Farm Bureau: More Bipartisanship, More Trade Agreements, and More Than Just Climate Talk

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WHIP+ regs not yet sent to OMB | Port delays continue, expand | Nominee backlog

                                                In Today’s Digital Newspaper

Market Focus:
• Fed’s Barkin supports central bank’s hawkish outlook for monetary policy
• Summers issues another warning
• Buttigieg to visit California ports tomorrow 

• California laws taking effect
• Friday’s soybean market had reports of China's activity in U.S. new crop
• USDA’s wheat number to watch for Wednesday: U.S. planted acreage report
• U.S. cattle market is showing signs of labor problems at slaughter facilities 

Policy Focus:
• Details waited for WHIP+ for eligible 2020 and 2021 disasters; regs not sent to OMB
* Farm Bureau: more bipartisanship, more trade agreements, and more than just climate talk 

• Just 41% of Biden’s Senate-confirmed nominees confirmed over past year
• Two Senate panels on Wednesday will vote on nominations important to ag sector
• Federal Railroad Admin. nominee vote
• FEMA nominee 

China Update:
• China's agricultural prices: -4.2% with hogs, +8.8% without them
• China confirms first cases of domestic transmission of Omicron variant
• Sri Lanka appeals to China to reschedule its mammoth debt repayments

Trade Policy:
• Canada keeps vaccine mandate scheduled for international truckers
• Trade policy events on tap this week 

Energy & Climate Change:
• IEA proposes dropping data paywall 

Livestock, Food & Beverage Industry Update:
• Tyson executives: ‘working aggressively’ to close supply-demand gap
WSJ Opinion item: ‘Meatpackers are Biden’s latest inflation scapegoat’
• Small restaurants heading back to Congress for help 

Coronavirus Update:
• Biden says Covid-19 won’t be ‘new normal’ but here to stay
• Gov’t vaccine mandate implementation near
• Biden signs first deal to make 500 million free tests
 WaPo gives Justice Sotomayor four Pinocchios for her claims
• Latest Covid wave likely peaking on East Coast: Gottlieb
• Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tested positive for Covid-19 Sunday 

Politics & Elections:
• Sen. Mike Rounds on Trump questions
• Senate this week to consider a Russia sanctions bill 

• Infrastructure/WRDA funding update 

Other Items of Note:
• Russia/U.S./Ukraine update
• Turkey announces name change to Turkiye, citing need to represent 'culture' and 'values'



Equities today: Global stock markets were mixed overnight. U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward mixed openings. Asian equities finished mixed to mostly higher to open the week. Japan’s Nikkei was closed for a holiday. The Hang Seng Index was up 253.16 points, 1.08%, at 23,746.54. The Shanghai Composite rose 13.98 points, 0.39%, at 3,593.52. European equities are mostly lower in early activity after starting initially in positive territory. The Stoxx 600 is down 0.5% with regional markets steady to 0.5% lower.

     U.S. equities Friday: The Dow climbed into positive territory at midday but a late sell off prompted a lower finish for the Blue Chip index. The Dow was down 4.81 points, 0.01%, at 36,231.66. The Nasdaq declined 144.96 points, 0.96%, at 14,935.90, notching its worst week since February, down about 4.5% in the first five trading days of 2022. The S&P 500 was down 19.02 points, 0.41%, at 4,677.03. The S&P 500 posted the worst start to a year since 2016 as expectations of faster-than-anticipated U.S. interest-rate increases roiled bond markets.

     The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield rose as high as 1.8% on Friday, after ending 2021 at 1.5%.

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On tap today:

     • U.S. wholesale inventories for November are expected to increase 1.2% from the prior month. (10 a.m. ET)
     • USDA Grain Export Inspections, 11 a.m. ET.
     • WSJ hosts Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester to discuss the economic and policy outlook for 2022 at 11:10 a.m. ET.

Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond President Thomas Barkin said he supports the central bank’s hawkish outlook for monetary policy and is open to raising interest rates when its bond buying stimulus effort winds down. “I’m very supportive of what we did in December,” Barkin said, referring to the decision last month to accelerate the Fed’s draw down of its asset purchases. At that policy meeting, Fed officials put the asset buying effort on track to end in March and penciled in three interest rate increases to their now near-zero short-term interest rate target range for this year.

Summers issues another warning. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said that even after the Fed’s recent hawkish pivot and after a selloff in Treasuries, both policy makers and investors are still underestimating what will be required to bring down inflation.

Supply chain visit. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will also travel to California this week, where he will visit the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach tomorrow to talk about the infrastructure law, the administration’s supply chain task force and get updates on operations at the ports.

Ports update. Add N.Y. port snafus amid West Coast woes. Covid-19 cases among dockworkers collided with a pandemic-fueled surge in cargo volumes to create a rare bottleneck at the Port of New York and New Jersey. By mid-afternoon last Friday — as a snow storm interrupted operations — the port listed 11 ships at anchor, about the same as the 12 to 13 ships at anchor in the beginning of the year.

     Meanwhile, on the West Coast, there aren’t many visible signs of improvement. The average wait for berth space for ships arriving into Los Angeles hit a record 23.4 days last week, up from 20.9 on Dec. 1.

Farmworkers for large employers in California must receive overtime pay for more than eight hours of work in one day, the final step in a law signed in 2016, and double pay for more than 12 hours of work in one day.

     Some other California laws taking effect include:

  • Sellers of olive oil marketed as being from California must include on the label the percentage of the product made from olives grown in the state.
  • Voters in all statewide elections, regardless of whether they signed up for absentee voting, will receive a ballot in the mail. Those who still want to vote in person can do so by surrendering the mailed ballot at a voting location.
  • California restaurants can continue to sell to-go cocktails with food orders for five more years.
  • Restaurants may continue outdoor dining options where alcohol is served for an additional year once the pandemic emergency orders are lifted.
  • Food delivery apps must itemize all fees charged above the restaurant’s menu price and to pay tips given to drivers or the restaurant.
  • California’s minimum wage rises to $15 per hour, the final step in a six-year process. Businesses with 25 or fewer workers will have an additional year to comply and must raise their minimum wage to $14 per hour.
  • Health insurance companies must offer free Covid-19 testing to their customers, eliminating surprise fees and guaranteeing access to tests and vaccinations even when someone is out of their healthcare provider’s network.

Market perspectives:

     • Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is firmer amid a mixed tone in foreign currencies against the greenback. The yield on the 10-year Treasury briefly traded above 1.8% this morning as investors brace for stimulus withdrawal — it is currently trading around 1.77%. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. say they now expect four rate hikes this year and balance sheet runoff to start in July. Gold and silver futures are firmer, with gold around $1,800 per troy ounce and silver around $22.50 per troy ounce.

     • Crude oil futures are under mild pressure ahead of U.S. trading, with U.S. crude around $78.75 per barrel and Brent around $81.65 per barrel. Futures were higher in Asian action, with U.S. crude up 17 cents at $79.07 per barrel and Brent up 20 cents at $81.95 per barrel.

     • Friday’s soybean market had reports of China's activity in the U.S. new crop. Over the weekend, reports of ten cargoes of Oct beans surfaced. Industry analyst and trader Richard Crow notes that the U.S.  bean basis “increased at River points which matches the news. What is interesting is that Oct. is the report of the business.  A reduction of South America’s crops will increase the U.S. demand. A reduction in Brazil’s crop will impact the August, Sept. position onward. A reduction in Argentina will influence Oct. forward. Elevations will increase and the demand for the front end will be great.”

     • USDA’s wheat number to watch for Wednesday is the U.S. planted acreage report.  Some note Risk Management Agency data suggest the HRW acreage could be much less than the numbers projected, perhaps as much as 1.5 million acres. 

     • U.S. cattle market is showing signs of labor problems at slaughter facilities.  From projections, the slaughter last week was 25,000 fewer heads. Box values rallied sharply due to the reduced slaughter.

     • NWS weather: Dangerous cold located from the Upper Midwest to the Northeast, with heavy lake effect snow likely downwind of the Great Lakes... ...Heavy rain to return to portions of western Washington over the next few days.

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WHIP+ for eligible 2020 and 2021 disasters, including livestock and dairy, are still awaited from USDA. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack last year said regulations for some likely changes for the program could come in December. That did not occur — repeating a longer timeline for the aid program that has become all too common. USDA operation of the 2018 and 2019 programs were one of if not the worst implemented program in decades.

     Some information could surface this week as various groups will be meeting with USDA about the program.

     Upshot: Regs have not even been sent forward to OMB for review as of yet, a necessary step in the regulatory process.

— Farm Bureau’s message at its annual convention: more bipartisanship, more trade agreements, and more than just talk about climate. Any big convention can get its message lost in the number of presentations. But American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall’s remarks to the Atlanta-based confab was pointed: “Agriculture goes a lot deeper than just being … about climate.” His message to President Joe Biden and his trade policy officials: More trade agreements, including rejoining the renamed Trans-Pacific Agreement (TPA) and a Phase 2 for the expired trade accord with China.

     USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack addresses the meeting today while President Biden delivers his remarks via a recorded message.  


— Just 41% of President Biden’s Senate-confirmed nominees have been confirmed over the past year — reports the New York Times (link), citing a new analysis from the Partnership for Public Service (link).

— Two Senate panels on Wednesday will vote on nominations important to agriculture. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is expected to advance the nomination of Robert Califf to head the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Califf, a cardiologist, served as FDA commissioner in the final year of the Obama administration. Meanwhile the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will consider the nominations of David Uhlmann to be EPA’s assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance and Martha Williams to be director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

— FRA nominee vote. The Senate this week may hold a confirmation vote on the nomination of Amit Bose to lead the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) after a motion to limit debate was filed last week.

— FEMA nominee. President Biden will nominate climate adaptation specialist Alice Hill to be the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) deputy administrator for resilience, the White House announced Friday. Hill worked on resilience issues in the White House and helped the Department of Homeland Security craft its first-ever climate adaptation plan during the Obama administration. If confirmed, she will lead FEMA’s efforts to help communities withstand a range of emergencies, including natural disasters, climate-driven catastrophes, and terrorist attacks.



China's agricultural prices: -4.2% with hogs, +8.8% without them. How is farm price inflation affecting China? Dimsums blog calculated price changes from major commodity prices collected over the past two years from the National Bureau of Statistics raw material price reports and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs to assess the overall picture — which it says is “quite cloudy.” Several agricultural commodities in China posted double-digit price increases in 2021. However, the average 42% in hog prices swamped everything else. The figure below shows that cotton prices had the strongest increase, a 38% rise from 2020. Eggs, corn, soybean meal, domestic soybeans, and raw milk prices were up by 13% to 30%. Wheat, mutton, and beef prices posted single digit increases. Rice prices have been falling due to weak downstream demand, with many provinces launching minimum price purchases to put a floor under prices following the 2021 harvest. Chicken and peanut prices were down 2% and 5%, respectively.

     An overall price index (weighted by value of these commodities' output) comes out to an average -4.2% price change in 2021. Hogs had an outsized influence on the index due to the huge value of their output. Recalculating the index excluding hog prices yields an 8.8% weighted average price increase, Dimsums calculates.

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— China confirmed its first cases of domestic transmission of the Omicron variant on Sunday, prompting mass testing and quarantines. Authorities confirmed the first cases of domestic transmission of the variant in the city of Tianjin. Tianjin, located just 80 miles southeast of Beijing, is testing its entire population of 14 million people after Omicron was detected in at least two local residents Saturday — the country's first reported community spread of the highly transmittable variant. The city reported at least 40 positive cases over the weekend, including 24 children, though health authorities have yet to confirm whether they are infected with Omicron. Tianjin authorities moved quickly to place 29 residential communities under strict lockdown, and ordered citizens not to leave the city unless absolutely necessary. Those who want to leave must present a negative Covid test taken within 48 hours and obtain approval from their employer or local government offices.

— Sri Lanka appealed to China to reschedule its mammoth debt repayments, as it looks for a way out of a financial crisis. Sri Lanka has borrowed more than $5 billion from China over the past decade, mostly to fund infrastructure projects. It had only around $1.5 billion of foreign reserves in November. The pandemic has hammered the island’s tourism-dependent economy.



— Canada keeps vaccine mandate scheduled for international truckers. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing ahead with a vaccine mandate for international truckers despite increasing pressure from critics who say it will exacerbate driver shortages and drive up the price of goods imported from the United States. Canada will require all truckers entering from the U.S. to show proof of vaccination starting on Saturday as part of its fight against Covid-19. That could force some 16,000, or 10%, of cross-border drivers off the roads, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) estimates. The government estimates 5% of drivers will be impacted. The mandate is the first policy measure taken since the pandemic began that could limit cross-border trucking traffic. Trucks crossed the border freely when the border was closed for 20 months because they were considered essential to keep supply chains flowing. More than two-thirds of the $511 billion in goods traded annually between Canada and the U.S. travels on roads.

— Trade policy events on tap this week include:

     Wednesday: The Institute of International & European Affairs will hold an event titled “The Outlook for Global Trade: a U.S. Perspective,” with remarks from U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

     Thursday and Friday. USMCA meeting. Meetings under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will take place Thursday and Friday, dubbed Deputies Meetings. U.S. Trade Representative official Jayme White will participate on behalf of the U.S.


— IEA proposes dropping data paywall. The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) executive board late last year approved removing the paywall from its data sets, Quantum Commodity Intelligence (QCI) reported. IEA member countries must still approve the decision and commit to increasing contributions to the organization to make up for lost revenue. Executive Director Fatih Birol, in a December email reviewed by QCI, expressed hope that the agency could find a solution “in the interests of boosting market transparency and promoting good energy/climate decision making.”



— Tyson executives said they’re “working aggressively” to close the supply-demand gap, in part by raising wages and investing $450 million in automation. The company is also building “nine chicken plants, two case ready beef and pork plants, and one new bacon plant.”

— WSJ Opinion item: “Meatpackers are Biden’s latest inflation scapegoat.” A commentary item in the Wall Street Journal (link) takes on President Biden claiming last week that meatpackers are price-gouging, driving a surge in consumer prices for beef, chicken and pork. It was written by Andy Puzder, a former CEO of CKE Restaurants, chairman of 2ndVote Value Investments Inc., and senior fellow at the America First Policy Institute, and by Will Coggin, a managing director of the Center for Consumer Freedom.

     Reasons for surging meat prices. “Meat prices are surging because the meat industry, like virtually every other industry, is facing dramatically higher input and labor costs. This isn’t a secret,” they write. They add: “With the demand for meat up world-wide, higher costs plus labor-induced supply shortages are obviously driving dramatic price increases. Supply and demand isn’t hard to understand. But common sense goes out the window when politicians play the blame game.”

     Biden issued a statement committing to issue “new, stronger rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act” targeting meatpackers. The Justice Department and USDA will also step up their scrutiny. The opinion writers ask, “Does anyone outside the White House believe that increasing regulatory burdens for meatpackers will bring meat prices down?”

     As for the $800 million in additional gov’t spending pledged to help solve the issues, the commentary says, “Helping smaller businesses is certainly a laudable goal. But, government giveaways offer short-term help at best. A more effective approach would be to reduce, rather than increase, the regulatory costs that competitively disadvantage smaller processors. Larger companies are better able to absorb those costs.”

     The commentary concludes: “Inflation is a growing problem that requires effective solutions. Mr. Biden’s plan to ignore the underlying causes and scapegoat others isn’t a solution. Absent a policy change, come November voters may well be wondering: Where’s the beef?”

— Small restaurants are heading back to Congress for help, saying their challenges are worsening as the Omicron variant drives a surge in Covid-19 cases across the country, the Wall Street Journal reports (link). Nearly two years into the pandemic, U.S. restaurants and bars are dealing with higher costs, accumulating debts and customers fearful of the latest virus variants, according to a letter signed by more than 3,300 operators and sent to Washington lawmakers in December. The restaurant operators said they were in danger of closing permanently if a federal fund adopted last year to assist the food-service industry isn’t replenished soon.




Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are at 307,300,338 with 5,489,929 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 60,090,637 with 837,664 deaths. The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center said that there have been 518,335,422 doses administered, 207,662,071 have been fully vaccinated, or 63.26% of the U.S. population.


— Biden says Covid-19 won’t be ‘new normal’ but here to stay. Biden said surging Covid-19 cases won’t be the “new normal,” though the virus is likely to endure and can be managed with newly developed tools. The president’s remarks came after several of his former health advisers published articles saying the strategy to fight the pandemic needs to be updated and that the virus would become the “new normal.”   

— Gov’t vaccine mandate implementation is near. The departments of Treasury, Transportation and Agriculture as well as the General Services Administration, Social Security Administration and Nuclear Regulatory Commission are all expected to begin suspending employees who are not complying with the mandate in the coming weeks. The White House in November told agencies to hold off on harsher penalties until after the new year and to focus on education and counseling for those who had not complied with the mandate. Now, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) says agencies can move forward with stricter measures at their discretion. 

     As of last week, the White House and the Department of Education had both reached full compliance, the first known agencies to do so.

     Just under 98% of USDA’s 75,955 permanent employees are complying with the mandate, meaning about 1,587 employees are facing counseling and potentially more drastic measures.

— Biden signs first deal to make 500 million free tests. The Biden administration has awarded the first contract for a manufacturer to help supply 500 million free rapid Covid-19 tests to Americans, the White House said. It has not yet announced the manufacturer’s name.

— WaPo gives Justice Sotomayor four Pinocchios for claiming 'over 100k' children are in 'serious condition'. The Washington Post fact-checked Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor after she claimed during oral arguments about the Biden administration's vaccine mandate on private businesses that more than 100,000 children are "in serious condition" and that many are on ventilators because of the coronavirus. The Democrat-friendly newspaper on Saturday gave the justice "four Pinocchios," the most given for a false statement, after she offered an "absurdly high" number during her comments the day prior. It further pointed out that "it's important for Supreme Court justices to make rulings based on correct data."  Sotomayor gave a figure massively inflating the number of children who have come down with severe cases of Covid when she said that the U.S. has hospitals that are "almost at full capacity with people severely ill on ventilators. We have over 100,000 children, which we've never had before, in serious condition, many on ventilators." The WaPo called the Obama-appointed justice's remarks "wildly incorrect, assuming she is referring to hospitalizations, given the reference to ventilators."

     The newspaper cited data from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services showing that there were only about 5,000 children hospitalized in a pediatric bed because of a suspected or confirmed Covid case as of Jan. 8 and pointed out that this includes patients in observation beds. "So Sotomayor's number is at least 20 times higher than reality, even before you determine how many are in 'serious condition,'" the paper explained.

     CDC chief Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Sunday was forced to correct Sotomayor’s claims. In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Walensky was pressed to confirm that there are actually fewer than 3,500 kids with the virus in hospitals. “Yeah,” Walensky replied, cutting down the justice’s wrong assertion Friday.

— Latest Covid wave likely peaking on East Coast: Gottlieb. Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said the current wave of Omicron variant-driven coronavirus cases is projected to peak nationally in mid-January, and has likely already reached peak in some East Coast cities. In a Barron’s Big Interview, Gottlieb said that in some parts of the country along the East Coast, “it’s probably peaking right now,” including the New York metropolitan area, the mid-Atlantic, and places like Maryland, Washington, D.C., Florida, and Delaware. In other parts of the country where Omicron hasn’t become as prevalent yet, such as the Midwest and the Plains states, “they still have a couple of weeks to go,” he said.

— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tested positive for Covid-19 Sunday. Her office released a statement saying she is experiencing symptoms and quarantining at home. She received her booster shot this fall and “encourages everyone to get their booster and follow all CDC guidance.” She was spotted in Florida enjoying a cocktail at Doraku Sushi without a mask while on vacation in Miami Beach on Dec. 30.



— Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) on whether Congress should pass a law prohibiting Trump from running for president again, on This Week: “The courts are the appropriate place where those questions should be answered. This is not going to be up to members of the U.S. Senate or the House, in my opinion.”

     Asked whether he would support another Trump run: “I will take a hard look at it. Personally, what I have told people is, I'm going to support the Republican nominee to be president. I'm not sure that the eventual nominee has even shown up yet. … It's critical that we take back the House. It's critical that we take back the U.S. Senate. And … based upon that, then we will decide who our nominee for president is going to be.” 

— Senate this week to consider a Russia sanctions bill offered by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) related to the Nord Stream 2 natural project and will take 60 votes to pass. President Biden has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia will suffer severe economic consequences if such an attack happens.



— Infrastructure/WRDA funding update. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on Wednesday will hear about the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan for allocating the infrastructure funding; the Corps spending plan is due this week.

     WRDA. A House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee hearing will focus on the Biden administration’s plans for a new Water Resources Development Act (WRDA).

     Congress needs to complete another two-year WRDA authorization in 2022, legislation that usually has broad, bipartisan support in both chambers.



Russia/Ukraine update. On Friday NBC News reported that “U.S. officials are ready to propose discussions on scaling back U.S. and Russian troop deployments and military exercises in Eastern Europe.” But the report garnered quick pushback from the White House. “Reports that the administration is developing options for pulling back U.S. forces in Eastern Europe in preparation for discussions with Russia next week are not accurate,” a National Security Council spokesperson said. On Thursday, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned Russia that the U.K. is working on "high impact" sanctions Western powers could implement over allegations that Moscow is plotting to invade Ukraine. "We will not accept the campaign Russia is waging to subvert its democratic neighbors," Truss told Parliament, as reported in Reuters. "They have falsely cast Ukraine as a threat to justify their aggressive stance."

     Secretary of State Antony Blinken on this week’s talks with Russia, on ABC’s This Week: “To make actual progress, it’s very hard to see that happening when there’s an ongoing escalation, when Russia has a gun to the head of Ukraine, with 100,000 troops near its borders, the possibility of doubling that in very short order. So, if we’re seeing de-escalation, if we’re seeing a reduction in tensions, that is the kind of environment in which we could make real progress, and again, address … reasonable concerns on both sides.”

     A recent White House review of the U.S. handling of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 concluded that the Obama administration “failed at their central strategic objective: to cause so much pain that Putin would be forced to withdraw.” This move is, in part, a response to that. Link to details via the New York Times. That is likely why U.S. officials, in a rare public and preemptive manner, told the NYT what sanctions Russia can expect to face if it invades Ukraine. On the table: “cutting off Russia’s largest financial institutions from global transactions, imposing an embargo on American-made or American-designed technology needed for defense-related and consumer industries, and arming insurgents in Ukraine.”

     No breakthroughs. Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s foreign minister, “completely ruled out” the possibility that Russia would make concessions in upcoming talks with the West over Ukraine. Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, said on Sunday that the alliance was prepared for “a new armed conflict in Europe” should talks fail. Antony Blinken was similarly pessimistic, saying he did not expect “any breakthrough.”

— Turkey announces name change to Turkiye, citing need to represent 'culture' and 'values'. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the country would no longer be called Turkey, as the name was no longer the "best way" to represent the culture and values of the people.


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