Some FSA Offices Errantly Telling Farmers WHIP+ Is on Hold

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Biden: ‘With regards to food shortages, it's going to be real’


                                                In Today’s Digital Newspaper

The European Union and U.S. reached a deal to boost the supply of liquefied natural gas to Europe this year and set up a joint task force to cut reliance on Russian fossil fuels. The U.S. and EU said they would work to ship an additional 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas to the EU this year, using supplies from the U.S. and elsewhere. "An increase of 15 billion cubic meters from 2021 levels should be achievable, particularly if we continue to see the strong flows that we have seen so far this year," said commodities strategists at Dutch bank ING. An increase of 15 billion cubic meters won't come close to replacing Europe's Russian gas imports, which totaled roughly 155 billion cubic meters in 2021. “15 billion cubic meters of LNG is equal to about one sixth of Germany’s annual gas demand," said Alex Froley, LNG analyst at Independent Commodity Intelligence Services. (LNG is not shipped through pipelines. Instead, the gas is cooled to a liquid and loaded onto ships. Sending an additional 15 billion cubic meters to Europe would mean an extra 150 shiploads crossing the Atlantic.)

Canada’s resources minister said the country would increase oil and gas exports by 300,000 barrels a day to help countries cut imports from Russia.

Biden said he supports removing Russia from the G20, a group of leading countries that work together on economic and other issues and wants to see Ukraine sit in on G20 meetings. The next one is in October in Indonesia.

President Biden heads to Poland to talk weapons, refugees and humanitarian aid. He will visit a Polish town less than 50 miles from the Ukrainian border on Friday to see firsthand the scale of the emerging refugee crisis. More than 3.6 million have fled Ukraine since the war started.

"With regards to food shortages, it's going to be real," President Biden declared after meeting with NATO allies in Brussels, adding that Russia and Ukraine are the breadbasket of Europe. "The price of these sanctions is not just imposed on Russia, it is imposed on an awful lot of countries as well, including European countries and the U.S." Biden also related that the G7 had discussions on ways to "increase and disseminate more rapidly" grain from America and Canada, while European nations were urged to end limitations on sending food abroad.

"This is a really big deal, because when that volume of calories comes out of the food chain, it triggers other things. Not only hunger, but unrest," AGCO CEO Eric Hansotia told CNBC. "The last time we had this kind of disruption, it was one of the major triggers for the Arab Spring, and it's because a lot of this food goes to areas like North Africa, the Middle East, or places where the cost of food is a large portion of the income of that population."

Leaders of the House Agriculture Committee urged the Biden administration to use money from a USDA hunger reserve, the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, to supplement U.S. food aid programs. “Supply shortages or increased prices will disproportionately impact developing and middle-income countries that rely heavily on imports of food,” they said in a letter. There was more than $260 million in the trust last year.

USDA reported a daily sale of 132,000 MT of soybeans for delivery to China during the 2021-22 marketing year.

On the farm policy report, Pro Farmer has received several inquiries from farmers asking if WHIP+ for eligible 2020 and 2021 disasters is on hold, saying they heard that at some FSA offices. That is NOT accurate and we have more on this under the Policy section.

Regarding livestock pricing, two major groups will soon introduce a bill to address cash cattle market participation. 

A federal jury in California found Republican Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska guilty of charges that he lied to federal agents about an illegal $30,000 contribution to his campaign.

A well-respected poll has some bad news for President Biden and his Democrats.



Equities today: Global stocks markets were mixed overnight. The U.S. Dow opened around 80 points higher. The S&P 500 added 0.1%. The Nasdaq was marginally lower. Asian equities were mixed as China continues to grapple with a record number of Covid cases. The Nikkei gained 39.45 points, 0.14%, at 28,149.84. The Hang Seng Index shed 541.07 points, 2.47%, at 21,404.88. European equities have shifted to gains, with the Stoxx 600 up 0.3% and regional markets flat to seeing gains of 0.6%.

     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow gained 349.44 points, 1%, to 34,707.94. The S&P 500 rose 63.92 points, 1.4%, to 4,520.16. The Nasdaq climbed 269.23 points, 1.9%, to 14,191.84.

     Stocks 032422

Agriculture markets yesterday:

  • Corn: May corn dropped 9 1/2 cents to $7.48 1/4 and December corn fell 4 3/4 cents to $6.67 1/2.
  • Soy complex: May soybeans fell 18 cents to $17.00 3/4. May soymeal rose 80 cents to $485.90 per ton and May soyoil fell 168 points to 74.29 cents per pound.
  • Wheat: May SRW wheat fell 20 cents to $10.85 3/4. May HRW wheat fell 16 1/2 cents to $10.95. May spring wheat fell 6 1/2 cents to $10.82 3/4.
  • Cotton: May cotton rose 87 points to 130.90 cents per pound, the highest settlement for a nearby contract in nearly 11 years.
  • Cattle: June live cattle rose 97.5 cents to $136.95. May feeder cattle rose 70 cents to $166.50, a three-week closing high.
  • Hogs: June futures fell 90 cents to $122.075.

Ag markets today: Grain and soybean futures mildly extended Thursday’s losses in relatively quiet overnight trade. As of 7:30 a.m. ET, corn was trading 1 to 3 cents lower, soybeans were 2 to 6 cents lower, winter wheat was 4 to 9 cents lower and spring wheat was 2 to 4 cents lower. Front-month U.S. crude oil futures were around $2 lower and the U.S. dollar index was down around 225 points.

Technical viewpoints from Jim Wyckoff:

     March 25 corn

     March 25 soybeans

     March 25 Crude

     March 25 bonds

     March 25 gold

On tap today:

     • University of Michigan's consumer sentiment survey for March, due at 10 a.m. ET, is expected to hold at 59.7, unchanged from a preliminary reading.
     • U.S. pending-home sales, due at 10 a.m. ET, are expected to rise 1% from the prior month.
     • Baker Hughes rig count is out at 1 p.m. ET.
     • Federal Reserve speakers: New York's John Williams on monetary policy and financial stability at 10 a.m. ET, Richmond's Thomas Barkin on inflation at 11:30 a.m. ET, and gov. Christopher Waller on central bank digital currencies at 12 p.m. ET.
     • CFTC Commitments of Traders report, 3:30 p.m. ET.

Home buyers and owners are facing the highest mortgage interest rates in three years. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose to 4.42% this week, up more than a quarter percentage point from a week ago and more than a full point from the start of the year.

     Home rates

Inflation watch: The parent company of Olive Garden said the spread of the Omicron variant in January further disrupted supply chains and is driving costs higher. Darden Restaurants, which also operates LongHorn Steakhouse, said that warehouse staffing issues, driver shortages, higher meat prices and back-to-back winter storms pushed costs up. As a result, the company raised its inflation expectations for the fiscal year to 6% from 5.5%, and expects commodity inflation of 9%, with hourly wage inflation approaching 9%.

     Food inflation

Inflation rates in metro U.S.

     Metro inflation rates

Food stockpiles might look comfortable at the global level, but… In reality, only a handful of governments have provisions to cope with grain shortages caused by the war in Ukraine, the WSJ reports (link). USDA estimates that China holds half of the world’s wheat reserves and 70% of its corn. India has almost one-tenth of global wheat stockpiles. The U.S. has 6% and 12% of global wheat and corn reserves, respectively. Combined, countries in North Africa that are especially reliant on grain imports from the Black Sea region have a roughly 5% share of global wheat reserves. Countries with plentiful reserves can shield citizens from food price inflation by dipping into their existing grain silos.

     Food recap

Are we witnessing the end of globalization?

     BlackRock CEO Larry Fink: "The Russian invasion of Ukraine has put an end to the globalization we have experienced over the last three decades. We had already seen connectivity between nations, companies and even people strained by two years of the pandemic. It has left many communities and people feeling isolated and looking inward. I believe this has exacerbated the polarization and extremist behavior we are seeing across society today."

     Economist Adam Posen, President of the Peterson Institute: "It now seems likely that the world economy really will split into blocs, each attempting to insulate itself from and then diminish the influence of the other. With less economic interconnectedness, the world will see lower trend growth and less innovation. Domestic incumbent companies and industries will have more power to demand special protections. Altogether, the real returns on investments made by households and corporations will go down."

     Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic: "The tragic war in eastern Europe will further momentum toward reorienting production and supply networks away from pure cost minimization and toward resilience and risk tolerance. Supply chain disruptions [also] caused by the coronavirus pandemic prompted business leaders to start diversifying supplier locations and firms, increasing inventories, and bringing production closer to final markets to maximize reliability. Think of it as a shift to just-in-case inventories from just-in-time."

     Oaktree Capital's Howard Marks: "The availability of ever-cheaper goods like cars, appliances and furniture produced abroad was a major contributor to the benign U.S. inflation picture in this quarter-century. On the other hand, offshoring also led to the elimination of millions of U.S. jobs, the hollowing out of the manufacturing regions and middle class of our country, and most likely the weakening of private-sector labor unions. The recognition of these negative aspects of globalization has now caused the pendulum to swing back toward local sourcing. Rather than the cheapest, easiest and greenest sources, there'll probably be more of a premium put on the safest and surest."

Market perspectives:

     • Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is lower amid strength in the euro against the greenback. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note has fallen to trade around 2.37% with a mostly negative tone in global government bond yields. Gold and silver futures are down with gold around $1,950 per troy ounce and silver near $25.83 per troy ounce.

     • Crude oil futures are lower in volatile trade ahead of the U.S. open. U.S. crude is trading around $109.90 per barrel and Brent around $113.40 per barrel. Futures fluctuated between losses and gains in Asian action, with U.S. crude trading around $110.55 per barrel and Brent near $114.10 per barrel.

     • Prices for diesel shot up by more than $1.10 a gallon in the two weeks immediately following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The average national price of $5.25 a gallon the week of March 14 was the highest in U.S. Energy Information Administration records dating to 1994, and the jump of nearly 75 cents a gallon earlier in the month was the steepest one-week gain ever. Even a pullback to $5.13 a gallon for the week of March 21 left the national average price up more than $1.50 since the start of the year. The price surge is leaving small trucking operators struggling to catch up with the escalating costs. Independent operators and smaller fleets are most exposed to diesel prices that have hit record highs because they have less leverage with shippers and are having a harder time matching fuel surcharges to the rising rates at the pump.

        Diesel prices
     • Have farmers learned to do the input hedge? For years, this writer has told farmers rather than complain about the price of John Deere stock, do not complain, but buy their stock. That has been a winning strategy (and hedge if you will) for many years, based on the history of Deere stock. The same can be said for the surge in fertilizer prices. Compared with the nearly 6% YTD loss of the S&P 500, shares of the top three U.S.-listed fertilizer producers are having a great year. Mosaic is up a staggering 70%, CF Industries is ahead by 50%, while Nutrien is up 40% — and the first quarter is not even finished yet.

     • Canada, the world’s top canola grower and exporter, is crushing the smallest amount of the oilseed in more than four years, in another sign that vegetable oil prices may keep rising. In February, the processing of oilseeds in the northern nation dropped 21% from a year ago to 629,153 tons, according to Statistics Canada data released Thursday. That’s the smallest monthly crush since 2017. The decline comes as the price of canola soared to an all-time high after drought slashed the nation’s harvest by over a third.

     • USDA’s Prospective Plantings report is next Thursday. Based on a Bloomberg report, the average guesstimate for corn acreage is 92 mill acres, soybeans 88.9 million, and wheat 47.9 million. At that level, corn would be down 1.4 million acres and soybeans up 1.7 million acres.

        Acreage table

     • U.S. barge shipments of grain rose 22% last week: USDA. Shipments along the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio and Arkansas rivers increased in the week ending March 19 from the previous week, according to USDA’s weekly grain transportation report. Barge shipments of corn rose 19% from the previous week; soybean shipments were up 23% w/w.

     • NGFA urges STB to address inadequate rail service. The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) urged the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to address “significant rail service disruptions” negatively impacting the nation’s supply chains.  In a March 24 letter (link) to STB Chairman Marty Oberman, NGFA President and CEO Mike Seyfert said rail customers are not being adequately served by the Union Pacific (UP), Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and Norfolk Southern (NS) railroads. “NGFA’s preference is to seek commercial solutions between individual rail customers and their rail carriers,” Seyfert said. “However, the service issues that our member companies are raising indicate that the problem is a network problem affecting entire regions of the country.”

     At rail origins, NGFA members are unable to purchase grain from farmers because they are waiting for loaded trains to be moved out by the railroad. Conversely, at rail destinations, NGFA members have run out of grain and have been forced to shut down flour and feed mills and cut off sales to customers while awaiting grain deliveries. In some cases, NGFA members have been unable to deliver feed to livestock producers that may not have alternative feed sources. “In an effort to continue service for customers during the rail service disruptions, NGFA members have done as much as possible to keep animals fed, but the ability to stretch resources is exhausted and growing more tenuous with each additional day of service delays,” the letter noted.

     • NWS weather: Light snow over parts of the Midwest into the Central Appalachians... Mixed precipitation over parts of Northern New England... There is a Critical Risk of fire weather over parts of the Northern/Central Plains.

        NWS 032522
        Wx 032522

Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include:

     • Light followthrough selling overnight
     • U.S., EU announce energy security task force
     • Russian fertilizer exports plunge, shooting prices higher (details below)
     • Biden: Expect ‘real’ food shortages due to Russia/Ukraine war (details below)
     • Cattle on Feed Report expect to show record March 1 feedlot inventories
     • Cash hog fundamentals firm



Summary: President Joe Biden and Western allies pledged new sanctions and humanitarian aid on Thursday in response to Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine. Biden as expected also announced the U.S. would welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and provide an additional $1 billion in food, medicine, water and other supplies. Biden is to visit Rzeszów, Poland, today, where energy and refugee issues are expected to be at the center of talks with President Andrzej Duda. He’ll get a briefing on humanitarian aid efforts to assist fleeing refugees and he’ll meet with U.S. troops from the 82nd Airborne Division who have been deployed in recent weeks to bolster NATO’s eastern flank. Meanwhile, Ukraine updated its extensive wish list of additional military assistance from the U.S. government, saying it needs 1,000 missiles per day. Less than two weeks into Russia's invasion, the US and other NATO members had sent about 17,000 anti-tank missiles and 2,000 anti-aircraft missiles into Ukraine. Since then, NATO countries, including the US, have kept the pipeline of weapons and equipment flowing. The Russian mercenary company Wagner Group is being used to try to assassinate Ukraine’s president, the U.K. said

  • Energy security. Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced formation of a joint task force to bolster energy security for Ukraine and the EU for next winter and the following one. The primary goals of the task force, the U.S. and EU said in a joint statement, would be to diversify LNG supplies in alignment with climate objectives and reduce demand for natural gas. The U.S. said Friday it will work with international partners to provide at least 15 billion cubic meters more of liquified natural gas to Europe this year, seeking to end the bloc’s dependence on Russian energy exports following the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. These additional volumes of LNG are expected to increase going forward, the White House said in a statement. The EU said would work toward the goal of ensuring, until at least 2030, demand for approximately 50 billion cubic meters per year of extra U.S. LNG. This is “consistent with our shared net-zero goals,” it added.

LNG exports

  • Russia’s central bank chief tried to quit over the Ukraine war. Russian Central Bank Gov. Elvira Nabiullina tried to resign after the invasion of Ukraine, people familiar with the matter said, the Wall Street Journal reported. Her effort was rejected by Russian President Vladimir Putin who instead nominated her for a third term. News of Nabiullina’s desire to resign was reported earlier by Bloomberg. A spokeswoman for the central bank said Thursday: “Bloomberg’s information does not correspond to reality.”
  • Senate plans to vote Thursday on legislation to strip Russia of its trade status with the U.S. were scuttled by a dispute over the language of a human rights provision. That means the bill (HR 7108), and a separate measure to ban Russian oil imports (HR 6968), won’t get a vote until next week, a setback for Democrats who wanted to pass both while Biden was meeting with European allies. Action on both bills was delayed after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) raised objections to language that would extend and expand the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act
  • Biden stepped back from a campaign promise that nuclear weapons should be used only to deter or respond to nuclear attacks. Biden’s new decision, made earlier this week under pressure from allies, holds that the “fundamental role” of the U.S. nuclear arsenal will be to deter nuclear attacks. That carefully worded formulation, however, leaves open the possibility that nuclear weapons could also be used in “extreme circumstances” to deter enemy conventional, biological, chemical and possibly cyberattacks, said the officials. Link to more on this via the WSJ.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West of waging “hybrid war, a total war” through sanctions against his country. European leaders want to “destroy, strangle the Russian economy and Russia as a whole,” Lavrov told a meeting of the Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund in Moscow on Friday.
  • European Union officials suspect that China may be ready to supply semiconductors and other tech hardware to Russia as part of an effort to soften the impact of sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine.
  • Four Russian nationals who worked for their government committed cyberattacks against hundreds of companies in the energy sector worldwide, including the operator of a nuclear power facility in Kansas, the Justice Department announced Thursday as part of a sweeping pair of indictments aimed at curbing state-sponsored hacks. A separate indictment alleges three employees of the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, undertook a years-long effort to target and compromise computer systems across the energy sector.

— Market impacts:

  • White House: Russian stock market open is fake. The White House Thursday released a statement from Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Daleep Singh on Russia’s plan to partially re-open its stock market. Singh said, “What we’re seeing is a charade: A Potemkin market opening. After keeping its markets closed for nearly a month, Russia announced it will only allow 15% of listed shares to trade, foreigners are prohibited from selling their shares, and short selling in general has been banned. Meanwhile, Russia has made clear they are going to pour government resources into artificially propping up the shares of companies that are trading. This is not a real market and not a sustainable model — which only underscores Russia’s isolation from the global financial system. The United States and our allies and partners will continue taking action to further isolate Russia from the international economic order as long it continues its brutal war against Ukraine.”

Russian stocks fell 2.5% a day after the Moscow stock exchange partially reopened following a month-long closure, reversing some of Wednesday’s jump.

  • Russia is considering accepting bitcoin as payment for its oil and natural gas exports as Moscow finds itself more and more isolated under Western sanctions over its Ukraine aggression. That's according to the chair of Russia's legislative committee on energy said in translated remarks Thursday.
  • European oilseed crushers, vegetable-oil refiners and bottlers are replacing sunflower oil with the rapeseed variety to make up for the loss of Ukrainian oil-crop exports, industry group FEDIOL said in a statement. Processors are also using palm, soybean and rapeseed as replacements in frying oil. More rapeseed intended for biodiesel is now being allocated toward food uses. “This confirms the critical role of crop-based biofuels that are functioning as buffer for the food market to cover the shortfall of commodities in exceptional circumstances,” said FEDIOL. The group advocates against government intervention in biodiesel markets to prevent worsening the energy market situation. Meanwhile, FEDIOL is seeking looser food labeling rules to enable manufacturers to quickly adapt their vegetable oil mixes.
  • Ukraine, the world’s biggest sunflower producer, may only plant half a normal crop as farmers grapple with the fallout of the Russian invasion. Ukrainian farmers are expected to sow about 3.5 to 4 million hectares (8.6 to 9.9 million acres) of the oilseed this spring, down from 6.8 million last year, Kyiv-based analyst UkrAgroConsult said. It framed its planting estimates as “optimistic,” based on good weather and a rapid end to the war. Another researcher, APK-Inform, last week predicted plantings to fall to a 13-year low.
  • Over 350 vessels with some 1,000 seafarers have not moved since Russia invaded Ukraine and at least 128 foreign-flagged ships are stuck inside Ukraine ports or anchorages, according to Lloyd’s List.
  • Fertilizer exports from Russia have tumbled sharply and prices for the agricultural material are skyrocketing, the Wall Street Journal reports (link), and the impact is reaching farmers from South America to Asia. Fertilizer prices were already high before the war, and the commodity is about three to four times costlier now than in 2020. That has far-reaching consequences for farmer incomes, agricultural yields and food prices. One West African corn and rice farmer says he’s sought to replace missing Russian shipments but was told order books are full until the end of the year. The shortage will roll across global agriculture markets. Farmers are forecasting reduced yields, and smaller harvests will hit developing countries hard, forcing their cash-strapped governments to import large quantities of staples such as wheat at high prices.

Fertile ground


— Despite conjecture to the contrary, WHIP+ is coming. Pro Farmer has received several calls and/or emails noting they were at a FSA committee meeting earlier this week and was told that the state office was saying WHIP+ was on hold and unlikely to happen. That is NOT accurate. While USDA, again, is late on getting WHIP+ details out, Congress nearly a half year ago provided $10 billion for 2020 and 2021 disasters… including $750 million for livestock producers.

     Comments: It is a commentary when producers are going into their local FSA offices to sign up for WHIP+ or 2020 and 2021 only to be turned away by the FSA workers who either know nothing about WHIP+ being extended or because they are under the impression it won’t actually happen. Congress required USDA to extend the program back in September and here we are almost in April and no news on roll out, no news on details, nothing. President Biden said yesterday he is concerned that a food shortage will impact the U.S. If this is true, then perhaps it is time for USDA to get off its hobby horses and begin to take steps to help those who actually put food on the table.


— Hog farmers in China, the world’s biggest pork producer, are seeing their profits increasingly squeezed by record expenses for animal feed ingredients, such as soybean meal and corn, and weakening pig prices. Futures for soybean meal, a vital component of animal feed, have surged about 35% this year on the Dalian Commodity Exchange to an all-time high, while corn is up almost 20% since mid-September and hit the highest ever this month. Live hog futures have fallen to the lowest since the contract listed in early 2021.

     China Pig costs

— Surging cases pose test for China’s ‘zero Covid’ strategy. A surge in Covid-19 cases across China is testing Beijing’s zero-tolerance approach to containing the virus, the New York Times reported. Shanghai, China’s largest city, is seeing more than 1,500 cases a day and residents across the country are increasingly restless over strict lockdowns and strain on hospitals. So far, government officials have given no indications they are considering a shift in strategy, instead warning that a loosening of lockdowns and other restrictions would push cases higher and further strain healthcare resources.



— U.S. renewable diesel supply to surpass biodiesel this year: EIA. Renewable diesel supply will exceed biodiesel in the near term as tax and credit incentives drive production of the fuel with greater compatibility with existing distribution infrastructure and engines, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) said. Renewable diesel supply will rise to 130,000 b/d this year and 145,000 b/d in 2050. Higher renewable production will displace biodiesel production as they compete for the same feedstocks of fats, oil and greases. Both biomass-based diesel fuels will account for less than 8% of U.S. diesel production in 2050. Although renewable diesel has no blend restrictions, it is relatively more expensive than biodiesel to produce. By contrast, biodiesel needs to be blended with another diesel fuel to be consumed. Both fuels attract interest and investment because they represent a potential pathway for reducing carbon emissions in the transportation sector and provide an alternative fuel source to petroleum-based diesel fuel.

     Renewable diesel

— Biden’s plan to supplant Russian natural gas now going to Europe with U.S. supplies is drawing applause from the fossil-fuel industry but risks undermining his campaign to combat climate change. Administration officials insist that emergency moves announced Friday won’t derail long-term climate goals. Yet it’s causing friction with environmentalists who see it as a betrayal. White House National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy acknowledged Thursday that Europe’s current energy needs had taken precedence over climate goals in the short term.

— California’s plan to bring “green” fuels to the market may end up rewarding livestock farmers for making manure rather than meat or milk and oil refineries for producing renewable diesel from vegetable oils needed to make food. Link for details via the Los Angeles Times.



— Biden: Expect ‘real’ food shortages due to Russia/Ukraine war. President Joe Biden said that the world will experience food shortages because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and production increases were a subject of discussions at a Group of Seven meeting on Thursday. “It’s going to be real,” Biden said at a news conference in Brussels. “The price of the sanctions is not just imposed upon Russia. It’s imposed upon an awful lot of countries as well, including European countries and our country as well.”

     Ukraine and Russia are both major producers of wheat, in particular, and Kyiv’s government has already warned that the country’s planting and harvest have been severely disrupted by the war.

     Biden confers with Trudeau. Biden said that at the G7 summit in Brussels earlier that he and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau both discussed increasing their nation’s agricultural production to try to make up for shortfalls. Biden said he’s also urging all nations including those in Europe to drop trade restrictions that could restrict exports of food.

     Leaders of the House Agriculture Committee urged the Biden administration to use money from a USDA hunger reserve, the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, to supplement U.S. food aid programs. “Supply shortages or increased prices will disproportionately impact developing and middle-income countries that rely heavily on imports of food,” they said in a letter. There was more than $260 million in the trust last year.

     Link to the joint statement by Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

     Link to a White House fact sheet on additional aid to Ukraine.

— Hog diseases result in Mexico buying up U.S. pork at an unprecedented rapid pace. Hog diseases are shrinking herds in Mexico, so they’re turning to U.S. pork. The U.S. is shipping record amounts of pork to Mexico at a torrid pace, with the country the top buyer of American pork in the latest week, U.S. government data on Thursday showed. Outbreaks of deadly porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, known as PEDv, and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, or PRRS, have been killing pigs in Mexico. Analysts note that farmers are probably shrinking herds because animals are getting too expensive to feed. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent grain prices soaring.

     Impacts: Lean hog futures in Chicago neared an eight-year high amid tight animal supplies. USDA will release its quarterly hog and pigs inventory report March 30.    
    Mexico pork pull

— Two major groups will soon introduce bill to address cash cattle market participation. The National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the American Farm Bureau Federation, industry sources advise, have adopted draft legislation to increase market transparency, strengthen enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act, and incentivize the expansion of regional beef packing capacity. The groups will hold a virtual meeting next Monday to provide details of the bill, its content and their strategy for its rollout.

— GAO finds DOD lagging in efforts to improve transparency in food program’s decisions. A new report (link) from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released Thursday is calling on the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to improve its food program, after finding the agency has not finalized efforts to address lack of transparency in its food ingredient decisions. The DOD has been working since 2017 to develop a new process for making food ingredient decisions, based on its menu standards for providing nutritious food to servicemembers. In response to concerns from food industry representatives that the agency was not transparent in ingredient-related decisions, such as whether to prohibit certain ingredients, the DOD drafted a plan for a process that allows it to include the food industry and other federal agencies in such decisions. But the GAO in its new report found the DOD has neither finished coordinating with all stakeholders, nor formalized the process — two key changes that according to the report would allow the agency to establish a more transparent and reliable method for making food ingredient decisions.

— Fake meat and other plant-based foods hit record. The U.S. market value for plant-based "meat", "milk" and other foods has hit a record $7.4 billion. The Plant Based Foods Association, the Good Food Institute, and Spins, a wellness focused data company, said plant-based food sales increased 6.2% in 2021, with the biggest growth in plant-based "milks". Buyers of plant-based "meats" and "dairy" make up 62% of households, or 79 million, MarketWatch reported (link). Animal-product shortages, pandemic supply chain disruptions, and formulations that look and taste more like meat are winning new customers.

     Consumers bought $2.6 billion worth of plant-based "milk", 16% of total retail milk sales. Almond milk leads, followed by oat milk. Oatly Group beat earnings expectations earlier in March but is still working to expand its manufacturing capacity and supply chain to meet higher demand.

     Beyond Meat has been tackling food service demand challenges, executive departures, severe weather, and more competition, including from Impossible Foods. Beyond Meat and PepsiCo jointly launched Beyond Meat Jerky, its first shelf-stable product for sale in supermarkets and stores.

     McDonald’s franchises that rolled out McPlant burgers found sales to be “underwhelming,” according to BTIG analysts, saying the burgers cost too much, took longer to cook, and looked too “perfectly round.” Reactions to Yum! Brands’ KFC Beyond Fried Chicken were mixed.



Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are at 477,445,135 with 6,110,521 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 79,888,605 with 975,862 deaths. The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center said that there have been 557,084,678 doses administered, 217,271,157 have been fully vaccinated, or 66.19% of the U.S. population.


Biden says he would be “very fortunate” to face Trump in 2024. During a press conference in Brussels Thursday, President Biden said he would be “very fortunate” to face off against former President Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential election. Breaking with the longstanding norm that presidents don’t talk about domestic politics while abroad, Biden said, “In the next election, I’d be very fortunate if I had that same man running against me.” Biden said on Thursday that the next election is far off and that he is focused on the upcoming midterms this November.

— Former President Donald Trump is suing Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, among many others, alleging they conspired before the 2016 election to tarnish his image and campaign.

— Democrats are set to face restive midterm voters in America’s inflation hot spot. Among the largest U.S. metropolitan areas, Phoenix tops the inflation list, its consumer-price index in February up 10.9% from a year earlier, compared with the national average of 7.9%. Democrats looking to defend their narrow Washington majority don’t have much margin: In the 2020 presidential race, only Georgia was tighter than Arizona, and the southern half of Scottsdale’s McCormick Ranch neighborhood, part of metro Phoenix, sits inside a newly mapped congressional district that is also nearly evenly divided. A Wall Street Journal report (link) notes that “interviews with residents and local business owners suggest any patience for higher inflation could reach a breaking point by November.”

     Arizona inflation

— Biden approval to 34%, historic low faith in economy. Ann Selzer, who conducts the Iowa Poll, working with Iowa’s Grinnell College, has found nationally that Biden’s approval rating has sunk to 34% and that most respondents believe the economy is also heading south. “The latest edition of the Grinnell College National Poll (Grinnell-Selzer) shows that nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe the economy will get worse in the next 12 months — the highest number recorded in the history of the poll. And the pessimism about the future of the economy may be weighing down President Joe Biden’s approval ratings across the board,” said the poll analysis. Overall, Biden’s approval rating is 34%, with 52% disapproving and 14% who don’t know.

— House Republicans are road testing a new campaign slogan: Can you afford a Democratic government? The question has been deployed as a catchall phrase at the House Republican retreat this week for blaming Democrats for inflation and high gas prices, a spike in drug overdoses Republican argue is due to lenient border policies and the increasing power of Big Tech.



Schumer expects Jackson’s SCOTUS confirmation before Easter break. Thursday was the final day of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings. Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-N.Y.) indicated Thursday that the Senate is on track to confirm Jackson before its expected break for Easter on April 8.  Democrats expect Jackson to receive full support from their 50-member caucus — enough to get her confirmed. Meanwhile, Republican senators said that they don’t plan to boycott or significantly delay the confirmation of the Supreme Court nominee. Her confirmation hearings featured tense exchanges over her sentencing record and recognition of the historic nature of the proceedings.

— Fortenberry convicted for lying to FBI about illegal donation. The Associated Press reports (link) Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) “was convicted Thursday on charges that he lied to federal authorities about an illegal $30,000 contribution to his campaign from a foreign billionaire at a 2016 Los Angeles fundraiser.” Fortenberry was charged after denying to the FBI that he was aware he had received illicit funds from Gilbert Chagoury, a Nigerian billionaire of Lebanese descent. After the verdict, Fortenberry “said the process had been unfair and he would appeal immediately,” but “would not say if he would suspend his campaign for re-election.”


Biden administration has finalized a federal regulation that will help settle asylum claims at a faster pace. The new rule will help alleviate the immigration court backlog by giving asylum officers more authority to hear and decide asylum claims — cases that are usually assigned to immigration judges -- when migrants present at the U.S. southern border. The change comes amid growing concerns about a potential migrant surge at the U.S./Mexico border. There are 1.7 million cases pending in immigration court.

— The European Union agreed on landmark new antitrust regulations that could dramatically reshape how U.S. technology giants conduct business in the bloc. A key aim of the reforms is to prevent Big Tech from abusing their market position to harm smaller rivals. A finalized version of the legislation still needs to be officially adopted.


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After the Bell | March 31, 2023

After the Bell | March 31, 2023

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