COOL: Hot Topic That Will Not Go Away
In Today’s Digital Newspaper
• Say it again: Summers again writes that U.S. inflation risk is real
• Dow is 125 years old today
• Official: ECB has no plans to scale back bond-buying program
• Growing calls for ECB to keep stimulus in place
• Warren recommends Biden replace Fed official Quarles when term ends
• ‘We're talking about talking about tapering’ re: Fed Reserve
• Prices for new and previously owned U.S. homes are surging
• Share of consumers planning to buy a house fell to lowest level since Feb. 2013
• U.S. consumer confidence ticked lower in May for first time this year
• China’s yuan strengthened to a near-three-year high
• New Zealand dollar gaining 1% against U.S. dollar
• Cost of softwood lumber at a record, up over 83% from this time last year
* European Commission ups estimate of wheat production
• Ag demand update
• Mix of corrective buying and follow-through selling overnight in U.S. grains, soy
• Another strike at Argentine ports as Covid-19 spreads
• ANEC reins in Brazilian soybean export forecast
• China stops banks from selling commodity-linked products to retail buyers
• Cash cattle trade once again off to an early start
• Pork rally continues
• GOP Ag panel members want details on impact of proposed tax increases
Biden Administration Personnel
• Thomas Nides expected to be tapped as U.S. ambassador to Israel
• USDA announces more new personnel
• China took over from Germany as U.K.’s biggest importer
• Ukrainian corn sales to China could reach 11 million tons: UkrAgroConsult
• U.S officials want guarantees from UAE re: U.S. weapons not going to China
• China still significantly behind on its commitments re: Phase 1
• China stops banks from selling commodity-linked products to retail buyers: Reuters
• Biden administration launches trade dispute against Canadian dairy industry
Energy & Climate Change:
• Biodiesel tax credit extension pushed
• USDA wants to measure climate impact of CRP
• Biden plan calls for sourcing EV battery metals from friendly countries
• Sen. Manchin not very excited about gov’t funding EV battery chargers
• White House plans two California offshore wind farms
• Dutch climate ruling
Livestock, Food & Beverage Industry Update:
• USDA ups grocery store price outlook
• New Disneyland sandwich will cost $99.99
• COOL a hot topic that just will not go away
• Grassley keeps up push for action on beef packers
• Foster Farms fined
• 50% of U.S. adults vaxed
• Air passengers warned to wear masks
• Ohio today will randomly draw name of one vaccinated adult to win $1 million
Politics & Elections:
• Surging crime rate spells potential doom for Democrats in 2022 elections
• McCarthy, GOP leaders condemn Marjorie Taylor Greene
• Chief executives of six largest U.S. banks to testify
Other Items of Note:
• Biden and Putin schedule summit
Equities today: Global stock markets were mixed but mostly firmer overnight. U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward modestly higher openings. Ford today will brief investors and analysts and is expected to provide updates on the EV strategy as part of the Ford+ plan. A European Central Bank official today said the ECB has no plans to scale back its bond-buying program (quantitative easing) anytime soon. Asian equity markets finished higher. Japan’s Nikkei was up 88.21 points, 0.31%, at 28,642.19. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 255.15 points, 0.88%, at 29,166.01. European equity markets are seeing pressure in early action. The Stoxx 600 was down 0.2% with most regional markets seeing losses of 0.1% to 0.6%. Swiss markets, however, are seeing modest gains.
One hundred twenty-five years ago, the Dow Jones Industrial Average made its debut. The index of 12 smokestack companies closed that first trading day, May 26, 1896, at 40.94. It included General Electric as well as long-forgotten names like American Cotton Oil and Distilling & Cattle Feeding. It has risen an average of 7.69% each year and notched 1,464 record closes, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Link to details via the WSJ.
U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow fell 81.52 points, 0.24%, at 34,312.46. The Nasdaq declined 4.00 points, 0.03%, at 13,657.17. The S&P 500 was down 8.92 points, 0.23%. at 4,188.13.
On tap today:
• Chief executives of the six largest U.S. banks are scheduled to testify before the Senate Banking Committee starting at 10 a.m. ET.
• Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Randal Quarles speaks on insurance regulation at 10 a.m. ET, and on the economic outlook at 3 p.m. ET
Warren recommends Biden replace Fed official Quarles when term ends. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday told Federal Reserve Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles that she was recommending President Biden replace him when his term ends later this year. "Your term as chair is up in five months, and our financial system will be safer when you are gone," she told Quarles during a testy exchange at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on the Federal Reserve's regulation of the financial system. "I urge President Biden to fill your role with someone who will actually keep our financial system safe," she said. Warren accused Quarles of lightening the Fed's supervision of Credit Suisse, just months before the bank suffered billions in losses due to its exposure to a hedge fund called Archegos.
"We're talking about talking about tapering, and that is what you want out of us. You want to be long-viewed here," San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly told CNBC. "Right now, policy is in a very good place. Policy is supporting the American people." Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida also suggested yesterday that the appropriate timing of scaling back should be discussed at upcoming policy meetings, and he may shed more light on the matter this morning. The Fed is currently scooping up $120 billion in assets per month, but Morgan Stanley thinks the central will start tapering its level of bond buying toward the end of 2021.
Growing calls for ECB to keep stimulus in place. It is too soon for the European Central Bank (ECB) to reduce the level of its asset purchases, according to ECB board member Fabio Panetta, the latest official expressing a need for the current slate of stimulus efforts to stay in place. "The conditions that we see today do not justify reducing the pace of purchases, and a discussion about phasing out the PEPP (Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program) is still clearly premature," Panetta told Nikkei in an interview. "In fact, we are now seeing a further undesirable increase in yields after the rise we observed earlier in the year.” ECB President Christine Lagarde has also said the time has not yet come to temper their bond purchase efforts and with several officials now saying it is too soon to pare their efforts back, odds are extremely low the ECB will make any adjustment when their meeting concludes June 10.
Prices for new and previously owned U.S. homes are surging, as strong demand continues to overwhelm the housing supply. The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which measures average home prices in major metropolitan areas across the nation, rose 13.2% in the year that ended in March, the highest annual rate of price growth since December 2005. Separately, the Commerce Department said the median price of a new home sold in April was $372,400, up 20.1% from a year earlier, the strongest annual gain since 1988. Robust homebuying demand, driven by ultralow mortgage interest rates, and a shortage of homes for sale have pushed prices rapidly higher in recent months.
U.S. consumer confidence ticked lower in May for the first time this year. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index slipped to 117.2 from 117.5 the previous month. While small, the headline figure masked a sharp shift in assessments of current economic conditions — which are the brightest since the pandemic hit — and short-term economic prospects, which fell to a three-month low. "Consumers’ short-term optimism retreated, prompted by expectations of decelerating growth and softening labor market conditions in the months ahead," said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.
Share of consumers who said they plan to buy a house fell to the lowest level since February 2013.
Summers again writes U.S. inflation risk is real. "Even six months ago, it was reasonable to regard slow growth, high unemployment and deflationary pressures as the predominant risk to the economy. Today, while continuing relief efforts are essential, the focus of our macroeconomic policy needs to change. Inflationary pressures are mounting from the boost in demand created by the $2 trillion-plus in savings that Americans have accumulated during the pandemic; from large-scale Federal Reserve debt purchases, along with Fed forecasts of essentially zero interest rates into 2024; from roughly $3 trillion in fiscal stimulus passed by Congress; and from soaring stock and real estate prices," former Treasury secretary and current Harvard professor Lawrence Summers writes in the Washington Post (link).
• Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is firmer on a corrective bounce after hitting a 4.5-month low Tuesday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note is presently fetching around 1.567%. Gold and silver futures are seeing gains. Gold is trading around $1,907 per troy ounce and silver around $28.20 per troy ounce.
• China’s yuan has strengthened to a near-three-year high, boosted by a falling dollar despite attempts by the central bank to keep the currency in check. The yuan has been buoyed in recent months by the country’s rapid recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, and by a rush of international investment into China’s relatively high-yielding markets. On Tuesday, the offshore yuan strengthened below 6.4 per dollar.
• New Zealand dollar is gaining 1% against the U.S. dollar after New Zealand’s central bank hinted it could raise interest rates late next year.
• Crude oil prices are under mild pressure ahead of U.S. gov’t inventory data due later this morning. US.S. crude is trading around $65.90 per barrel while Brent is trading around $68.40 per barrel. Futures were mixed in Asian action, with U.S. crude down six cents at $66.01 per barrel and Brent crude up 19 cents at $68.65 per barrel.
• Cost of softwood lumber is now at a record, up over 83% from this time last year, according to CoStar Advisory Services. Overall, lumber and wood prices are also at record levels, up 34% from one year ago, CoStar said.
• European Commission released its monthly crop monitoring report yesterday, with improved estimates of wheat production. The EC has increased wheat yield estimates to 5.7t/ha for the 2021 season compared to an estimate of 5.64t/ha made last month; the yield in 2021 is estimated to be significantly higher than the 5-year average of 5.47t/ha and last year’s 5.5t/ha. Colder-than-usual weather in a large part of Europe over the last month countered the rain deficit as water requirement for crop development dropped. For corn, the commission left estimates unchanged at 7.81t/ha, with sowing activity nearly complete. For sugar beet, the European Commission revised down yield estimates from 75.6t/ha to 75.5t/ha; though it remains comfortably higher than the 5-yr average of 74.2t/ha.
• Ag demand: Japan’s ag ministry is seeking 80,000 MT of feed wheat and 100,000 MT of feed barley via a simultaneous buy and sell auction to be held June 2. Jordan canceled its tender to buy 120,000 MT of animal feed barley due to a lack of participants.
Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include:
• Mix of corrective buying and follow-through selling overnight in U.S. grains, soy
• Another strike at Argentine ports as Covid-19 spreads
• ANEC reins in Brazilian soybean export forecast
• China stops banks from selling commodity-linked products to retail buyers
• Cash cattle trade once again off to an early start
• Pork rally continues
— Republican Ag panel members call on Vilsack to release details on impact of proposed tax increases. Republican members of the Senate Ag panel are calling on USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to make public a detailed explanation and any supporting economic analyses that clarifies how the Biden administration’s proposed tax increases will affect farm estates. Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), the committee’s ranking member, authored a letter to Vilsack that questions USDA’s analysis of President Joe Biden’s proposed changes in capital gains tax rates and the modification to stepped-up basis on America’s family farms and ranches. The letter (link), which was signed by seven other Republican senators who serve on the panel, specifically asks the secretary to explain of how USDA arrived at the conclusion 98% of farm estates will not be impacted by the proposed tax changes. “The proposed tax impacts are dependent on a number of factors, including but not limited to appreciation in farmland assets prior to a property owner's death, size of the farm operation and associated assets, income of the heirs, and the farm's ownership structure. Given these factors, we are writing to seek a detailed explanation and supporting economic analysis clarifying how these tax provisions will affect farm estates, including specifically how USDA arrived at the conclusion that fewer than 2% of farm estates will be impacted by the proposed tax changes,” the senators wrote.
Along with Boozman, the letter was signed by GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Roger Marshall (Kan.), Mike Braun (Ind.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), John Hoeven (N.D. and Joni Ernst (Iowa).
BIDEN ADMINISTRATION PERSONNEL
— President Biden plans to nominate Thomas Nides, a vice chairman of Morgan Stanley and a former State Department official, to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel, according to Bloomberg. Nides, 60, has long been one of Wall Street’s most prominent donors to Democrats and has straddled positions in both the public and private sector for decades. He was a major bundler for Biden during the 2020 race.
— USDA named several personnel including:
- Kim Peyser as deputy assistant secretary for administration.
- Tien Nguyen as deputy director of scheduling and advance in the Office of the Secretary.
- Katie Zenk as chief of staff for marketing and regulatory programs.
— China took over from Germany as the U.K.’s biggest importer. The volume of Chinese goods entering the U.K. rose by 66% from the start of 2018 to the first quarter of 2021, official data show.
— Ukrainian corn sales to China could reach as much as 11 million tons in the season that starts in September, an all-time high, UkrAgroConsult said. That would surpass 8.5 million to 9 million tons expected to ship to China in the current year, also a record amount. The increase comes as Ukraine’s harvest is expected to rebound from last year’s drought-stricken season and Chinese demand for global grain imports remains strong to feed its hog herd. UkrAgroConsult estimates this year’s corn crop at 37 million tons, up from 30.3 million tons in 2020.
— U.S officials are seeking guarantees from the United Arab Emirates that advanced U.S. weapons won’t end up in China’s hands. Signs of nascent security cooperation between Beijing and the U.A.E. have cast uncertainty over a $23 billion sale of as many as 50 F-35 fighter aircraft, 18 Reaper drones and advanced munitions, all approved in President Donald Trump’s final hours in office.
— China is still significantly behind on its commitments to buying enough American goods to satisfy its “Phase 1” trade deal with the United States. Link to CNBC item. By category, agriculture came the closest to reaching the year-to-date target, at 79% based on U.S. data and 87% based on Chinese data. Meanwhile, talks between China and the U.S. on trade have stalled. Representatives from both countries were set to hold a six-month compliance review in August, but the meeting was postponed.
— China stops banks from selling commodity-linked products to retail buyers. The China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission (CBIRC) has asked lenders to stop selling investment products linked to commodity futures to mom-and-pop buyers, three sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The banking regulator has also reportedly asked lenders to completely unwind their existing books for such products. This comes at a time when commodity prices are soaring, and China has been importing huge quantities of corn and other feed grains. The price surge has elevated regulatory concerns about the risks of speculative bets, which has already led to China’s state planner and exchanges taking steps to control prices in recent weeks. The Reuters sources indicated that the ban on new sales has widened to a clean-up of the entire sector, including products linked to commodities but not targeted before, like soybeans, natural gas, gold, silver, platinum and palladium. Critics of the move say this would be a major step back in China’s effort to open its markets.
— Biden administration launches trade dispute against Canadian dairy industry. In a widely expected move, the Biden administration launched a trade dispute against Canada’s dairy industry on Tuesday, triggering for the first time the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement’s (USMCA) mechanism to review such complaints. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the administration requested a dispute settlement panel to review Canadian measures the U.S. says limit the ability of American dairy exporters to sell products to consumers north of the border. The USMCA, which took effect last July, included language to expand access for U.S. dairy farmers and processors to Canada's domestic dairy market. “A top priority for the Biden-Harris Administration is fully enforcing the USMCA and ensuring that it benefits American workers,” Tai said in a statement (link).
USTR alleges Canada has improperly allocated USMCA tariff-rate import quotas on 14 dairy products, diverting some of them to Canadian processors and limiting export opportunities for U.S. dairy farmers and processors. According to the International Trade Commission, the USMCA — if implemented as negotiated — would boost U.S. dairy exports by more than $314 million a year. The U.S. Commerce Department’s International Trade Commission has done an initial analysis on the cost of the TRQs to the U.S. dairy industry, but the USTR didn’t disclose the figure, saying this will be under discussion during the implementation phases of arbitration, should the U.S. be successful. The agreement does provide for the possibility tariffs as a form of retaliation, but “we’re a long way from that process,” a USTR official said.
Canada’s Trade Minister Mary Ng expressed disappointment with the request and said she is confident the country’s policies are “in full compliance” with its tariff-rate quota obligations. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about these trade tensions in lumber and dairy earlier Tuesday at a press conference in Ottawa. “We will always stand up for our forestry workers and the industry across the country. We will continue — as we did successfully in the previous administration — to stand up to defend Canadian interests and values wherever necessary and that will continue,” Trudeau said. Canada’s dairy industry said its quotas are in line with the trade agreement, and the government has a solid case to present to the panel, said Pierre Lampron, president of Dairy Farmers of Canada. The Dairy Processors Association of Canada is confident its policies are in full compliance with its obligations, and it’s ready to support the Canadian government defending its position, it said.
Timelines. USMCA allows 30 days for the panel to form. It will file an initial report in roughly 120 days and a final report 30 days after that.
Reaction: House Ways and Mean ranking member Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said: “Amidst a number of concerning USMCA implementation issues, including in Mexico’s energy and agricultural sectors, we must not hesitate to stand up for the rights of American farmers, workers, families and businesses,” Brady said. “I urge the administration to fully enforce all aspects of the agreement in order to maintain the strong bipartisan support that it enjoys.”
Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) praised the decision, along with the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the National Milk Producers Federation. But David Von Ruden, president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, said: “Instead of trying to gain a sliver of access to Canadian dairy markets, which would undermine Canada's supply management system, the U.S. should focus on managing domestic milk production to meet profitable demand for dairy farmers,” he said.
ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE
— Biodiesel tax credit extension pushed by Grassley, Cantwell. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) introduced legislation (link) to extend the current federal biodiesel tax credit program through 2025 — the $1 per gallon blenders tax credit is currently set to expire at the end of 2022 (the bills announced in both the U.S. Senate and House would provide the biodiesel and renewable diesel industry certainty for an additional three years). “The biodiesel tax credit has proven to work by reducing our dependence on foreign oil and lowering greenhouse gas emissions,” Grassley said in statement. Reps. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) introduced the legislation in the House Tuesday.
— USDA wants to measure climate impact of CRP. USDA estimates that the nearly 21 million acres enrolled in CRP prevent about 12 million tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted. Now the search is on to quantify the climate impact of those idled acres, aimed at quantifying carbon sequestration and other benefits of CRP. USDA is providing $10 million for measurement projects that “will allow USDA to better target climate outcomes through CRP while gaining critical data to calibrate, validate and further improve quantification methods within existing models and tools,” according to USDA's Farm Service Agency (link).
Meanwhile, hundreds of food and farm groups wrote to House and Senate leadership on Tuesday asking for at least $200 billion more for conservation, research energy and regional food initiatives over the next decade. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is seeking $50 billion in new conservation funding to address climate change.
— Biden plan calls for sourcing EV battery metals from friendly countries. Reuters reports President Biden will “rely on ally countries to supply the bulk of the metals needed to build electric vehicles and focus on processing them domestically into battery parts, part of a strategy designed to placate environmentalists, two administration officials with direct knowledge told Reuters.” The plans “will be a blow to U.S. miners who had hoped Biden would rely primarily on domestically sourced metals, as his campaign had signaled last autumn, to help fulfill his ambitions for a less carbon-intensive economy.” The sources said that “rather than focus on permitting more U.S. mines, Biden’s team is more focused on creating jobs that process minerals domestically into electric vehicle (EV) battery parts.”
— Sen. Manchin is not very excited about gov’t funding EV battery chargers. Senate Energy Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) expressed skepticism at investing major federal dollars into electric vehicle infrastructure, as President Biden’s plan proposes in his initiative for 500,000 charging stations throughout the country. “I don’t remember Henry Ford — when he built the Model T — that we went out and built filling stations for him,” Manchin told reporters. “We should give them incentives and help them mature it. We’re willing to do it, but it shouldn’t cost as far as the debt to the nation.”
— White House plans two California offshore wind farms that could power 1.6 million homes. The U.S. gov’t plans to open more than 250,000 acres off the California coast to wind development, the Biden administration announced Tuesday, as part of a major effort to ramp up the nation’s renewable energy and cut its climate-warming emissions. Under the plan, the administration would allow wind power projects to be built in federal waters off the coast of Central California northwest of Morro Bay, as well as at a second location west of Humboldt Bay. Officials estimate that the two areas combined could generate 4,600 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 1.6 million homes. “It’s an announcement that will set the stage for the long-term development of clean energy and the growth of a brand-new made-in-America industry,” said Gina McCarthy, President Biden’s senior climate change advisor.
Prior efforts of wind farms along the California have faced regulatory hurdles, engineering challenges created by the steep drop-off of the Pacific Ocean’s floor, and concerns about the impact the infrastructure could have on migratory birds, marine life and fisheries. The only viable way to install offshore wind farms would be to build floating turbines that are tethered in place by cables. In 2017, a floating wind farm off the northeastern coast of Scotland demonstrated that it can be done.
The federal gov’t will begin holding auctions, in which wind developers will bid on the right to apply for permits to install turbines.
Plans for the nation’s first commercial-scale wind development, which the administration recently approved, center on coastal waters off Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. A dozen additional wind projects along the East Coast are under federal review.
The White House has set a goal of deploying 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030. Hitting this target, estimates signal, could spur $12 billion in capital investments in projects on both coasts and employ more than 77,000 people in the offshore wind industry and in jobs that spring up around it. The plan is to bring much of the industry’s supply chain to the U.S. so that wind turbine components and the steel they’re forged from are manufactured domestically.
— Dutch climate ruling. A Dutch court will rule today on whether the Anglo-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell, one of the world’s biggest oil companies, has a legal responsibility to combat climate change. The case was brought by the Dutch arm of Friends of the Earth and alleges that Shell is violating human rights by continuing to extract fossil fuels and is thereby working against the goals of the Paris climate accord. Although the ruling will only be legally binding in the Netherlands, the case is being closely watched by environmental activists.
LIVESTOCK, FOOD & BEVERAGE INDUSTRY
— USDA ups grocery store price outlook. Upward revisions to food at home (grocery store) price forecasts for several food categories prompted USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) to up their forecast rise in grocery store prices to an increase of 1.5% to 2.5% in 2021 versus 2020 — the midpoint is right in line with the 20-year average of 2.0%.
Overall food price inflation is still forecast at 2% to 3% (2.4% 20-year average) with food away from home (restaurant) prices seen rising 2.5% to 3.5% (2.8% 20-year average) from 2020 levels.
So far this year, overall food prices are up 1.7% from the same period in 2020, with grocery store prices up 1.2% and restaurant prices up 2.4%. “Forecast ranges for meat categories, poultry, eggs, dairy products, fats and oils, and fresh fruits were also revised upward,” USDA noted, with only fish and seafood forecasts left steady with the month-ago outlook. “Forecast ranges for cereals and bakery products, nonalcoholic beverages, and other foods were revised downwards” compared with USDA’s month-ago forecasts. “The meat and poultry price increases were driven by high feed costs and strong domestic and international demand,” USDA said. “In addition, winter storms and drought disrupted the beef supply, and high prices for sows dampened pork production.”
Forecast increases in overall food prices, restaurant and grocery-store prices are still below 2020 increases of 3.4% for both overall food prices and restaurant prices and a 3.5% rise in grocery store prices. And they come after either food price decreases or rises that were well below the 20-year average over the 2015-2019 period. Still, they remain another sign of inflationary pressures.
— A new Disneyland sandwich will cost $99.99. The Marvel-inspired panini is intended to serve six to eight people.
— COOL is a hot topic that just will not go away. Country-of-origin labeling (COOL) opponents are fretting about an amendment in a Senate bill to counter China’s economic power, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. The Food Industry Association said in a letter to the Senate Ag Committee that the amendment would impose “time-consuming and costly new obligations” for food retailers. The amendment would require online retail products to provide country-of-origin information as part of the “internet website description of a product.”
— Grassley keeps up push for action on beef packers. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is continuing to focus on the U.S. beef packing industry and the actions by the four biggest beef packers. In a tweet Tuesday, Grassley said: “The 4 Big Cattle packers control 82% of the market Packers are making $1200 a head MORE than the independent producers This disparity is insulting to the family farmer The Ag Cmte must hv a hearing on cattle market & Grassley/Tester bill ASAP.”
— Foster Farms fined. California state regulators proposed one of its largest fines of the pandemic, $181,500, against poultry processor Foster Farms for failing to protect workers from Covid-19 at a plant in the Central Valley where at least four workers died of the disease. Link for details via Fresno Bee.
— Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are 167,878,150 with 3,487,037 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 33,166,511 with 590,941 deaths. The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center said that there have been 287,788,872 doses administered, 131,078,608 have been fully vaccinated, or 39.9% of the U.S. population.
— 50% of U.S. adults vaxed. The U.S. announced Tuesday that it’s vaccinated 50% of its adult population (more than 129 million people over the age of 18) against Covid-19, making it the first large country to do so. Nine states — Connecticut, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont — have even inoculated 70% of their adult population with at least one dose. Among people in the U.S. aged 65 and up (a demographic that faces far greater health risks), nearly 74% have been fully vaccinated.
— Air passengers warned to wear masks. U.S. government officials monitoring the airways say they won’t tolerate passengers refusing to wear masks as airline travel surges ahead of the summer season. A recent bump in misbehaving air passenger reports, many of them involving those refusing to cover their faces, has prompted Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to issue his warning to travelers.
— Today, the state of Ohio will randomly draw the name of one vaccinated adult to win $1 million. It’s the first of five such drawings that are part of a lottery to spur people to get the shot. Vaccinated individuals in the 12-17 age group will have their own chance to win tuition to a four-year college — it’s there that Ohio’s governor says the state has seen the highest increase in vaccinations. Some other incentives: New Jersey will buy of-age vaccinated individuals a beer. Maryland is giving state employees $100. Lancaster, California is offering scholarships. Krispy Kreme is still providing free doughnuts.
POLITICS & ELECTIONS
— Surging crime rate spells potential doom for Democrats in 2022 elections. A rise in violent crime is endangering slim Democratic congressional majorities more than a year out from the midterm elections and threatening to revive “law and order” as a major campaign issue for Republicans for the first time since the 1990s.
— McCarthy, GOP leaders condemn Marjorie Taylor Greene for equating Covid vaccination, masks With Holocaust. The top three House Republican leaders on Tuesday condemned Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for repeatedly equating Covi-19 vaccination and mask-wearing rules to the Holocaust, the murder of 6 million Jews during World War II. In a series of tweets from her @mtgreenee account, Greene tweeted, “Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi’s forced Jewish people to wear a gold star.” She added that “Vaccine passports & mask mandates create discrimination against unvaxxed people who trust their immune systems to a virus that is 99% survivable.” In a statement, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, “Marjorie is wrong, and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling. The Holocaust is the greatest atrocity committed in history. The fact that this needs to be stated today is deeply troubling.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also blasted Greene, calling her comments “outrageous” and “reprehensible.”
— Hearings on tap today include:
- The chief executives of Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley testify before the Senate Banking Committee at 10 a.m. ET.
- Small Business Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman testifies before the House Small Business Committee on the SBA’s pandemic relief programs at 10 a.m. ET.
- A House Financial Services subcommittee holds a hearing on consumer credit report accuracy and compliance at 12 p.m. ET.
- Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Gary Gensler testifies before the House Appropriations subcommittee for an oversight hearing at 2 p.m. ET.
— Former GOP Sen. John Warner dies at 94. John Warner, who served as secretary of the Navy and spent five terms as a senator from Virginia, died on Tuesday. Warner died Tuesday night of heart failure, according to an email. He oversaw the Navy from 1972-1974 and spent more than 30 years in the Senate from 1979-2009. Warner also served in World War II and the Korean War before becoming the Navy secretary. Warner was the sixth husband of actress Elizabeth Taylor, and she was his second of three wives.
OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE
— Biden, Putin to meet in Geneva on June 16. U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will meet in the Swiss city of Geneva on June 16, the White House and the Kremlin confirmed in separate May 25 statements. The White House said the leaders will broadly “seek to restore predictability and stability to the U.S./Russia relationship,” while the Kremlin said the talks will span strategic stability, the Covid-19 pandemic and various regional conflicts. The talks will be the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since Biden took office in January. Earlier this year, Biden labeled Putin a “killer” during a television interview and the U.S. has imposed multiple rounds of sanctions against Russian individuals and entities over various grievances. The meeting will take place after Biden attends a G7 summit in the United Kingdom.
— Cybersecurity regulations. The Department of Homeland Security will issue its first-ever cybersecurity regulations for pipelines after the Colonial hack. The Transportation Security Administration, a DHS unit, will issue a security directive this week requiring pipeline companies to report cyber incidents to federal authorities, senior DHS officials said. It will follow up in coming weeks with mandatory rules for how pipeline companies must safeguard their systems against cyberattacks and the steps they should take if they are hacked, the officials said. The agency has offered only voluntary guidelines in the past.
— U.S. demotes Mexico’s air-safety rating. Mexico’s government lacks adequate aviation-safety oversight, a U.S. government audit found in a decision that blocks new flights from that nation’s carriers. The Federal Aviation Administration move is a symbolic blow to Mexico at a time when it’s become by far the biggest international market with the United States.