USDA Requiring Farmers to Resubmit CRP Offers Due to Program Changes

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RFS changes pushed to aid refiners | Senate’s latest infrastructure proposal


In Today’s Digital Newspaper


Market Focus:
• U.S. equities shoot higher
• U.S. budget deficit record $2.1 trillion during first eight months of fiscal year
• Unemployment fraud of $400 billion?
• Chinese police arrested more than 1,100 people suspected of using cryptocurrencies

• Fresh wave of Covid-19 clusters in Asia creating bottlenecks in global supply chain
• Record-high steel prices aren’t convincing steelmakers to bring older mills back
• USDA still too high on Brazil’s corn crop estimate
• Ag demand update

Profit-taking moves in grains, soy as weekend nears
• Delaware lawmakers pressuring EPA to ease refiners’ blending obligations
• Tax on Russian wheat exports rises
• Warm weather bolsters the French soft wheat crop
• Brazil’s sugar and ethanol production surge after a slow start to season
• Higher beef export forecasts from USDA
• USDA hikes pork export forecast for 2021 and 2022

Policy Focus:
• Judge issues restraining order on USDA socially disadvantaged loan forgiveness
• Democratic senators propose loan forgiveness for small farmers
• USDA requiring farmers to resubmit CRP offers due to program changes

Biden Administration Personnel:
• Senate Ag panel approves Hipp nomination for USDA General Counsel

China Update:
WSJ: Biden’s China policy is emerging — and it looks a lot Trump’s
• China will tap state reserves to control surging commodity prices

Trade Policy:
• USMCA labor council to meet

Energy & Climate Change:
• Administration mulling relief for refiners from biofuel requirements: Reuters
• Europe preparing enviro legislation making world’s supply chains anxious

Livestock, Food & Beverage Industry Update:
• Congress starts responding to livestock pricing issue
• Strike likely averted at major Smithfield pork facility
• NCBA files petition with USDA to eliminate ‘Product of the USA’ labels
• McDonald’s said its systems in the U.S., South Kore and Taiwan were hit by a data breach: WSJ 
• No BLT because of BTS… McDonald’s franchises in Indonesia forced to close

Coronavirus Update:
• More people have died from Covid-19 already this year than in all of 2020
• FDA extends shelf life of J.&J.’s vaccine

Politics & Elections:
• Omar says she was not equating U.S., Israel with terrorist groups
• Brnovich enters Arizona Senate race

• House panel approves five-year, $547 billion surface transportation bill

Other Items of Note:
• Cotton AWP back above 72 cents
• U.S. lifts some Iran sanctions
• FBI urges companies not to pay ransoms to hackers




Equities today: U.S. futures are signaling a higher open. The Labor Department reported Thursday that consumer prices rose 5% in May from a year earlier, the highest annual inflation rate in nearly 13 years. Separate data showed jobless claims continued a recent decline to 376,000 last week, adding to signs of a healing labor market. Asian stocks closed mixed, Europe was up midday. The Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.6%. South Korea’s Kospi Index rose 0.8%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index added almost 0.4%.

     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow finished up 19.10 points, 0.06%, at 34,466.24. The Nasdaq gained 108.58 points, 0.78%, at 14,020.33. The S&P 500 rose 19.63 points, 0.47%, at 4,239.18, to a new closing record.


On tap today:

     • Group of Seven summit is under way in England. Leaders from the world’s seven largest advanced economies will discuss the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and other issues.
     • University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index is expected to rise to 84.4 during the opening weeks of June from 82.9 at the end of May. (10 a.m. ET)
     • Baker Hughes rig count is out at 1 p.m. ET.
     • CFTC Commitments of Traders report, at 3:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. jobless claims declined to a fresh pandemic low last week, a sign companies are hesitant to lay off employees as the U.S. economy recovers. Applications for unemployment benefits have steadily declined in recent weeks as rising vaccination rates and easing business restrictions spur economic activity.

     Pandemic low

U.S. budget deficit grew to a record $2.1 trillion during the first eight months of the fiscal year. The government’s spending surge has propelled a rapid recovery from the pandemic-induced economic slump while also helping send the federal debt—as a proportion of the economy — soaring to levels not seen since the end of World War II.

     Deficit surge

Unemployment fraud of $400 billion? A new report from Axios (link) suggests that unemployment fraud rose heavily during the pandemic, with criminals stealing as much as half of the benefits being doled out over the past year. Blake Hall, CEO of fraud-prevention service, said the U.S. lost $400 billion to fraudulent claims and as much as 50% of the total claims might have been stolen. At least 70% of pocketed money also left America, with a large chunk ending up with groups in China, Russia, and Nigeria, according to LexisNexis Risk Solutions' Haywood Talcove.

     Passing the buck… "Widespread fraud at the state level in pandemic unemployment insurance during the previous administration is one of the most serious challenges we inherited," said White House economist Gene Sperling. "President Biden has been clear that this type of activity from criminal syndicates is despicable and unacceptable. It is why we passed $2 billion for UI modernizations in the American Rescue Plan, instituted a Department of Justice Anti-Fraud Task Force and an all-of-government Identity Theft and Public Benefits Initiative."

Market perspectives:

     • Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is higher ahead of U.S. trading and economic updates, with the euro and British pound both weaker versus the US currency. The yield on 10-year Treasury notes closed at 1.458% on Thursday, the lowest level since March 2. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note has edged slightly higher after declining Thursday, trading around 1.45%. There is a mixed-to-mostly lower trend in global government bond yields. The cheapest dollars in years are spurring a rise in foreign investment in U.S. government bonds, which may weigh on Treasury rates, along with other factors, even as the economy strengthens. Gold and silver futures are mixed ahead of a reading on consumer attitudes. Gold is trading under $1,892 per troy ounce while silver is above $28.18 er troy ounce.

     • Crude oil futures are slightly higher ahead of U.S. trading, with U.S. crude trading around $70.35 per barrel and Brent around $72.60 per barrel. Crude oil was lower in Asian action, with U.S. crude down 25 cents at $70.04 per barrel and Brent down 26 cents at $72.26 per barrel.

     • Chinese police arrested more than 1,100 people suspected of using cryptocurrencies to launder ill-gotten funds.

     • Fresh wave of Covid-19 clusters in Asia is creating new bottlenecks in the global supply chain, threatening to push up prices and weigh on the post-pandemic recovery. An outbreak at one of the world’s busiest ports in southern China has led to global shipping delays, while infections at key points in the semiconductor supply chain in Taiwan and Malaysia are worsening a global chip shortage that has hindered production in the auto and technology industries. The new headaches add to inflation concerns, after China and the U.S. this week recorded their biggest annual jumps in factory-gate prices and consumer prices, respectively, in more than a decade, according to the Wall Street Journal (link).

        Container Rates

     • Record-high steel prices aren’t convincing steelmakers to put shuttered older mills back into operation. United States Steel and Cleveland-Cliffs are keeping about seven million tons of production capacity out of service, according to reports, saying the high cost of restarting the plants along with competitive threats make the mills a poor financial proposition. The idled capacity amounts to roughly a tenth of U.S. domestic consumption in 2019, and the closures are exacerbating a shortage of steel that is contributing to higher prices for cars, appliances and machinery.

     • USDA is still too high on Brazil’s corn crop estimate, reducing it a paltry 3.5 million tons on Thursday, to 98.5 million tons. Some veteran industry analysts, some in Brazil, are forecasting the crop at 88 to 90 million tons.

     • Ag demand: South Korea’s Major Feedmill Group bought around 65,000 MT of animal feed wheat that can be sourced from optional origins. Importers in the Philippines bought around 50,000 MT of animal feed wheat in a tender, reportedly from Australia. A buyer in Thailand is also thought to have bought an undisclosed amount of feed wheat from the Black Sea region. Tunisia is thought to have purchased around 50,000 MT of soft milling wheat in an international tender.

     • Weather update: A moderate risk of excessive rainfall is in place for parts of the Central Appalachians/Mid-Atlantic region through tonight... ...Hot temperatures are likely for the Southern High Plains, and heat begins building into parts of the West this weekend...

        Wx Today
        Wx Latest

Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include:

     • Profit-taking moves in grains, soy as weekend nears
     • Delaware lawmakers pressuring EPA to ease refiners’ blending obligations
     • Tax on Russian wheat exports rises
     • Warm weather bolsters the French soft wheat crop
     • Brazil’s sugar and ethanol production surge after a slow start to season
     • Higher beef export forecasts from USDA
     • USDA hikes pork export forecast for 2021 and 2022




— Wisconsin judge issues temporary restraining order on USDA socially disadvantaged loan forgiveness program. U.S. District Judge William Griesbach has issued a temporary restraining order halting payments under the loan forgiveness program for selected socially disadvantaged farmers that was included in the Covid-19 aid package approved in March. USDA in May announced they were moving forward with the debt forgiveness effort.

     The suit was brought by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) who challenged the program on behalf of 12 farmers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, Oregon, and Kentucky. Each plaintiff would be eligible for the federal loan forgiveness program, but for their race, WILL said. The suit was filed in April over the program, contending that the loan forgiveness to socially disadvantaged farmers includes explicit racial classifications — that farmers and ranchers have to be Black or African American, American Indian or Alaskan native, Hispanic or Latino, or Asian American or Pacific Islander to qualify for the debt forgiveness.

     “The Court granted a temporary restraining order, prohibiting USDA from forgiving any loans on the basis of race until the Court rules on the preliminary injunction,” WILL said in a release. “USDA’s response on the preliminary injunction motion is due on June 18, and the Court could rule on it the following week.”

     Meanwhile, some Democratic senators proposed loan forgiveness for small farmers. USDA would offer small farmers one-time loan forgiveness of up to $250,000 under legislation announced by five Democratic senators on Thursday. Lead sponsor Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said she would try to include debt relief in the upcoming infrastructure bill "to make certain our farmers are not left behind."

— Senators reach agreement on infrastructure proposal. The bipartisan group is pitching the plan, to be paid for without tax increases, to other lawmakers and the White House as they try to craft a compromise on the issue. Reports note the plan calls for $579 billion above expected future federal spending on infrastructure. The overall proposal would spend $974 billion over five years and $1.2 trillion if it continued over eight years.

     Key now is whether the latest plan can garner enough support from both sides of the political aisle. “We are discussing our approach with our respective colleagues, and the White House, and remain optimistic that this can lay the groundwork to garner broad support from both parties and meet America’s infrastructure needs,” said the group, which includes Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio and Mitt Romney of Utah, as well as Democrats Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jon Tester of Montana and Mark Warner of Virginia.

     A White House spokesman said President Biden appreciated the group’s plan. But, after Biden's staff was briefed on the senators' proposal, Deputy White House Press Secretary Andrew Bates said the compromise raises questions "around the details of both policy and pay-fors, among other matters."

     Bottom line: Details of the compromise offer are needed, especially relative to policy and pay-fors. Sen. Romney said the group was looking at indexing the gas tax to inflation. The federal gasoline tax hasn’t been increased since 1993. But the White House told the negotiators that raising revenue through indexing the gas tax for inflation, or through an electric vehicle mileage tax, would violate Biden’s red line of not raising taxes on those earning less than $400,000 a year and couldn’t be part of any package. The new proposal is also expected to be paid for in part by repurposing funds from previous Covid-aid packages.

— USDA requiring farmers to resubmit CRP offers due to program changes. USDA earlier this year announced it had reviewed the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and put in place higher rental payments, new incentives and more focus on climate change. Given those changes, USDA has now deleted all offers submitted under the continuous CRP signup (Signup 55) and the general CRP signup (Signup 56).

     USDA said there will be a one-time 10% “inflationary” adjustment for the life of the CRP contract which will be factored into Soil Rental Rates (SRRs).

     As for the Climate-Smart Practice Incentive effort, USDA said the incentives will be 10% for woody biomass, 5% for grass and legumes and 3% for grass cover types.

     USDA also said that State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) practices are being moved from the general CRP signup to the continuous signup.

     CRP offers can be resubmitted starting June 14 with a deadline of July 23 for offers under the general signup and August 6 for the continuous signup. Contracts are to start Oct. 1 for the general signup and for continuous signup offers for re-enrolled or a combination of re-enrolled and new acres. For offers on new acres only under the continuous signup, contracts start the first of the month after the month that the offer has been approved. Those submitting offers under CRP previously will be getting letters advising them of the new signup.



— Senate Ag panel approves Hipp nomination for USDA General Counsel. The Senate Agriculture Committee on June 10 approved the nomination of Janie Simms Hipp to serve as general counsel at USDA.



President Biden’s China policy is emerging — and it looks a lot like former President Donald Trump’s. Recent moves on Chinese apps and an investment blacklist build on Trump’s actions, though by different means. The White House sees its China policy as resting on three pillars: strengthening the U.S. economy and democracy, rebuilding ties with allies that frayed under Trump, and defining areas of confrontation and cooperation with China, the Wall Street Journal reports (link).

— China will tap state reserves to control surging commodity prices. China will offer copper, aluminum, zinc and other commodities directly to end-users in order to curb the rally in commodity prices, according to a Bloomberg report. China is also planning on expanding pork inventories and accelerating the construction of coal infrastructure in order to have greater control over both markets.



— USMCA labor council to meet. The first meeting of the Labor Council under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will take place virtually June 29. The meeting will include a government-to-government Labor Council meeting and a virtual public session on implementation of the USMCA labor chapter. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the Department of Labor (DOL) are seeking “suggestions for topics to be discussed during the Labor Council meeting and questions from the public in advance of the public session,” according to a notice in the Federal Register.




— Administration mulling relief for refiners from biofuel requirements: Reuters. The Biden administration is considering ways to provide relief to U.S. oil refiners from biofuel mandates with pressure to take action coming from Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), who represent Biden’s home state. The two have met twice with EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Reuters reported, to discuss relief for refiners. That relief included a nationwide general waiver exempting refiners from some obligations under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), lowering blending requirements capping Renewable Identification Number (RIN) prices, and issuing an emergency declaration, Reuters said, quoting two sources.

     EPA confirmed meetings with the lawmakers but did not indicate the content of those discussions.

     The news service also said that Seth Harris, deputy assistant to the president on labor and economic issues, has met with union representatives over what the report said were “grievances about biofuel mandates.” We reported on this topic on Wednesday.

     In the Delaware situation, the report said it referenced the state’s lone refinery in Delaware City with a capacity of around 180,000 barrels per day.

     Bottom line: Other states have sought relief from the biofuel mandates. The development comes as the Biden administration has been taking actions that have limited the use of small refinery exemptions (SREs) under the RFS that expanded under the Trump administration. EPA has not granted prior broader waiver requests that have been filed over the years under the RFS.   

— Europe is preparing environmental legislation that is making the world’s supply chains anxious. The plan would jolt the rules of international trade by taxing imported goods based on the greenhouse gases emitted to make them. The WSJ reports (link) the proposal would open up a new front in the fight against climate change by setting the world’s first limits on carbon in traded goods. The bloc says it wants to stop polluting industries from shifting production outside Europe and then exporting back into the EU. Experts say it adds urgency to manufacturers’ efforts to pull carbon out of their supply chains.

     The proposal is also looming as a maritime regulatory panel is meeting to consider new measures aimed at cutting shipping’s carbon emissions. International Maritime Organization chief Kitack Lim opened the meeting saying the business runs “the risk of having unilateral or multilateral initiatives" without action.



— Congress starts responding to livestock pricing issue. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is introducing a bill that would amend the Packers and Stockyards Act to establish a USDA Office of the Special Investigator for Competition Matters. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are sponsoring the measure. Meanwhile, the Senate Ag Committee is slated to announce a hearing soon on cattle marketing pricing.

— Strike likely averted at major Smithfield pork facility. The Sioux Falls chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers reached a tentative agreement with Smithfield Foods on a four-year contract for union employees. Members will vote on the proposed contract next week. Workers had threatened to strike, and the union voted to authorize one if contract negotiations fell through. The Sioux Falls facility produces nearly 5% of U.S. pork.

— NCBA files petition with USDA to eliminate ‘Product of the USA’ labels. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) filed a petition with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to eliminate the use of “Product of the USA” and other broad U.S. origin labeling claims for beef products that are potentially misleading to consumers.

     The group said they view the current “Product of the USA” as not providing a service to consumers as it is not based on any verification program, food safety standard and it does not deliver value back to the cattle producer. NCBA believes that current “Product of the USA” labels are “a disservice to American consumers and cattle producers alike,” the group said.

     The group pointed out that imported products can be labeled as a “Product of the USA” if they have been minimally processed or repackaged in a USDA-inspected facility. “The Product of the USA label does not meet the expectations of today’s consumers and disincentivizes the use of voluntary, source-verified claims that allow cattle and beef producers to more effectively distinguish their product in the marketplace,” said NCBA President Jerry Bohn. “There is a growing desire among consumers to know more about the origin of the food they purchase, and it is critical that producers are empowered with opportunities to market their high-quality beef in a way that allows them to differentiate the source of their product from competitors and potentially increase profitability.”

     NCBA said they support voluntary efforts that allow cattlemen to get more value for their product via origin labels, marketing initiatives that are voluntary and source-verified. NCBA is advocating for a more appropriate generic label, such as “Processed in the USA." The group said they want to work with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to educate stakeholders in the industry to develop voluntary, verifiable origin marketing claims that deliver benefits to producers but do not violate U.S. trade commitments.

— McDonald’s said its systems in the U.S., South Kore and Taiwan were hit by a data breach, the latest example of hackers infiltrating a high-profile global company, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

— No BLT because of BTS… McDonald’s franchises in Indonesia were forced to close across the country as South Korea’s boyband BTS caused food shortages and a public health scare as the band’s partnership with the fast-food chain on a new chicken nugget meal deal led to a huge surge in demand. With shoppers restricted due to Covid-19 rules, delivery drivers have swamped outlets, with some reporting a two-hour wait for orders. The overwhelming popularity of the deal, coupled with the stores’ potential for spreading Covid-19, has led to the temporary closure of 32 outlets in Jakarta alone.




Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are at 174,893,444 with 3,774,138 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 33,426,435 with 598,748 deaths. The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center said that there have been 305,687,618 doses administered, 141,583,253 have been fully vaccinated, or 43.1% of the total U.S. population.

— More people have died from Covid-19 already this year than in all of 2020, according to official counts and analysis by the WSJ, highlighting how the global pandemic is far from over. While Western nations celebrate low caseloads and declining deaths thanks to mass vaccinations, the intensified pandemic in parts of Asia and Latin America propelled global deaths higher.

— FDA extends the shelf life of J.&J.’s vaccine. The regulator gave the company six more weeks to use up its supply, before millions of doses were set to possibly go to waste. State officials said the federal decision to pause its use in April on concerns about rare blood clots led to sagging demand for the single-dose vaccine.


— Omar says she was not equating U.S., Israel with terrorist groups. The Associated Press (link) reports Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) “tried edging away Thursday from a bitter fight with Jewish Democratic lawmakers who’d accused her of likening the U.S. and Israel to Hamas and Afghanistan’s Taliban.” Omar said in a statement that her comments were “in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries” and were “not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel.” Omar “seemed to dial back a more confrontational tone she’d taken earlier” in a series of tweets in which she “said her critics’ public rebuke of her was ‘shameful,’ accused them of ‘islamophobic tropes’ and said she was merely seeking justice ‘for all victims of crimes against humanity.’” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her entire leadership team on Thursday sought to quell the growing controversy over Omar’s remarks. A joint statement came after Omar responded to a request from a dozen Jewish House Democrats to clarify’what she meant in her original remarks.

— Brnovich enters Arizona Senate race. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) on Thursday launched a challenge to Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) and vowed to restore what he described as “eroding trust in government.” While Retired Maj. Gen. Mick McGuire and solar energy entrepreneur Jim Lamon have already announced their candidacies, Brnovich enters the race with the benefit of already having won statewide office twice, most recently in 2018 when he defeated Democrat January Contreras by a 4-point margin. Politico said Brnovich “faces a challenge in winning over the Republican base, after former President Donald Trump has criticized him several weeks over the ongoing and controversial audit of the 2020 election in the state’s largest county.”



— House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved its five-year, $547 billion surface transportation bill. Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation released its bipartisan $78 billion rail and safety measure. It has scheduled a markup of that bill for June 16. The House bill (HR 3684) included $96 billion for rail, including $32 billion for Amtrak and $57 billion in competitive grants for rail. By contrast, the Senate Commerce committee’s five-year overall funding authorization level breaks down into three buckets: $36 billion for rail, $27.8 billion for multimodal grants and $13 billion for safety programs, including $6 billion for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s highway safety programs and $4.6 billion for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s commercial vehicle programs. The Senate bill also includes $25 billion for Amtrak, which the senators described as “the most significant bipartisan investment in passenger rail in history.”  

     The Commerce panel bill comes after the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on May 26 unanimously advanced its $312.4 billion highway bill (S 1931). The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over transit, has yet to schedule a markup of its portion of the bill.

     The current surface transportation authorization, a one-year extension of the 2015 law, expires at the end of September.

     Timeline. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said Wednesday he is determined to move the House Democrats’ plan through regular order. The House will take up the bill the week of June 28, said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland. But if that bill, which the committee approved by a 38-26 vote, passes the House as expected, DeFazio said he is determined that the bill go through a conference committee with the Senate. 


— Cotton AWP back above 72 cents. The Adjusted World Price for cotton moved up to 72.36 cents per pound, effective today (June 11), up from 69.78 cents per pound the prior week and back above 70 cents per pound for the first time since the week of May 14. Meanwhile, USDA said that Special Import Quota #8 will be established June 17 for 48,008 bales of Upland Cotton, applying to cotton purchased not later than Sept. 14 and entered into the U.S. not later than Dec. 13.

— U.S. lifts some Iran sanctions. U.S. officials say the action, which comes amid stalled nuclear negotiations, signals Washington’s commitment to easing a broader pressure campaign if Tehran changes its behavior. The U.S. lifted sanctions on three former Iranian government officials and several companies involved in oil and gas shipping, days before talks resume in Vienna over reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. U.S. officials said the removal from the sanctions list was a routine maneuver now that the entities no longer did business with others still blacklisted. “These actions demonstrate our commitment to lifting sanctions in the event of a change in status or behavior by sanctioned persons,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday.

— FBI urges companies not to pay ransoms to hackers. Christopher Wray, the FBI’s director, said at a congressional hearing that companies infected with ransomware should quickly contact law enforcement to find other ways to respond. Victims paid nearly $350 million in ransoms last year, emboldening hackers to take on more high-profile targets this year, like the meat producer JBS and the Colonial Pipeline operator.



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