USDA Takes Prove-It Mode Re: China Corn Import Forecast | China Also Cautious

Posted on 09/14/2020 7:50 AM

Trump tweets on E15, not RFS waivers | Where is new Covid aid package?

 


In Today’s Updates


 

Market Focus:
* Sally set to become hurricane
* U.S. deficit officially hits $3 trillion amid pandemic
* Fed holds next meeting Tuesday and Wed.: how and when to provide further stimulus
* New geopolitics of energy

* Rising real-estate prices rippling through the market
* Certified acreage data reveals more than 10 million acres of prevent plant
* Amazon.com plans to hire 100,000 employees in the U.S. and Canada
* China and Japan ban imports of German pork
* Oil demand may never be the same
* Transportation topics of note

 

Policy Focus:
* Trump promised to allow E15 gasoline distributed using existing filling station pumps
* Trump mulls cash aid for refineries denied biofuel waivers
* Brazil resumes zero-tariff ethanol imports from U.S.
* Another week but same hurdles remain re: new Covid aid/stimulus package

 

U.S./China update:
* China envoy Branstad to leave Beijing for campaign trail
* Chinese leader cites superiority of socialist system in fighting virus
* China offers pig-backed loans for its producers
* USDA and China take cautious approach regarding China's corn import forecasts


U.S. food & beverage industry update:
* JBS fined over Covid protections for workers


Update on re-opening America... and around the world:
* Wonder Woman movie postponed


Coronavirus update:
* U.S. added 47,643 new coronavirus cases Friday, largest daily increase in a week
* WHO reports highest daily infection increase
* Midwest experiences record surge in cases
* AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trials resume in the U.K., though not the U.S. yet
* Pfizer CEO says vaccine could be administered in U.S. before end of year

 

Politics & Elections:
* A look at control of Senate following 2020 elections
* Trump's electoral strategy... Minnesota remains a key to victory... and now Nevada
* Trump also looking to boost vote of Black Americans, especially men
* Trump held his first indoor rally in nearly three months on Sunday in Nevada
* Sen. Sanders ringing alarms about Joe Biden’s presidential campaign
* Biden proposing ambitious federal spending program
* Rep. Tom Graves announced plans to resign from Congress next month
* Jon Tester wants Democrats to fight for Rural America
* Michael Bloomberg to spend $100 million in Florida to aid Biden
* Trump will visit Minnesota and Wisconsin on Friday
* Biden to visit Fla. on Tuesday and Minnesota on Friday


Other Items of Note:
* White House brokers second Mideast diplomatic breakthrough
* Yoshihide Suga on brink of becoming Japan’s next prime minister

 


MARKET FOCUS


 

Equities today: Global stock markets were mostly up overnight. U.S. stock indexes are signaling solidly higher openings.

 

     U.S. equities Friday: The Dow rose 131.06 points, 0.48%, at 27,665.64. The Nasdaq fell 66.05 points, 0.60%, at 10,853.55. The S&P 500 was up 1.78 points, 0.05%, at 3,340.97.

 

     For the week, the Nasdaq fell 4.1% for its biggest weekly decline since March. The S&P 500 had its worst one-week performance since June, falling 2.5%. The Dow fell 1.7% for the week.

 

     The S&P 500 and tech-laden Nasdaq have now lost 4.8% and 7.2%, respectively, over the past two weeks, their worst such stretches since March. The Dow has fallen 3.4% over that time frame, its biggest such decline since June.

 

On tap today:

 

     • Export Inspections, 10 a.m. ET.
     • Crop Progress, 4 p.m. ET.
     • China releases industrial output, fixed-asset investment and retail sales data for August at 10 p.m. ET.

 

U.S. deficit officially hits $3 trillion amid pandemic. The federal budget deficit surpassed $3 trillion through August, according to official Treasury data released Friday, and is expected to hit $3.3 trillion when the fiscal year wraps up at the end of this month. The figures, which confirm earlier estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), show that the deficit is on track to be the largest in the country’s financial history. The $3.3 trillion figure is well over double the largest previous record of $1.4 trillion in 2009 amid the Great Recession. Revenues, in the meantime, remained largely unchanged but could only account for about half of the spending, leaving the Treasury to borrow the rest.

 

The Fed holds its next meeting Tuesday and Wednesday, with the question of how and when to provide further stimulus high on the agenda. Fed officials are also set to release new economic and interest-rate projections that run through 2023. No major Fed policy changes are expected. The watch will be on their economic expectations and forecasts that will be released after the meeting concludes. Plus, comments from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell in his post-meeting presser remain important as they typically provide additional perspective on what the Fed’s views are on the direction for the U.S. economy. Another push for Congress to approve additional fiscal stimulus will likely be made as Fed officials continue to take the stance that there is only so much that monetary policy can do to help lift the U.S. economy in the wake of the pandemic.

 

     The Federal Reserve and Bank of Japan announce their latest policy decisions on Wednesday, followed by the Bank of England on Thursday. The Japanese central bank is expected to be the most upbeat, while the Fed is attempting to support a fragile recovery without additional fiscal stimulus, and the Bank of England is wrestling with the Brexit tensions roiling the British economy.

 

     Fed rates

 

The new geopolitics of energy. A transition away from oil, coal and natural gas will have an enormous global economic impact, but it will also bring about major changes in the map of global power. China is poised to be the big winner, Russia and Middle East oil exporters the big losers. The U.S. is likely to fall somewhere in between, Daniel Yergin writes.

 

     Energy outlook

 

Rising real-estate prices are rippling through the market. The median U.S. home-sale price increased 13% from a year earlier during the four-week period ending Sept. 6 to the highest level on record, according to a report from real estate broker Redfin. "The sudden rise of remote work has allowed homebuyers who are priced out of one neighborhood to expand their search to more affordable areas. In turn, they are pushing up home prices in those relatively affordable areas, causing more people to look to even more affordable areas, and so on. Price growth may slow in 2021, but even if it does, high prices are going to continue to make affordability a concern for buyers,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather.

 

     Real estate prices

 

Market perspectives:

 

     • Certified acreage data reveals more than 10 million acres of prevent plant. USDA’s Farm Service Agency’s latest release of certified acreage data as of Sept. 1 showed some fairly substantial jumps from acreage levels reported last month. The report showed farmers have reported planted acres (including failed acres) at the following levels:

 

        Corn: 87.560 million acres (6.078 million acres of prevent plant)

        Soybeans: 81.455 million acres (1.451 million acres of prevent plant)

        Wheat: 45.947 million (1.268 million acres of prevent plant)

        Cotton, upland: 11.630 million (400,334 acres of prevent plant)

        Sorghum: 5.237 million (295,942 acres of prevent plant)

        Barley: 2.467 million (30,959 acres of prevent plant)

        Oats: 2.424 million (10,456 acres of prevent plant)

 

        Total certified acres now stand at 241.718 million, a 15.691-million-acre jump from the historically low figure reported in August. These numbers are moving targets, with the August numbers skewed to the downside by Covid-19-related reporting flexibilities.

 

        Prevent-plant acres of nearly 10.072 million for the 10 major crops remains quite high, with more than half of those acres intended for corn. Prevent-plant corn acres jumped nearly 703,000 acres from what was reported in August. Other commodities saw smaller increases.

 

        FSA’s next certified acreage update will come Oct. 9.


     • Amazon.com plans to hire 100,000 employees in the U.S. and Canada, continuing its hiring spree during a jump in online shopping. The e-commerce giant said Monday that the new full- and part-time positions would pay at least $15 an hour and include benefits and signing bonuses of up to $1,000 in some cities. The company already had to hire 175,000 people earlier this year to keep up with the rush of orders, and last week said it had 33,000 corporate and tech jobs it needed to fill.

 

     • China and Japan ban imports of German pork. On Saturday, China announced a ban on pork from Germany following Germany’s detection of African swine fever (ASF) in a wild boar near its border with Poland. Germany had been pushing for a regional ban rather than the blanket one that occurred. Germany is China’s third largest supplier, accounting for around 14% of China’s pork imports so far this year. This could open the door for even stronger U.S. sales to China. Other top suppliers include Spain, the U.K and Denmark. Meanwhile, Germany’s ag ministry says it remains in talks with China on the matter. Chinese president Xi Jinping is expected to attend a video meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU leaders today. Japan also suspended imports of pork and live pigs from Germany late last week. Last year, the country shipped 40,240 MT of pork to Japan, accounting for 3.3% of its total imports. Japan did not import any live pigs from Germany in 2019.

 

        • Crude oil futures are little changed ahead of the U.S. trading start. U.S. crude is trading around $37.30 per barrel and Brent steady with Friday’s finish. Futures were steady to higher in Asian action, with U.S. crude up 12 cents at $37.45 per barrel and Brent crude was steady at $39.83 per barrel.

 

     • Oil demand may never be the same. BP has become the first oil major to call the end of an era many thought would last another decade or more, saying the relentless growth of oil demand is over in its latest energy outlook. Oil consumption may never return to levels seen before the coronavirus crisis took hold and even the firm's most bullish scenario sees demand no better than "broadly flat" for the next two decades as the world moves away from fossil fuels. The forecast helps explain why BP has recently said it would shrink oil and gas output by 40% over the next decade and spend as much as $5 billion a year building one of the world's largest renewable-power businesses.

 

     • Other markets: The U.S. dollar index is under pressure from strength in the euro and British pound. Gold and silver futures are higher with gold trading around $1,950 per troy ounce and silver around $27 per troy ounce. The yield on the US 10-year Treasury note is nearly unchanged, trading around 0.67%, while global government bond yields are narrowly mixed.

 

     • Transportation nuggets:
        — The International Energy Agency says the maritime industry needs $6 trillion over the next 50 years to meet decarbonization goals. (Lloyd’s List)
        — Chinese authorities are looking to intercede to halt the rise in container shipping rates and to address capacity constraints. (The Loadstar)
        — Consulting group Mercator says in a report that expansion of Western Canada ports could divert significant intermodal shipments from U.S. gateways. (Journal of Commerce)

 

The mayor of Portland declared a state of emergency as wildfires approached the city’s suburbs. Roughly 10% of Oregon’s residents have been told to evacuate in one of the worst wildfire seasons on America’s west coast in recent history. "Wildfires affecting tens of thousands of Oregonians have burned more than 1 million acres, or nearly twice the yearly average over the last 10 years, in just the past week," The (Portland) Oregonian reports (link). More than 4 million acres of land have burned across California, Oregon and Washington this year.

 

Sally set to become hurricane. Gulf of Mexico oil producers have evacuated offshore facilities ahead of the anticipated arrival of tropical storm Sally, which is forecast to strengthen into a hurricane. "That system is forecast to bring not only damaging winds but a dangerous storm surge," said Daniel Brown of the Hurricane Center, warning of storm surge stretching from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Ocean Springs, Mississippi. At least 1.3 million bbl/day of oil production was already shut last month as Hurricane Laura ripped through the Gulf of Mexico and the southwest Louisiana coast.

 


POLICY FOCUS


 

President Trump promised to allow E15 gasoline to be distributed using existing filling station pumps, a move designed to bolster support among corn farmers and biofuel producers in Iowa and other Midwestern swing states. Trump announced the decision Saturday on Twitter after a conversation with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who’s been pushing for the change as part of her own re-election battle with Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. Ernst’s campaign posted a video of her discussing the issue with Trump.

 

     Trump's tweet: “Subject only to State approval, our important Ethanol Industry will be allowed to use the 10% Pumps for the 15% BLEND,” Trump tweeted.

 

     In 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency lifted restrictions that blocked the sale of E15 in the summer in many areas of the U.S. where smog is a problem. But ethanol advocates say more filling stations would be enticed to offer E15 if they could use existing infrastructure to distribute it. Most gasoline sold in the U.S. is a 10% blend known as E10.

 

Trump mulls cash aid for refineries denied biofuel waivers. President Trump last week directed the EPA to deny dozens of refinery requests for waivers from annual renewable fuel-usage mandates via the RFS, at the urging of Iowa politicians and biofuel advocates. But in a bid to offset the resulting economic pain and potential political fallout among refining interests, EPA officials have been developing a plan to steer financial aid to affected oil companies — the so-called win-win strategy that Trump promised Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) earlier. Bloomberg initially broke the story, with Reuters following.

 

     As for funding the proposal, reports note agency officials are considering coronavirus-relief funding allotted to USDA. That of course will likely generate criticism from some in the ag sector that “their” funds are being reallocated. Meanwhile, oil industry supporters warned the administration that cash payments to small refineries that qualify for waivers would do nothing to help larger facilities that typically benefit indirectly from the exemption program, in the form of lower overall compliance costs.

 

Brazil resumes zero-tariff ethanol imports from U.S. The U.S. and Brazil said Friday they reached a deal for the South American country to temporarily resume tariff-free ethanol imports, a political win for President Donald Trump. Ethanol is a key agricultural export for Iowa, a battleground state in the upcoming U.S. election, and the Trump administration had lobbied to retain zero-tariff access to Brazil, a leading market. The U.S. exported more than 1.25 billion liters of ethanol to Brazil last year, and imported 738 million liters of Brazilian ethanol.

 

     Background. Brazil had previously exempted up to 750 million liters (200 million gallons) a year of imported ethanol from tariffs. However, it let the benefit expire on Sept. 1, reinstating a 20% tariff.

 

     In a joint statement, the two countries said they had agreed to hold trade talks for a 90-day period starting today (Sept. 14), and return to the previous tariff-free arrangement during that time — the U.S. ethanol import tariffs will be zero for the next 90 days for a quota of 62.5 million liters per month or 187.5 million liters for the period. The talks will focus on ethanol, sugar — which Brazilian producers want to sell tariff-free in the U.S. — and possibly corn, the two sides said. "The discussions should aim to achieve reciprocal and proportional outcomes that generate trade and open markets to the benefit of both countries," they said.

 

     The U.S. ambassador in Brazil, Todd Chapman, reportedly lobbied hard to retain the ethanol exemption.

 

     Chapman is facing an inquiry before the US House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee over reports he violated a law barring federal officials from engaging in partisan activities by telling Brazilian counterparts that a renewal of the ethanol exemption would help Trump's re-election chances.

 

Update on China:

  • China envoy Branstad to leave Beijing for campaign trail. The top U.S. diplomat in China, Terry Branstad, is retiring, the American Embassy confirmed today, after Trump touted the former Iowa governor’s expected campaign help in a key swing state. The embassy’s statement came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked the envoy for his service in a series of tweets, without explicitly whether saying whether he was resigning. Branstad was planning to depart Beijing early next month and return to Iowa, the embassy said.

    Brandstad
    Photo: Mark Schiefelbein/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

     
  • Chinese leader cites superiority of socialist system in fighting virus. Xi Jinping said China's progress in fighting the virus, including reopening schools, has "fully demonstrated the clear superiority of Communist Party leadership and our socialist system." This is the message Beijing is spreading to other world leaders and their own people, as China seeks to displace America as the great global power. Link to NYT article for more.
     
  • China offers pig-backed loans for its producers. Chinese authorities are looking for novel solutions to boost the supply of pigs after African swine fever decimated the country’s hog herd, the Wall Street Journal reports (link). With China’s pig herd still roughly 20% smaller than it was at the end of 2017, according to national statistics, authorities have prodded its mostly state-owned banks to find solutions.

    China pork prices

     
  • USDA and China take cautious approach regarding China's corn import forecast for 2020-21. Some traders and analysts call USDA's holding its forecast of China's total corn imports for 2020-21 at 7 million tons a “joke” while others had words this space should not repeat.

    Some USDA economists tried to explain the holding pattern in blog statements on Friday. Office of Chief Economist on WASDE Chat re: China. “We assume policy in place. China’s National Development and Reform Commission or other Chinese government entity has not made any public statements that would indicate additional corn import quota has been allocated. If we were to see a policy change or shipment data (as opposed to sales) that would indicate they intend to exceed their WTO committed level we would do our best to reflect that.”

    A NASS official on Friday was asked about confirmed 8.8 million tonnes of corn sold to China for 2020-21 and USDA unchanged at 7 million tons China China corn imports. NASS said: “Another great question for my friends at WAOB.”

    Meanwhile, China was even behind USDA until today. China’s ag ministry raised its forecast for corn imports for both 2019-20 and 2020-21 to 7 MMT, citing a “significant increase” in U.S. shipments for the 2-MMT hike in its new-crop import forecast. Three typhoons paired with frequent flooding have also eroded crop prospects for some regions, with China lowering its 2020-21 production forecast by 1.8 MMT to 264.71 MMT. But that still represents nearly a 4-MMT increase from 2019-20. China made no changes of note to its soybean balance sheet, with the country still calling for imports to total 96.0 MMT in 2019-20 and 95.1 MMT in 2020-21. China’s cotton production forecast climbed 170,000 MT to 5.85 MMT, but Beijing stuck with its 2 MMT import forecast for 2020-21.

    Bottom line on China's corn import forecasts: If China watchers are correct, USDA and China will not only have to increase their current 7 MMT forecast for 2020-21, but significantly.

     
  • U.S./China Phase 1 tracker: China’s purchases of U.S. goods. Link.

Update on next aid package:

  • Another week but same hurdles remain re: new Covid aid/stimulus package. Congressional sources say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) thinks she has leverage in expected good election results whenever November 3 results are provided, and thus thinks Democrats will have more say over aid details post-elections. The Hill reports that “Senate Republicans see putting pressure on Pelosi as the key to getting a deal on a coronavirus relief bill before the election and are counting on vulnerable House Democrats to move the House Speaker off her demand for a package costing more than $2 trillion.”

Food and beverage industry update:

  • JBS fined over Covid protections for workers. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited JBS Foods for failing to protect workers from exposure to Covid-19 at their Greeley, Colorado, plant, hitting the packer with a fine of $15,615. OSHA said the fine was for a “violation of the general duty clause for failing to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that can cause death or serious harm.” The fine is the maximum amount allowed by law. OSHA also said JBS “failed to provide an authorized employee representative with injury and illness logs in a timely manner following OSHA’s May 2020 inspection.”

Update on reopening America... and around the world:

  • Wonder Woman postponed. Warner Bros. announced that its feature film Wonder Woman 1984 will be delayed until Christmas. Originally set to premiere October 2, the blockbuster was postponed due to the coronavirus.

Coronavirus update:

  • Summary: Source: Johns Hopkins University as of 6:30 a.m. ET.

    — 29,019,639: Confirmed cases world-wide, and 924,463 deaths
    — 34,450: New U.S. cases recorded yesterday
    — 6,520,235: Total confirmed cases in the U.S.
    — 378: Deaths in the U.S. recorded yesterday
    — 194,081: Total U.S. deaths
    — 88,819,861: Tests conducted in the U.S.

    Link to Covid Case Tracker

    Link to Our World in Data

     
  • The U.S. added 47,643 new coronavirus cases Friday, the largest daily increase in a week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

    Covid cases daily

     
  • WHO reports highest daily infection increase. The World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday reported 307,930 new infections in the preceding 24 hours, its highest single-day increase yet.
     
  • Midwest experiences record surge in cases: “Through Friday, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri and Iowa had added more recent cases per capita than all other states … The rise of infection in the Midwest is different from what New York experienced in March or South Texas in July. So far, hospitalizations have not spiked. Morgues have not been overrun. Lockdowns have not been ordered,” the New York Times reports (link).
     
  • AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine trials resume in the U.K., though not the U.S. yet, after regulators reviewed the case of a sick subject. U.K. committee has concluded its investigation and recommended to the U.K. Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency it would be safe to resume the trials. The regulatory agency confirmed that it was safe to resume, the company said.

    Also Saturday, Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech said they asked U.S. regulators to permit expanding the late-stage trial testing for their experimental Covid-19 vaccine to about 44,000 people, up from 30,000. A larger trial will increase diversity and include people as young as 16 years old, as well as people diagnosed with viral diseases such as HIV, hepatitis C and hepatitis B, the company said. Pfizer still expected to have results by the end of October, and aimed to file for regulatory authorization or approval, if the results are positive, by the end of October, a company spokeswoman said.

     
  • Pfizer CEO says vaccine could be administered in the U.S. before the end of the year. The drugmaker should have key data from its late-stage trial for the Food and Drug Administration by the end of October, Albert Bourla said during an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation. If the FDA approves the vaccine, the company is prepared to distribute “hundreds of thousands of doses,” he said.
     

POLITICS & ELECTIONS


  • Links
    2020 Presidential Election Interactive Map
    The Green Papers
    Real Clear Politics
    — Presidential debates: Scheduled to occur Sept. 29, Oct. 15 and Oct. 22.
    — VP debate: Scheduled for Oct. 7.
    Days until election

     
  • A look at control of Senate following 2020 elections. Democrats require three to four Republican-held seats for a Senate majority, depending on the outcome of the presidential contest. The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election group, predicts the Democrats' Alabama and Republican's Arizona Senate seats will change hands. The GOP's holdings in Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Montana, and North Carolina, as well as Georgia's regularly scheduled race, have been labeled "toss ups." RealClearPolitics has Democrats' Minnesota and Republicans' South Carolina in the toss-up category, with Colorado in the Democratic ledger.
     
  • Trump's electoral strategy... Minnesota remains a key to victory... and now Nevada. Nevada is the latest state Trump is focusing on winning, having narrowly lost the state in 2016. It has only six Electoral College votes, versus Michigan’s 16 and Pennsylvania’s 20, but Trump’s campaign sees a re-election victory path that would entail winning a series of smaller states anchored by Minnesota (10 electoral votes) instead of the Rust Belt states that put him in the White House.
     
  • Trump also looking to boost vote of Black Americans, especially men. A record 137.5 million people voted in 2016. But African American turnout dropped to 59.6% from a 2012 peak of 66.6%, its first decline in two decades. The number of black voters was 16.4 million as well, a decrease of about 765,000 from when former President Barack Obama was on the ticket eight years ago. In 2016, Trump outperformed 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney with African American voters because of black men.
     
  • President Trump held his first indoor rally in nearly three months on Sunday, ignoring Nevada’s social-distancing rules. Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) accused the president of endangering lives with “reckless and selfish actions.” The president’s campaign scheduled yesterday’s event at Xtreme Manufacturing’s warehouse in Henderson, Nevada, after the airport authority in nearby Las Vegas rejected plans to use an outdoor hangar because it violated state regulations prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people. Joe Biden’s allies in Nevada are worried economic woes brought on by the coronavirus could cost him the state. Record unemployment from the crash of Nevada’s hospitality industry and safety restrictions that shuttered the casinos for months have thrown formidable get-out-the-vote operations by Democratic groups into turmoil, organizers said.
     
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is ringing alarms about Joe Biden’s presidential campaign: Without a clearer focus on economic issues, Biden’s former rival says, the Democratic nominee is at risk of losing the election. Sanders took to MSNBC on Sunday to spell out his view that Biden needs to do more than attack President Trump. “We also have to give people a reason to vote for Joe Biden,” said Sanders. “And Joe has some pretty strong positions on the economy, and I think we should be talking about that more than we have.”
     
  • Biden is proposing the most ambitious federal spending program of any major party’s presidential nominee in decades, according to an analysis to be published today by the Penn Wharton Budget Model, a nonpartisan group at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Biden — who won the Democratic nomination running as a moderate — has proposed a total of $5.4 trillion in new spending over the next 10 years, which includes historically high allocations for sectors from education and health to child-care and housing. If enacted, the Biden budget would elevate federal spending to 24% of gross domestic product by 2030, according to the Wharton study. The Biden campaign said it couldn’t confirm the accuracy of the Wharton numbers, nor would it make public its own cost estimates. Link to WSJ article for details.

    Biden spending

     
  • Rep. Tom Graves announced plans to resign from Congress next month, starting his planned retirement a little early. “I’m announcing this today to avoid surprises, and it just doesn’t seem right to kill time on the taxpayer dime,” the Georgia Republican said in a statement.
     
  • Jon Tester wants Democrats to fight for Rural America. The Montana senator argues that many of his constituents care deeply about progressive issues such as affordable education and accessible health care. Link to WSJ article. Montanans have elected Republicans in nearly every presidential election since the 1960s, but they have chosen Democrats in the past four gubernatorial races and in five of the past six U.S. Senate campaigns. In his new book, Grounded: A Senator’s Lessons on Winning Back Rural America, Tester argues that more Democrats should try to learn from his successes, instead of ceding the country’s prairies and exurbs to Republicans. Visiting the Iowa State Fair once every four years doesn’t cut it, he says.
     
  • Michael Bloomberg to spend $100 million in Florida to aid Biden. Michael Bloomberg couldn't buy the Democratic nomination for president, butBloomberg said Sunday he would spend $100 million in Florida to help Joe Biden defeat President Donald Trump in the crucial battleground, which would allow Democrats to divert money to Pennsylvania and other must-win states. The money will be spent on voter-turnout efforts, and communicating with Hispanic voters will be a key part of that strategy, a Bloomberg spokesperson said. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News. The Cook Political Report on Thursday moved the state from “lean Democrat” to “toss up.” Biden holds a slim, 1.2 percentage-point advantage over Trump in Florida, according to RealClearPolitics average of recent polls. Florida has 29 electoral votes.
     
  • President Trump will visit Minnesota and Wisconsin on Friday; Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. will fan out for separate events across Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

    Democratic nominee Joe Biden will visit Florida on Tuesday and Minnesota on Friday. He’s also expected to give a speech today on climate change and the California wildfires, as Trump heads to the Golden State this afternoon.

 


OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE


 

  • The White House announced on Friday it had brokered a second Mideast diplomatic breakthrough in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election: a deal to normalize relations between Bahrain and Israel. The announcement came less than a month after a similar agreement had been unveiled establishing full diplomatic ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The back-to-back deals doubled the number of Arab countries recognizing Israel. Previously, only Egypt and Jordan belonged in that group.
     
  • Yoshihide Suga is on the brink of becoming Japan’s next prime minister. The ruling party’s choice of Suga, a key lieutenant to the departing Shinzo Abe, signals that his predecessor’s policies will probably continue. Suga, Shinzo Abe's right-hand man for nearly eight years, has been elected president of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, making him all but certain to become prime minister of the world's third-largest economy later this week. "We cannot have any void in policy," Suga said after the vote, adding to statements that he would want to enhance Abenomics, as well keep Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda's ultra-easy monetary policy. Should he be elected by parliament, Suga can stay in office until September 2021, when the party will hold another leadership election. Suga is the son of a farmer from Japan’s rural north. Known for his mastery of bureaucracy, Suga has tended to operate in the shadows. As a candidate, he pledged to continue the Abe administration’s policies; his support in public opinion polls shot up as a result. His first big decision as party leader will be whether to call a general election.

 

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