farm income is projected to jump 20% this year to its highest point since 2013. Meanwhile, supply-chain disruptions and low inventories of new and used equipment have kept rival manufacturers from boosting their own production in a bid to eat into Deere’s market share.

European Central Bank is “serious” about ending its emergency bond-buying program in March and may not need to expand regular asset purchases to cover the shortfall, according to Governing Council member Francois Villeroy de Galhau. Once the ECB has exited its emergency stimulus program it should gradually “adapt” its pre-crisis program “as a second step” and remain open in terms of pace and timing, he said.

Market perspectives:

     • Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is slightly weaker ahead of U.S. trading with both the euro and yen posting slight gains against the greenback. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note has firmed to trade just above 1.65% with a mostly higher tone to move global government bond yields. Gold and silver futures are under pressure ahead of U.S. trading, with gold around $1,790 per troy ounce and silver around $23.55 per troy ounce.

     • There are growing ideas the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates sooner than many had reckoned just a few weeks ago. The timeline for the Fed’s first rate increase, in the eyes of investors, shifted to earlier next year. Markets are pricing in a first rate increase by June, with investors seeing a 50-50 chance it may come in May. 

     • Emerging markets are on watch after the Turkish lira suffered one of its worst days since a currency crisis in August 2018. The freefall was prompted by comments from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who praised a third consecutive monthly interest rate cut and asserted that his country was fighting an "economic war of independence." Erdogan believes in an unorthodox approach that higher rates cause inflation, rather than prevent it, but despite the beliefs the annual figure reached nearly 20% in October. The lira plunged as much as 8.8% and broke through the symbolic threshold of 12 to the dollar, hitting an all-time low of 12.50. The currency is down almost 40% against the greenback this year and has fallen for the last 10 days in a row.

     • Crude oil futures are under mild pressure after the U.S. announcement of tapping oil reserves to lower energy prices (see related item). U.S. crude is trading around $76.30 per barrel and Brent around $79.60 per barrel. Current prices are similar to those seen in Asian action where USD crude was down 50 cents at $76.25 per barrel and Brent down 35 cents at $79.35 per barrel.

     • U.S. gas prices averaged $3.40 per gallon on Monday, up $1.30 from last year, per GasBuddy. Its survey found 32% of Americans plan to travel this Thanksgiving, with 13% of that number expecting to spend up to three hours in the car. Oil prices are down nearly $10 a barrel from their recent highs earlier this month and prices at the pump look likely to tick down too.

     • Thanksgiving flight bookings this week through Thursday are up 70% over last year and just shy of 2019 levels, according to Adobe data. About 4.2 million people are expected to fly this weekend. On Sunday, 2.2 million people passed through U.S. airport checkpoints, 95% of the total on that date in 2019. Transportation Security Administration Administrator David Pekoske said the U.S. will beat Friday’s single-day pandemic passenger record this weekend.

     • Ag demand: South Korea purchased 48,500 MT of corn and 16,000 MT of soymeal – both expected to be sourced from South America.

     • NWS weather: Holiday travelers are thankful as a relatively tranquil stretch of weather persists in the final days leading up to Thanksgiving... ...Chilly temperatures in the East, warmer in the Heartland; Critical fire weather areas in the central Great Plains... ...Unsettled weather in the Northwest, mountain snow in the Southern Rockies; Swath of showers and thunderstorms from the mid-Mississippi Valley to south Texas Wednesday night and Thanksgiving morning.

        NWS
        Wx Today

Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include:

     • Corn and soy complex lower, wheat mixed to firmer overnight
     • U.S. announces SPR release in coordination with other countries
     • Consultant’s bias shifts for Brazilian soybean crop
     • SRW CCI rating now below five-year average for first time this fall
     • China clears Brazilian beef certified before BSE cases
     • Looking for early week cash cattle trade
     • Hog market cash fundamentals weaken


POLICY FOCUS


— CFAP 2 payouts rise again. Payments approved under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP 2) rose to $19.06 billion as of Nov. 21, up from $18.82 billion the prior week. Original CFAP 2 payments are now at $14.24 billion with top-up payments for acreage-based commodities at $4.82 billion. Original CFAP 2 payments were at $13.99 billion the prior week. CFAP 1 payments were little changed at $11.78 billion, including $10.59 billion in original CFAP 1 payments and $1.19 billion in top-up payments for cattle.


CHINA UPDATE


China clears Brazilian beef certified before BSE cases. China’s customs authorities said it will accept import applications for Brazilian beef that was granted a sanitary certificate prior to Sept. 4. Brazil suspended exports of beef to China on that date after detecting two cases of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) but meat that was already at ports continued to be shipped, with most of it unable to clear customs on arrival in China.


TRADE POLICY


— Canada halts potato exports from Prince Edward Island to U.S. over fungus. Canada announced they would voluntarily halt exports of potatoes from Prince Edward Island (PEI) over the presence of potato wart. When potato wart is detected, Canada puts land restriction controls in place on individual fields to restrict the movement of potatoes, plants, soil, and other articles that could result in the spread of potato wart outside of the regulated fields.

     Background. On Oct. 1 and 14, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Charlottetown Laboratory confirmed the presence of potato wart on two different PEI farms, prompting CFIA to impose the “strongest action against potato wart to date.” On Nov. 2, Canada suspended shipments of seed potatoes from PEI to the U.S. along with other controls, which CFIA said was a “science-based approach.”

     USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) expressed “serious concerns” about the detections and warned that a federal order would be put in place to block imports of all fresh potatoes from PEI unless Canada acted to suspend such trade. Canadian Ag Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said Canada temporarily suspended trade in fresh potatoes from PEI to the U.S. as of Nov. 21. “We do not take this measure lightly,” Bibeau said, noting that Canada believes such an action “goes beyond what is necessary to mitigate risk.”

     The suspension applies to table stock potatoes and processing potatoes but does not apply to processed potatoes such as frozen products. Also, CFIA said, all used farm machinery originating from PEI and shipped to the U.S. must be cleaned free of soil and disinfected prior to entering the U.S.

     The National Potato Council (NPC) welcomed the announcement. “The U.S. potato industry appreciates CFIA for acting quickly and recognizing the dire threat to the U.S. and Canadian potato industries should potato wart be spread beyond PEI,” said NPC President Dominic LaJoie, a Maine potato grower. Should potato wart be transmitted to the United States, the U.S. potato industry would likely lose access to all international fresh potato markets, costing the industry over $225 million in annual sales, NPC said.

     USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement, “I appreciate Canada’s action to suspend the movement of all potatoes from Prince Edward Island to the United States. Our risk assessment demonstrated that this action is necessary to protect US potato producers from possible exposure to the federally designated select agent Synchytrium endobioticum, commonly known as potato wart. We look forward to working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as they delimit the infestation and trace the sources so that appropriate mitigation measures can be imposed and trade restrictions relaxed.”


ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE


— USDA’s recent long-term baseline projections did not project a big increase in renewable diesel ahead. Why? USDA sources say the main driver for renewable diesel expansion in the U.S. are incentives under California’s LCFS program. California consumes nearly all of U.S. renewable diesel production. California also consumes about 2.7 billion gallons of diesel, which could be replaced by renewable diesel over the next few years. “The benefits of producing renewable diesel with low carbon feedstocks are much higher than using soybean oil, and we expect the planned expansion of facilities using non-soybean oil feedstocks (Diamond Green, REG, PBF, Next Renewable, etc.) to fulfill the majority of demand in California,” says one USDA analyst.

     Also, over the next few years, USDA expects soybean oil prices to remain strong as demand increases for renewable diesel. At such prices, USDA expects non-integrated Fatty Acid Methyl Esters (FAME) producers to reduce production as markets substitute for renewable diesel because it is considered a higher quality, drop-in replacement fuel. Thus, USDA’s forecast assumes some soybean-oil based renewable diesel expansion for the California market and substitution of renewable for FAME in markets outside of California.  USDA also assumes current policies, which don’t include proposed LCFS-type programs in other states or tax credits for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

     Another reason: crushing impacts. High soybean oil prices may lift margins in the near term but if the U.S. overproduces meal and does not have a domestic/export market, margins will decline. USDA is constrained by assumptions in the growth of meal markets and the U.S. international market share as well as how high soybean oil prices can get before capital investments in renewable diesel plants aren’t as profitable. USDA notes they have seen actual capacity not meet announced/planned capacity in the past for both ethanol and FAME.  There is a possibility that this could happen for renewable diesel, USDA notes, especially with smaller announcements competing for higher cost feedstocks.

     There is also the issue of capacity utilization. As seen with ethanol and FAME, capacity typically exceeds capacity utilization by a significant amount. While there are documented plans to expand, higher-priced feedstocks can delay or even reverse expansion plans. 

     Private industry analysts agree that soybean meal prices will be pressured at least until they become attractive to export buyers. On the international front, an analyst notes that NESTE is still expanding in Singapore, and they will buy low Carbon feedstocks if lower priced than SBO.

— Europe is growing increasingly reliant on coal to keep the lights on as the weather turns cold, sending the cost of polluting to a record. Carbon prices exceeded 70 euros for the first time ever as utilities turn to coal. Power plants in the U.K. are burning the most coal since the beginning of the month to deal with sub-zero temperatures forecast for major cities this week.

     Coal impacts

— Canada’s EC Energy files appeal on Keystone decision, seeking $15 billion in damages. TC Energy, the developer of the Keystone XL pipeline, is utilizing provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to file a request for arbitration to appeal the decision by the Biden administration to pull the permit for the pipeline project.

     TC Energy is seeking more than $15 billion in damages from the action, marking one of the largest trade appeals ever under NAFTA. While the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (UMCA) that replaced NAFTA included limits on the use of the investor-state dispute settlement systems, arbitration is still temporarily grandfathered for some legacy investments.

     TC further wants the matter to be put in front of an international arbitration panel. Richard Prior, TC Energy vice president for liquids pipelines, said the company will not restart any work on the pipeline no matter the outcome of their actions. “We’re not doing this for symbolic or political purposes,” Prior told Bloomberg. “This is a business decision.” He noted the company invested heavily in the project and had been working with federal and state regulators in both countries for an extended period. “This is just about recovering that destroyed value investment,” he stated.

     The matter is headed for a three-member arbitration panel, Bloomberg said, with one member appointed by TC Energy, one by the U.S. and another agreed to by both parties.


LIVESTOCK, FOOD & BEVERAGE INDUSTRY


— Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) asked the Justice Department to open an antitrust investigation into the poultry industry as turkey prices soar ahead of Thanksgiving, which Warren blamed on anticompetitive practices by major poultry companies. Link for details.

— Thanksgiving dinner may be missing a key component this year: Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce. Bloomberg reports people may have to opt for the fresh variety as a shortage of cans limits supply — and it doesn't end there. Turkey is also running low. Retailers are pulling supply out of cold storage to help meet demand. The cost of an overall Thanksgiving dinner is 14% more than a year ago.


CORONAVIRUS UPDATE


Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are at 258,387,564 with 5,162,339 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 47,886,192 with 777,344 deaths. The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center said that there have been 452,657,967 doses administered, 196,398,948 have been fully vaccinated, or 59.83% of the U.S. population.

— More than 90,000 coronavirus cases are being reported each day in the U.S., comparable to early August, and more than 30 states are seeing sustained upticks in infections.

     Daily cases

— Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal workers seems to be working. Around 95% of the 3.5 million federal employees covered by President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for gov’t workers have complied with the requirement ahead of its Monday deadline, according to the White House. This includes 5% who have requested or received an exemption or an extension. Some 3.5 million employees were affected by the mandate. Agency-specific data on their staff’s compliance with the mandate will be released on Wednesday by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a senior administration official said. It will be interesting to see USDA numbers.

     USDA “critical services” will not be disrupted by the mandate, USDA said Monday. Farm and livestock groups said earlier this month that the mandate might leave the USDA short of meat inspectors or staff at its local offices. And farmers fret that some FSA county offices would be thinly staffed. In a statement, USDA said it has made “significant progress ensuring compliance across the agency” since President Biden announced the vaccine requirement in September. “Implementation of the requirement will not result in any disruptions to critical services the American people depend on,” it said. USDA lists a staff of roughly 92,000 employees in 29 agencies and 4,500 locations. The Forest Service has the largest workforce, nearly 31,000 people, among USDA agencies. In an October memo, USDA told employees it would “pursue disciplinary measures, up to and including removal from federal services” for employees who refuse vaccination and do not request a medical or religious exemption. The USDA figure includes 7,000 “non-federal” staff who work in USDA’s Farm Service Agency offices but who were hired via the farmer-elected county committees that guide local operations. USDA budget documents say the FSA has 2,950 federal employees.

— Europe is again the center of the coronavirus pandemic, accounting for more than half the world’s reported Covid deaths this month, according to the WHO, and more than two million new cases each week. In response, governments are toughening their restrictions, despite widespread demonstrations against them. Austria went into lockdown yesterday, and Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, warned that by the end of this winter “just about everyone in Germany will probably be either vaccinated, recovered or dead.”

     Europe cases

— U.S. is not thinking about lockdowns, etc., to put a damper on infections. "We are not headed in that direction. We have the tools to accelerate the path out of this pandemic; widely available vaccinations, booster shots, kid shots, therapeutics," White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters. "We can curb the spread of the virus without having to in any way shut down our economy."

— Canada update. Canada, which opened its land borders to fully vaccinated Americans on Aug. 9, said it would require essential workers, professional athletes and others previously exempt from public-health orders to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to gain entry, starting Jan. 15.


POLITICS & ELECTIONS


— CBS News poll: 67% disapprove of Biden’s handling of inflation. Gayle King, on CBS This Morning, said, “Prices may be taking a toll on President Biden’s approval numbers. A new CBS News poll shows just 39% of Americans approve of how Biden is dealing with this economy. Some 67% disapprove of the president’s handling of inflation. According to King, “Americans are getting paid more than last year, but inflation is erasing all those gains. The president is counting on his newly passed infrastructure law to help, along with the massive social safety net bill now up for debate in the Senate.” Link for details.

— Sean Parnell suspends GOP Senate bid in Pennsylvania. Parnell, who was endorsed by Donald Trump in a high-profile 2022 Senate race, had been accused by his estranged wife of spousal and child abuse. Multiple candidates are vying to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey. President Biden narrowly won the state in 2020, and the Senate candidate who prevails there in next year’s midterm elections could determine control of the 50-50 Senate. Democrats also have a competitive primary contest under way, with a field that includes Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Rep. Conor Lamb.

— Rep. Peter Welch launches Senate bid for Leahy’s seat. Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) announced Monday he will run for Senate next year to fill the seat held by retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). It was widely anticipated that Welch would launch a bid for Leahy's seat.

— Competitive House districts are getting wiped off the map. Fifteen states have finalized congressional boundaries for 2022 midterms, with Republicans and Democrats gerrymandering maps to build competitive advantages, a Washington Post analysis shows (link).

— Thomas Jefferson statue removed from N.Y. City Hall after 187 years. Art handlers packed up an 884-pound statue of Jefferson in a wooden crate Monday after a mayoral commission voted to banish the likeness of the nation’s third president from City Hall where it has resided for nearly two centuries — because he owned slaves.


OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE     


— Justice Department to pay about $130 million to Parkland shooting victims. Family members of victims had sued over how the FBI handled tips warning about the gunman before he killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Link for details via the New York Times.

— Biden administration is weighing sending military advisers and new equipment including weaponry to Ukraine as Russia builds up forces near the border and U.S. officials prepare allies for the possibility of another Russian invasion, CNN reported. The discussions about the proposed lethal aid package are happening as Ukraine has begun to warn publicly that an invasion could happen as soon as January. The package could include new Javelin anti-tank and anti-armor missiles as well as mortars.

— U.S. levied sanctions on a ship involved in completing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as Biden’s White House looks to exert more pressure on Russia while not antagonizing German leaders determined to see the project through. In a report sent to Congress yesterday, the administration designated Transadria, a Cyprus-based entity believed to be a Russian shell company, over pipeline work done by one of its ships, the Marlin, according to a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.


EVENTS AND REPORTS


Tuesday, Nov. 23

· PFAS and EPA. Environmental Protection Agency teleconference of the Board of Scientific Counselors Executive Committee to deliberate on EPA's charge questions on PFAS.
· OAS future. Center for Strategic and International Studies virtual discussion on "The Future of the Organization of American States."
· AUKUS alliance. Hudson Institute and the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center virtual discussion on "AUKUS (Australia, UK and US): A Model for Other US Allies and Partners?"
· Cryptocurrencies and ransomware. American University Washington College of Law virtual discussion on "Follow the Money: Current Issues in Crypto and Ransomware."
· Carbon and coal. United States Energy Association virtual discussion on a report titled "Carbon Forward: Advanced Markets for Value-Added Products from Coal."

· Economic reports. PMI Composite Flash | Richmond Fed Manufacturing

· Energy reports. API US inventory report

· USDA reports. ERS: Outlook for US Agricultural Trade | Food Price Outlook NASS: Poultry Slaughter


 

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