Growing calls for more ag sector aid due to Covid-19, including food supply chain
In Today’s Updates
* Trump, Pompeo, U.S. Congress take on China, with push back accelerating
* Beijing to introduce national security law for Hong Kong
* 2.4 mil. Americans file for jobless benefits; 38.6 mil. since Covid-19 impact
* Paulson: U.S. dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency could be tested
* Bullard doesn't see coronavirus second wave as a major threat
* U.S. seeking ways to halt Iran’s oil sales to Venezuela
* Fewer wind turbines and solar plants built globally in 2020
* World Bank names chief economist
* CFAP dairy program
* CFAP and pay caps
* Texas A&M Agricultural and Food Policy Center issues report on CFAP
* FSA training starts today on CFAP
* EPA weighing help for small refineries
* Farm-state senators push feedstock reimbursement for biofuel producers
* Oil-state senators continue to push EPA on RFS waivers
* EPA’s Wheeler: No decisions yet on RFS waiver requests
* Update on China purchases of U.S. farm products
* China to auction 4 million tonnes of corn from reserves
* Reuters: U.S. ethanol cargo to arrive in China Friday
* U.S. food supply update
* Biden urges more meat worker protections
* Bipartisan legislation introduced to support state food supply chain
* Dashboard of agricultural risk
* Update on reopening America... and around the world
* Gap rushing more robots to its warehouses to solve disruption caused by coronavirus
* Coronavirus update
* Supreme Court grants Trump request to block disclosure of Mueller materials
* Pelosi activates 45-day authorization for proxy voting
* Infrastructure bill coming soon in House
* Carbon capture tax credit rules coming.
* WTO to accept candidates to replace Director-General Roberto Azevêdo on June 8
Equities today: Global stocks slipped, with investors cautious over the state of the global economy and tensions between the U.S. and China rising. U.S. stocks opened slightly lower, but then turned higher.
U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow rose 369.04 points, 1.52%, at 24,575.90. The Nasdaq moved up 190.67 points, 2.08%, at 9,375.78. The S&P 500 added 48.67 points, 1.67%, at 2,971.61.
U.S. workers filed 2.4 million jobless claims last week, down 249,000 — 9% — from the previous week. In the last nine weeks, jobless claims have totaled 38.6 million. That's roughly one out of every four people who were working in February, before the pandemic hit. It marked the seventh consecutive weekly decline in initial jobless claims and was in line with analyst expectations of 2.4 million applications for the week ending May 16. Analysts note that self-employed receiving coronavirus-related benefits aren’t counted in the wave of filings.
Update on China purchases of U.S. farm products from USDA Weekly Export Sales report: For the week ended May 14 for 2019-20, China purchased no U.S. wheat, bought 3,562 tonnes of corn, net purchases of 131,474 tonnes of sorghum, 737,397 tonnes of soybeans, 20,000 tonnes of soyoil (known via daily sales), 153,600 running bales of upland cotton, 197 tonnes of beef and net reductions of 12,561 tonnes of pork — purchased 4,587 tonnes but cancelled 17,148 tonnes.
For 2020-21, China bought 65,000 tonnes of sorghum, 462,000 tonnes of soybeans and 79,200 running bales of upland cotton
The U.S. dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency could be tested by the pandemic and China’s efforts to boost the renminbi, Hank Paulson, the former Treasury secretary and Goldman Sachs CEO, writes in Foreign Affairs (link).
Bullard doesn't see coronavirus second wave as a major threat. St. Louis Federal Reserve leader James Bullard broke from some of his central bank colleagues and said he isn’t that worried that the economy will be again felled again by a later resurgence of the coronavirus,” the Wall Street Journal reports (link). When it comes to managing risks around the pandemic, “so much has been said about this already, that I think as soon as something would pop up we’d be all over that as a society, pounce on it at that point and keep it under control,” Bullard said.
Crude oil prices remain higher, with U.S. crude trading above $34 per barrel and Brent around $36.50 per barrel. The continued rally in part came after an Energy Information Agency report showed that U.S. crude oil inventories fell for a second straight week.
The U.S. is seeking ways to halt Iran’s oil sales to Venezuela. The Trump administration is weighing new sanctions and other legal steps as it seeks to block Iranian oil exports to Venezuela, according to U.S. officials.
There will be fewer wind turbines and solar plants built globally in 2020 compared to the year before, the first annual decline in new renewable energy projects in 20 years, the International Energy Agency projected Wednesday. Supply chain disruptions, lockdown measures, and financial challenges as a result of the coronavirus will cause net additions of renewable electricity capacity to decline by 13% compared with 2019.
Renewables are still faring better than competitors. Overall renewable power capacity will grow by 6% globally this year, and new projects will rebound in 2021. Solar and wind are expected to provide 86% of global capacity additions this year, but their growth will be 18% and 12% lower than last year, respectively. “Renewable power sources have so far showed impressive resilience despite the disruptions and changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” the IEA said.
IEA Director Fatih Birol said governments should invest in renewables as part of stimulus packages, with a focus on buildings and transport, to help combat climate change and create jobs. “Continuing cost declines will not be enough to protect renewables from a range of uncertainties that are being exacerbated by Covid-19,” Birol said.
World Bank names chief economist. The World Bank has a new chief economist. Carmen Reinhart, a Harvard professor whose work has focused on financial crises and globalization, steps into the role as the international lender tries to cushion developing countries from the latest meltdown. Reinhart has advocated a temporary debt standstill for developing nations. She made her name studying financial crises, most notably with her colleague Ken Rogoff. Their 2009 book, This Time Is Different, analyzed 800 years of panics, defaults and other catastrophes.
— A look at dairy and the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).
In brief: Dairy producers are eligible to receive $4.71/cwt on milk produced in the first quarter of 2020. For the second quarter, they are eligible to receive $1.47/cwt on 101.4% of milk produced in the first quarter of 2020. Effectively, this means that dairy producers are eligible to receive $6.20/cwt on all milk produced in the first quarter of 2020 (= $4.71/cwt + [1.014 x $1.47/cwt]).
For example, assume a dairy with 500 cows produces 20.25 cwt/cow/month. Over the first quarter, the dairy would produce 30,375 cwt of milk. In this example, the dairy would be eligible for $188,325 (= $6.20/cwt x 30,375 cwt).
In a report on the CFAP by the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University (link), analysts note the following:
“While the assistance will be welcome news, the payment limits will be a significant factor on many dairy operations. Over half of the dairy production in the U.S. is on farms with more than 1,000 cows. A 1,000-cow dairy (with 60,750 cwt in production during the first quarter of 2020) that is subjected to a single payment limit would see their effective support reduced from $6.20/cwt to $4.12/cwt (=$250,000 / 60,750) — a reduction of 34%. A 2,500-cow dairy would see their effective support reduced from $6.20/cwt to $1.65/cwt (= $250,000 / 151,875) — a reduction of 73%.”
— Texas A&M report on CFAP says payment cap remains largely unchanged from initial decision. Nothing that USDA was under “an enormous amount of pressure to increase the payment limits” via the CFAP, a report by the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University (link) said “they remain largely unchanged from the initial announcement. USDA initially indicated that payments would be limited to $125,000 per commodity and $250,000 per person or legal entity. It appears USDA simply eliminated the per commodity limit, leaving the overall limit of $250,000 unchanged. For many producers, the payment limit will be a critical factor. For example, we estimate that a dairy with just over 600 cows will hit the payment limit. For context, nearly two-thirds of the nation’s dairy cows are on operations with 600 or more cows. The same logic applies to larger crop and livestock farms as well.”
CFAP payments are limited to $250,000 per person or legal entity. The rule is silent on spousal doubling, but the report said, “sources indicate that USDA intends to include it.”
CFAP includes an entirely new feature that applies to certain participants that are corporations, limited liability companies, and limited partnerships. These corporate
entities are eligible for up to $750,000 (if at least three shareholders meet certain labor or management contribution requirements).
Other than a general partnership and joint venture, a person or legal entity is ineligible for CFAP if their AGI is greater than $900,000 unless 75% or more of the AGI is derived from farming, ranching, or forestry-related activities. For general partnerships and joint ventures, the provision is applied to each member of the entity.
— CFAP concerns noted in Texas A&M report. While CFAP provides a significant amount of aid — $16 billion in total — there are several losses not covered. As Congress continues to debate the next steps, following are a few ongoing items of concern noted in a Texas A&M report released yesterday:
• 2020 Row Crops: “With respect to row crops, CFAP only provides assistance for crops held in inventory as of January 15, 2020. In other words, it provides no assistance for the 2020 crop year.”
• Livestock: “While livestock producers in general and cattle producers in particular are the biggest recipients of assistance from CFAP, the estimated support for cattle is still significantly less than half of the damages estimated by industry. Some of the disparities will undoubtedly lead to calls for additional aid for livestock. Further, while animals in inventory from April 16 to May 14, 2020, will be eligible for a CFAP payment, there likely will be additional calls to provide additional assistance to producers who had to depopulate animals in response to Covid-19. Finally, farmers who grow chickens for integrated poultry companies do not own the chickens but are paid based on pounds produced. To cut production, companies reduce the number of birds delivered to producers, change pounds per bird, or increase out times. As a result, significant losses will accrue to contract growers.”
• Others in the Supply Chain: CFAP provides no direct benefits to anyone in the supply chain post farm-gate. For example, it’s been widely reported that ethanol producers are under tremendous strain. In the case of cotton, the merchandising supply chain has incurred significant carrying charges, logistical costs, and market disruptions associated with delayed and cancelled sales and shipments and increased stocks.”
— FSA training starts today on CFAP. National training for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) for state and county Farm Service Agency (FSA) staff starts today with a session this morning and this afternoon for blocs of U.S. states. The agency is publishing the final rule for CFAP in today’s Federal Register. The handbook for CFAP —key for county offices in terms of details on how to run the program — could come yet this week but is expected to be deployed by Tuesday. Also, a payment calculator for farmers to use should be available starting Tuesday.
— EPA weighing help for small refineries. The EPA is considering ways to help small refineries required to mix biofuels into gasoline as the coronavirus crushes fuel demand, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told senators yesterday. Wheeler said he had personally spoken with several small refineries, and “we are working with them to see what we can do to help them during this time.” Wheeler described a “double hit” to small refineries from a federal court ruling undercutting EPA’s ability to exempt them from biofuel-blending mandates and a “particular hardship” from the “decrease in vehicle miles traveled by Americans... We are looking to see what kind of relief we can provide everyone,” Wheeler said. “The ethanol industry is also hurting as well”
EPA will consider prior-year applications from refineries whose previous waiver applications were found by a court to have been wrongly denied, Wheeler said.
— Feedstock reimbursement for biofuel producers. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced legislation to support biofuel producers hit by the pandemic. This legislation would require USDA to reimburse biofuel producers for feedstock purchases from Jan. 1, 2020 through March 31, 2020 through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC).
— Oil-state senators continue to push EPA on RFS waivers. More than a dozen Republican senators, including Senate Environment Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), say the EPA has a clear case to waive or significantly reduce the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) biofuels mandate. In a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Tuesday, the senators say the cost of complying with the RFS has tripled since the beginning of this year. Republican attorneys general recently urged the EPA to grant petitions from six governors, including one Democrat, to waive the 2020 RFS requirements amid the pandemic. “A failure to grant, in part or in whole, the governors’ petitions would render this provision of the Clean Air Act utterly meaningless,” the senators wrote. “It would be a gross example of a federal agency nullifying an act of Congress.”
But corn-state senators led by Iowa Republican Joni Ernst and Minnesota Democrat Tina Smith have written President Trump noting the conditions to waive the RFS haven’t been met. The EPA must be able to demonstrate there is “severe economic harm” from the RFS itself to waive the requirements, a feat the corn state senators say it wouldn’t be able to do given the ongoing, widespread economic damage from the pandemic.
— EPA’s Wheeler says no decisions yet on RFS waiver requests. EPA has not yet made any final decisions on the requests from several states for a waiver of Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirements this year, according to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Wheeler said. He acknowledged the ethanol industry is facing difficult times, noting he has “talked personally with a number of small refiners all over the country, including I think every small refinery in Wyoming, and we are working with them to see what we can do to help them during this time.” He also noted the fewer miles driven was also an issue and pledged “we have extraordinary circumstances this year and we are looking to see what relieve we can provide everyone.”
As for request by states for waivers of RFS requirements, Wheeler said he was “familiar” with the requests, but when asked if a decision on the requests had been made, he replied that “No, we have not yet.”
— Update on China:
- President Donald Trump escalated his rhetoric against China, suggesting that the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, is behind a “disinformation and propaganda attack on the United States and Europe.” “It all comes from the top,” Trump said in a series of tweets on Wednesday night. “They could have easily stopped the plague, but they didn’t!” Donald Trump said, referring to Covid-19. Meanwhile, the White House also issued a broad critique of China’s economic and military policies.
- U.S. Senate passed a bill that could bar some Chinese companies from listing on American exchanges. The legislation, which needs also to be passed by the House of Representatives, calls for a company to be barred from listing securities on U.S. exchanges if it has not complied with the U.S. accounting board’s audits for three consecutive years. It would also require listed companies to disclose whether they are owned or controlled by a foreign government. A companion version of the Senate bill had not yet been introduced in the House. Chinese companies such as Alibaba and Baidu have together raised tens of billions of dollars through listings on U.S. exchanges.
- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo drew China’s ire by publicly congratulating the newly elected president of Taiwan, which China claims as its territory. It was the first time that a U.S. secretary of State had publicly congratulated a Taiwanese president. China’s ministry of foreign affairs expressed its “strong indignation and condemnation” in a statement, vowing to take “necessary measures” in response to the U.S.' “wrong moves.”
China’s response to the Covid-19 situation was termed “paltry” by Pompeo Wednesday. "President Xi [Jinping] claimed this week that China is acting with openness, transparency responsibility. I wish it were so," Pompeo said at a news conference. As for China’s commitment to pledge $2 billion to the World Health Organization (WHO), Pompeo said he wanted to see that commitment realized. “China’s contributions to fighting the pandemic are paltry,” he stated, compared to the cost that they have imposed on the world.” In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a briefing in Beijing the remarks were “extremely irresponsible.” Zhao also took issue with the U.S. response, asking why the U.S. did not take “any control and prevention measures between January and March?” He called on Pompeo to explain why “to the world.”
- Beijing to introduce national security law for Hong Kong. Beijing will introduce a draft resolution to allow the National People's Congress to chart legislation for a new national security law tailor-made for Hong Kong that will proscribe secessionist and subversive activity, foreign interference and terrorism in the city, sources have told the South China Morning Post.
- A group of Senators is urging the Trump administration to ensure that China is not taking advantage of the economic turmoil to acquire distressed companies in strategic sectors.
- U.S. and Chinese consumers are turning on each other’s goods as the pandemic fuels an increase in economic nationalism, the South China Morning Post reports (link).
- China to auction 4 million tonnes of corn from reserves. China on May 28 will sell 4 million tonnes of corn from its northeastern corn region, according to the National Grain Trade Center. Expectations are the sales will continue weekly until the end of October when new-crop supplies arrive. Reuters reported that corn processors in the country had not secured as much supply as prior years as they expected demand to be reduced. COFCO Futures said that corn inventories at processors were around 4 million tonnes vs 5.5 million tonnes at the same time last year. China sold about 21.91 million tonnes from reserves last year.
- Reuters: U.S. ethanol cargo to arrive in China Friday. A cargo of about 9,000 tonnes of U.S. ethanol is expected to arrive in China Friday, Reuters reported, with the cargo arriving on an oil tanker which loaded the cargo at Oman’s Sohar port in April, according to Refinitiv Eikon data. The report indicated the ethanol originated in the U.S. and was purchased by a Chinese buyer from a Saudi seller. However, the item noted it was unclear why the cargo was exported from Oman and it was not clear if China’s import duty on U.S. ethanol would be applied. Refinitiv data indicated an 8,000 tonne cargo from Houston was offloaded in Saudi Arabia March 21.
— Update on next aid.
- House plans vote on small business aid. The House will vote next week on a bipartisan proposal to make a popular small business loan program more flexible and extend the time limit for using the aid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday. Moving ahead on the plan with Republican support would allow Congress to get around a current impasse on whether to approve a new round of coronavirus relief.
- Senate move coming on SBA's PPP. The Senate will consider legislation that would double, to 16 weeks, the amount of time businesses have to spend the SBA's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Backers say the proposal has bipartisan support. Republicans are pushing to pass a stand-alone bill this week.
- Republican senators are publicly and privately urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to move forward with another coronavirus recovery package, according to CNN (link). Some of the senators are also pushing for an “infrastructure package to pump money into roads, bridges and transportation projects,” an idea that has gotten an “icy reception” from McConnell so far but has received support from President Donald Trump in the past. “I want to do infrastructure,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told CNN, adding: “This is the time to go big. ... It really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give a facelift to the country.”
- Bipartisan legislation introduced to support state food supply chain. A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced the Farming Support to States Act Wednesday. It would provide $1 billion in funding to help states respond to issues in the food and agriculture supply chain caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The funding could be used for activities including protecting agricultural workers, supporting local and regional food systems and bolstering food processing and distribution. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) introduced the bill in the Senate. Besides Baldwin, the bill has the backing of Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine). The House version of the legislation was introduced by Reps. Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.).
- Fed meeting recap notes central bank discussions on doing more for Covid-19 response. Ways to provide additional monetary policy actions to help the U.S. economy were a part of the discussion during the April 28-29 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, according to the minutes from the session released Wednesday.
Fed officials agreed to begin clarifying their intentions on future monetary policy decisions at coming meetings. There was discussion of guidance that the Fed would use achieving specific economic outcomes as a component of future decisions, including messages like the Fed would not raise rates until inflation reached 2% or to say that the Fed would hold rates low until some date in the future.
The Covid-19 economic impacts were prevalent in the discussions during the meeting, with some officials expressing concern about the situation, including whether temporary layoffs would become permanent, whether some economic models were still viable and whether small businesses would be able to handle a long-lasting situation. As for banks, Fed officials expressed concern that rising business debt levels could build stress on banks and they called on them to limit payouts to shareholders. While several Fed officials have addressed the topic of negative interest rates since the meeting, the matter was not discussed, according to the recap.
— U.S. food supply/industry update:
- Biden urges more meat worker protections. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Wednesday said he thinks much more needs to be done to ensure that meat processing employees are safe at work during the pandemic. “Absolutely, positively, no worker’s life is worth my getting a cheaper hamburger. No worker’s life is worth that," Biden said a town hall discussion focused on food insecurity. Biden said the Trump administration’s responses to Covid-19 was a leadership issue. “We don't have a food shortage problem, we have a leadership problem,” Biden said during a webinar event with Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.). “From the start, [President Donald Trump] has failed to support food producers,” he argued, saying among other things that the administration was “slow to order the government to buy food from farmers and send that food to food banks” as the crisis took hold. He said a Biden administration would have stepped up purchases of milk and other commodities where surpluses have arisen due to the restaurant shutdowns cutting food service demand.
Biden also criticized the Trump administration for its trade policy, saying it has made the U.S. a “bad partner.”
- Spot shortages of meat products should let up in the coming weeks as wholesale prices fall and supplies tick up just as it would normally be peak grilling season. After a slew of plant closures, beef and pork processing plants are now operating at over 80% capacity, Bloomberg reports (link).
- Kansas state officials relaxed guidelines for meatpacking plants to allow those potentially exposed to Covid-19 to remain on the job, the Kansas City Star reports (link).
- Groups call for protection of meatpacking workers. More than 100 food, environmental, and labor groups sent a letter to the Department of Justice, OSHA, and members of Congress urging them to guarantee protective gear and hazard pay to meatpacking workers.
- Dashboard of agricultural risk. Microsoft and Purdue University created an online "food and agricultural vulnerability index" to quantify the potential risk to the supply of food and agricultural products from Covid-19 illnesses among workers. Link for details.
- McDonald’s employees in major U.S. cities went on strike over wanting more protections from Covid-19. Labor organizers say there have been scores of McDonald's workers who have tested positive for the virus in at least 17 states. Link to details from USA Today.
- USDA announced that 36 states and the District of Columbia have approval to allow food stamp recipients to buy groceries online, although states are in varying stages of offering the option. The approvals cover 90% of food stamp households.
- Germany to tighten slaughterhouse rules. Rising cases of Covid-19 among workers have prompted Germany to tight rules at slaughter facilities, including banning subcontracting of work through agencies, according to Labor Minister Hubertus Heil. Under the new rules, meatpackers in in plants have to be employed by the company instead of using subcontracting agencies. Heil said prior attempts to improve conditions had not worked, but the government will keep pushing. Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner said companies must take responsibility for their workers. "There are conditions in the meat industry that are not acceptable," she said.
— Update on reopening America... and around the world:
- New United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby says a full recovery in travel likely won't come until there's a vaccine to prevent Covid-19. "I think we'll have a gradual recovery but the full recovery doesn't take place until we get a vaccine, " he said in an interview on CNBC on his first day on the job. Still, Kirby says it's possible United will be able to avoid furloughs or layoffs by working with unions on voluntary measures, like reductions in hours.
- New York to allow small religious gatherings, as coronavirus cases fall. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said faith services with 10 or fewer people will be permitted, so long as participants stay apart and wear masks, as coronavirus cases in New York fall.
- Gap is rushing more robots to its warehouses to solve disruption caused by coronavirus. The apparel retailer is speeding up its rollout of warehouse robots for assembling online orders to limit human contact during the coronavirus pandemic.
— Coronavirus update:
- Summary: Global Covid-19 cases have now topped 5 million, with the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) putting the total at 5,011,467 with deaths at 328,368. In the U.S., cases total 1,551,853 with 93,439 deaths.
- There's a new coronavirus outbreak in China. Dozens of new cases around a northeastern city have prompted authorities to lock down the area and replace some officials.
- If most U.S. states had begun imposing lockdowns and social distancing measures one week earlier than it did — on March 8, instead of March 15 — about 36,000 fewer people would have died from the coronavirus, a Columbia University study found (link). If the U.S. had taken such measures two weeks earlier than it did, on March 1, about 54,000 fewer Americans would have lost their lives, the researchers said. As of this morning, upwards of 93,000 people have died from coronavirus in the U.S., meaning lockdowns one week earlier would have avoided about one-third of the nation's total deaths from the pandemic.
- U.S. health agency director warns of virus flare-up this year. The rapid spread of coronavirus in the southern hemisphere suggests it is likely to flare up again in the U.S. this autumn and winter, raising the possibility of a second round of lockdowns this year, the head of the nation’s public health body told the Financial Times. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warned the U.S. would have to increase its disease-tracking capabilities rapidly in the next few months to avoid another public health crisis as seasonal flu coincides with a second wave of Covid-19. “We’ve seen evidence that the concerns it would go south in the southern hemisphere like flu [are coming true], and you’re seeing what’s happening in Brazil now,” Dr. Redfield said. “And then when the southern hemisphere is over I suspect it will reground itself in the north.” He added: “If we have a [flu] season like we had the year I became CDC director  — almost 80,000 people died — it’s going to put a lot of stress independently by itself on our health system . . . and then you add on coronavirus and you can see the stress on the health system.”
Meanwhile, most Americans remain concerned about a second wave of coronavirus infections as all 50 states begin to reopen their economies, according to a pair of polls released Wednesday. “83% of Americans are at least somewhat concerned that lifting restrictions in their area will lead to additional infections, with 54% saying they are very or extremely concerned that such steps will result in a spike of Covid-19 cases,” an Associated Press-NORC poll found (link).
- World Health Organization projects shortfall. The organization said it is $1.3 billion short of what it expects it will need this year to fight the coronavirus pandemic, as the U.S. threatens to cut funding.
OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE
- Supreme Court grants Trump request to block disclosure of Mueller materials. The Supreme Court blocked Congress from receiving grand-jury materials from Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, likely extending review past November’s election. Meanwhile a Republican-led committee ordered the subpoena of Joe Biden’s son Hunter, in an unrelated matter involving a Ukrainian energy firm.
- Pelosi activates 45-day authorization for proxy voting. For at least the next 45 days, House members who do not feel comfortable traveling to Washington due to the coronavirus pandemic can stay home and still vote on the House floor and participate in committee meetings.
- Infrastructure bill coming soon. An infrastructure bill “will be coming soon,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters yesterday. It will include funds for post office modernization, she said.
- Carbon capture tax credit rules coming. Further rules on implementing a carbon capture tax credit should come soon, President Donald Trump’s nominee for deputy energy secretary said yesterday. Mark Menezes said he has been working with the Internal Revenue Service and administration officials to expedite the regulations around the 45Q tax credit, designed to reduce carbon emissions by encouraging companies to capture carbon dioxide. “This has been a top priority of our department to get these rules to enact 45Q,” the Energy undersecretary told members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources during his confirmation hearing. He said he believed the rules are “forthcoming.”
- WTO will begin accepting nominations for candidates to replace Director-General Roberto Azevêdo on June 8 and will allow countries to submit names until July 8, the Geneva-based body announced on Wednesday. Azevêdo has said he will leave his position at the end of August.