White House Releases ‘Fact Sheet’ on $2.25 Trillion Biden Infrastructure Proposal

Posted on 03/31/2021 8:15 AM

WHIP+ update | Key USDA reports today | Scott: Don’t call debt relief reparations  

 


In Today’s Digital Newspaper


 

Market Focus:
• Traders dissect Biden’s huge infrastructure, tax increase proposals
• USDA today releases Prospective Plantings, Grain Stocks reports
• IMF preparing to raise forecasts for global economy in 2021 and 2022
• Consumer confidence surges more than expected in March

• Home prices rise sharply in January
• China’s economic recovery picked up in March
• Canada betting on sharp increase in immigration beginning this year
• Another bottleneck in the supply chain remains in Southern California
• U.S. gasoline sales 10.1% higher than same point last year
• Ag demand update

Key USDA reports on planting intentions, quarterly grain stocks coming today
• ANEC pares Brazilian soybean export forecast for March, says could still hit record
• Australian weather bureau says La Nina has ended
• Ukraine’s export prices for wheat and corn slide
• Pakistan lifts ban on Indian sugar and cotton
• Report says Bunge biggest offender in terms of Cerrado deforestation

Policy Focus:
• Biden late this afternoon to talk details about infrastructure proposals
• Gas and mileage taxes off the infrastructure spending offset table… for now
• USDA sets WHIP+ closeout deadline
• Scott: Don’t call debt relief reparations

 

China Update:
• U.S. ambassador visits Taiwan for first trip since 1979
• ASF in China adds to strong demand story for U.S. pork

 

Trade Policy:
• Vilsack signals TPA/fast-track renewal request coming

 

Energy & Climate Change:

• As expected, EPA to publish final rule on 2019, 2020 RFS compliance
• Energy initiatives under Biden’s infrastructure proposal

 

Food & Beverage Industry:
• SNAP and P-EBT 12% of grocery spending during pandemic

 

Coronavirus Update:
• Germany to ban AstraZeneca vaccine for those under 60
• Vilsack notes Covid aid provision will boost shots for ag workers
• White House press secretary Jen Psaki criticized China for lack of cooperation

 

Politics & Elections:
• Democrat Flannery enters Ohio11 race
• DNC announces revised timeline for review of presidential nominating process


Other Items of Note:
• Change atop Maritime Commission
• Supreme Court will hear arguments on compensating college athletes

 


MARKET FOCUS


 

Equities today: Global stock markets were flat to narrowly mixed overnight. U.S. stock indexes are pointed toward mixed openings. Asian equity markets ended mostly lower despite stronger manufacturing data out of China. Japan’s Nikkei fell 253.90 points, 0.86%, at 29,178.80. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 199.15 points, 0.70%, at 28,378.35. European equity markets are mixed in early trading, with the Stoxx 600 up 0.2% with most regional markets showing gains or losses of under 0.3%.

 

     U.S. equities yesterday: The Dow fell 104.41 points, 0.31%, at 33,066.96. The Nasdaq lost 14.25 points, 0.11%, at 13.45.39. The S&P 500 declined 12.54 points, 0.32%, at 3,958.55.

 

On tap today:

 

     • ADP employment report is expected to show that the private sector added 525,000 jobs in March. (8:15 a.m. ET)
     • Chicago purchasing managers index for March is expected to rise to 60.3 from 59.5 a month earlier. (9:45 a.m. ET)
     • U.S. pending-home sales for February are expected to fall 3.1% from a month earlier. (10 a.m. ET)
     • USDA Prospective Plantings and Grain Stocks reports, noon ET.
     • U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen leads her first meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council starting at 3 p.m. ET.
     • U.S. Trade Representative's office to release National Trade Estimate report, an annual review of foreign trade barriers.
     • Food Box Program: Deadline for public comment on a possible replacement of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
     • CSP: Deadline for the more than 11,000 landowners with expiring CSP contracts to apply for a five-year renewal.
     • Bank of Japan releases its March Tankan survey of business sentiment at 7:50 p.m. ET.
     • China's Caixin manufacturing index for March is out at 9:45 p.m. ET.

 

International Monetary Fund is preparing to raise its forecasts for the global economy in 2021 and 2022 thanks to recent fiscal stimulus in the U.S. and increasing vaccination against Covid-19, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Tuesday. The IMF projected in January that global economic output would expand 5.5% in 2021. Since then, the U.S. Congress has passed an additional $1.9 trillion in fiscal stimulus, and the Biden administration has raised its goals for vaccinating the population against Covid-19. The new estimates will appear next week in the IMF’s periodic update on the world economy.

 

Consumer confidence surges more than expected in March.  The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its index of consumer confidence rose from 90.4 in February to 109.7 in March, the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic. Economists had expected the index to come in at 96.9. In a statement accompanying the release, Conference Board economist Lynn Franco said, “Consumer Confidence increased to its highest level since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Consumers’ assessment of current conditions and their short-term outlook improved significantly, an indication that economic growth is likely to strengthen further in the coming months. Consumers’ renewed optimism boosted their purchasing intentions for homes, autos and several big-ticket items. However, concerns of inflation in the short-term rose, most likely due to rising prices at the pump, and may temper spending intentions in the months ahead.”

 

    Confidence

 

Home prices rise sharply in January.  Standard and Poor’s reported Tuesday that the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20 city home price index rose 1.2% in January and 11.1% year-on-year. Economists had expected the index to rise 1.2% for the month and 10.7% for the annual period.

 

     Home prices

 

China’s economic recovery picked up in March, boosted by strong domestic consumption and unquenchable foreign demand for Chinese-made goods. The country’s official manufacturing purchasing managers index, a gauge of factory activity, hit a three-month high in March, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. More encouraging for China’s leaders, who have been eager to rebalance the economy toward consumer spending, a parallel gauge of services and construction activity jumped even more in March, suggesting a broadening of consumer activity. The official China PMI rose to 51.9 in March from 50.6 in February, above expectations and remaining in expansion territory. The services PMI for China was at 56.3 in March after being at 51.4 in February.

 

     China econ

 

Canada is betting on a sharp increase in immigration beginning this year as a way to boost the country’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government plans to significantly increase the number of new permanent residents it accepts over the next three years, and officials have taken steps in recent months to increase the pace of permanent resident approvals.

 

     Canada immigration

 

Market perspectives:

 

     • Outside markets: The U.S. dollar index is a bit weaker after hitting another 4.5-month high overnight. Nymex crude oil prices are slightly lower and trading around $60.35 a barrel. The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note is fetching around 1.73% after hitting a 14-month high of around 1.75% on Tuesday. Gold and silver futures are seeing mild losses ahead of the US trading start. Gold is trading under $1,685 per troy ounce and silver under $24.10 per troy ounce.


     • Crude oil futures remain under light pressure ahead of U.S. government inventory data to be released later this morning. U.S. crude is trading around $60.50 per barrel and Brent around $64.05 per barrel. Crude was little changed in Asian action, with U.S. crude down one cent at $60.54 per barrel and Brent up six cents at $64.20 per barrel.

 

     • Another bottleneck in the supply chain remains, this one in Southern California, the Wall Street Journal reports (link). On Monday morning, 24 container ships carrying tens of thousands of boxes holding millions of dollars’ worth of washing machines, medical equipment, consumer electronics and other of the goods were anchored off the coast waiting for space at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The two ports together handle more than a third of U.S. container imports, and delays there are part of a global supply-chain mess that continues even after the ships are unloaded.

 

        Calif ports

 

     • U.S. gasoline sales for the week ending March 20 were 10.1% higher than at the same point last year. It’s the first time this year that gasoline demand surpassed 2020 levels, according to new data released today by Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) by IHS Markit. But recovery remains slow, with gasoline sales that week still 16% below pre-pandemic levels. Demand could begin returning to normal once vaccines become more widespread, but it remains too early to predict whether work, lifestyle, and consumer habits will permanently change as a result of the pandemic. “Even as the country gets back to normal, we are still to discover what the ‘new normal’ means,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at OPIS by IHS Markit.

 

     • Ag demand: Jordan’s state grains buyer is thought to have purchased 60,000 MT of animal feed barley in an international tender. A group of South Korean flour mills bought around 50,000 MT of milling wheat to be sourced from the U.S. and another 30,000 MT from Canada. South Korea’s largest feedmaker Nonghyup Feed Inc. issued an international tender to buy up to 60,000 MT of soymeal. A group of importers in Thailand issued an international tender to buy up to 504,000 MT of animal feed wheat.

 

Items in Pro Farmer's First Thing Today include (Link to subscribe to FTT):

     • Key USDA reports on planting intentions, quarterly grain stocks coming today
     • ANEC pares Brazilian soybean export forecast for March, says could still hit record
     • Australian weather bureau says La Nina has ended
     • Ukraine’s export prices for wheat and corn slide
     • Pakistan lifts ban on Indian sugar and cotton 

 


POLICY FOCUS


 

— President Joe Biden today will call for a $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan investment in the nation’s roads, waterways, airports, electric grid and broadband, arguing that a literal rebuilding of the nation’s infrastructure would lead to an economic boom, help fight climate change, advance racial equity and advance American competitiveness. Biden will unveil the infrastructure details during a speech in Pittsburgh scheduled for 4:20 p.m. ET. “Like great projects of the past, the president’s plan will unify and mobilize the country to meet the great challenges of our time: the climate crisis and the ambitions of an autocratic China,” the White House said in a statement before Biden’s afternoon speech in Pittsburgh. Link to fact sheet on the plan.

 

     Biden will vow to rebuild the bulk of the nation’s-built assets and promise to pay for it through a series of business tax code changes, including an increase in the corporate rate, that his administration says will pay for the infrastructure improvements within 15 years because many of the tax increases would remain even as the spending proposals only last for eight years. Legislation in Washington is typically evaluated on a 10-year budget window. The New York Times notes that the unusual 15-year window for a tax increase to offset spending could help Democrats if they choose to attempt to push Biden’s plan via budget reconciliation, a parliamentary process that would allow them to bypass the 60-vote requirement imposed by the Senate filibuster and pass the plan with only Democratic votes. That process starts with the passage of a budget resolution, which typically covers 10 years of taxes and spending. But Democrats could extend the resolution to cover 15 years, allowing increased revenue from Biden’s corporate tax increases to pay off spending programs that ended after eight years.

 

     On the tax front, Biden’s plan includes raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%; increasing the global minimum tax paid from about 13% to 21%; ending federal tax breaks for fossil fuel companies; and ramping up tax enforcement against corporations, among other measures. White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested that Biden is not locked in on his preferred tax plans to fund the measure. “People may have different ideas about how to pay for it,” she said. “We’re open to hearing them. So hopefully people will bring forward ideas.”
 

     Tax

 

     Summary: The four-part, eight-year plan dedicates $620 billion for transportation —including a doubling in federal funding for public transit —and $650 billion for initiatives tied to improving quality of life at home, like clean water and high-speed broadband. There’s $580 billion for strengthening American manufacturing — some $180 billion of which goes to what’s billed as the biggest non-defense research and development program on record — and $400 billion to address improved care for the elderly and people with disabilities. Under the proposal, all Americans would have access to high-speed Internet broadband by the end of the decade via the plan. As many as 2 million homes and housing units would be built, retrofitted or renovated. Biden’s plan would also modernize 20,000 miles of streets and highways out of the total of 173,000 miles Biden says are in poor condition, and address problems with some of the tens of thousands of bridges that need repairs.

 

     The package would amount to an investment of about 1% of the GDP per year over eight years, according to a fact sheet on the plan (link).

 

     A second economic (“human infrastructure”) proposal to be released in April is expected to include a major expansion in health insurance coverage, subsidies for childcare and free access to community colleges, among other measures. Together, the two proposals could cost as much as $4 trillion between spending increases and tax incentives. The second phase of the proposals is expected to include tax increases on high-earning individuals.

 

     The American Jobs Plan calls for:

  • A $621 billion investment in transportation and resilience, or the construction of infrastructure that can withstand the recent spate of dramatic weather events attributed to climate change.
  • “Care infrastructure” spending of $400 billion toward expanding access to care for the aging and those with disabilities, including long-term care services under Medicaid by expanding home and community-based services.
  • Invest $100 billion in workforce development programs.
  • Include $100 billion in expanding high-speed broadband.
  • $100 billion to build a more resilient electric grid.
  • $213 billion to build, retrofit and preserve more than two million affordable places to live.
  • Spend $100 billion in upgrading and building new public schools, paying for half through direct grants and the other half through bonds.
  • Invest $10 billion to modernize and upgrade federal buildings, including through a Federal Capital Revolving Fund.
  • $18 billion to modernize Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics.
  • $12 billion for community colleges, including facilities and access.
  • $25 billion to upgrade childcare facilities and increase childcare in high-need areas. To address the latter, the president calls for an expanded tax credit to encourage businesses to build childcare facilities at work, with employers receiving 50% of the first $1 million in construction costs per facility.
  • A $174 billion investment “to win the EV market,” encouraging automakers to retool their supply chains and factories to accommodate the transition to electric vehicles as well as create sales rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made EVs. White House officials predicted the federal incentives, paired with spending by state and local governments and private companies, would establish a national network of 500,000 charging stations by 2030, while spurring a domestic supply chain that will support union jobs and American-built cars and trucks. The plan also will replace 50,000 diesel transit vehicles, while electrifying at least 20% of the classic yellow bus fleet that transports children to and from school each day.
  • $16 billion to employing Americans to plug abandoned oil and gas wells and restore land that has been used for coal, hardrock and uranium mining.
  • A $50 billion investment in infrastructure resilience, which would beef up grids, highways and other infrastructure to withstand extreme weather events.
  • A $35 billion investment in research into climate science.
  • $115 billion to modernize 20,000 miles of highways and roads, rebuild 10,000 of the nation’s most fragile smaller bridges and $85 billion into transit, which would double funding for the program.
  • $80 billion for Amtrak’s repair backlog and to upgrade passenger rail service, $25 billion for airports and $17 billion for inland waterways, ports and ferries.
  • $111 billion investment to rebuild the nation’s water infrastructure.
  • $45 billion in the EPA's Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act grants and calls for eliminating all lead pipes and service lines — part of about 6 million 10 million homes nationwide and 400,000 schools and childcare facilities. Also calls for investing $56 billion in grants and loans to states to modernize aging wastewater systems.

     Climate change targets: Biden, who has pledged to make the power sector carbon-free by 2035, will also ask Congress to adopt an “Energy Efficiency and Clean Electricity Standard” that would set specific targets to cut how much coal- and gas-fired electricity power companies use over time.

 

     Some far-left liberal lawmakers have said the plan does not go far enough, noting that Biden’s 2020 campaign plan called for $2 trillion in investments over just four years. “This is not nearly enough,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said on Twitter about the Biden plan. Meanwhile, three House Democrats issued a joint statement vowing to oppose any changes to the tax code that did not address the so-called SALT cap approved in the 2017 tax overhaul, which imposed a limit on the local and state taxes that can be deducted from federal income taxes. “We say, ‘No SALT, no deal,’” said the lawmakers, Reps. Tom Suozzi of New York, and Josh Gottheimer and Bill Pascrell Jr., both of New Jersey. “We will not accept any changes to the tax code that do not restore the SALT deduction and put fairness back into the system.”

 

    Infrastructure plan

 

— Gas and mileage taxes off the infrastructure spending offset table… for now. President Biden won’t look to raise the gas tax or institute a vehicle-miles-traveled tax to help pay for the infrastructure plan he will unveil tomorrow, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN earlier this week. Raising the gas tax, which has not increased in more than 25 years, never seemed likely because of its political unpopularity. Buttigieg had told CNBC on Friday that a vehicle-miles-traveled tax "shows a lot of promise,” as the Biden administration pushes people to drive electric cars, making the gas tax a less reliable funding stream. But both options seem off the table for now, as Biden considers other tax increases to pay for his infrastructure plans.

 

— USDA sets WHIP+ closeout deadline. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has set April 16 as the deadline to have all Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program-Plus (WHIP+) applications finalized and approved for payment, effectively the closeout for the program. A signup deadline of Oct. 30, 2020, was set for the program relative to 2018 and 2019 losses, and the April 16 date now marks a deadline for county FSA offices to have those applications finalized.

 

     Comments: We have received several calls and emails regarding the second half 2019-crop WHIP+ payments. Based on sources, they will be paid but questions remain regarding the possible need for further funding for the program, and it appears the payment timelines will vary depending on the activity of county FSA offices. We never get a clear indication from USDA that the second half 2019-crop payments will be paid in full. They said they need to wait and see how much Quality Loss Adjustment (QLA program) costs, plus there are first-half payments not yet paid.

 

— Scott: Don’t call debt relief reparations. The recently enacted debt relief provisions for selected minority farmers have been called reparations by some, including Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). But House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott (D-Ga.), who is African American, does not agree with that characterization. He says the $4 billion aid makes up for the fact that white farmers primarily benefitted from the billions of dollars in recent farm payments. “This is nothing to do with slavery and reparations. There’s nothing we can do about that,” Scott said in an interview with Philadelphia radio station WURD (link). Black farmers “haven’t gotten the money that the white farmers got last year,” he said. Scott is planning additional legislation aimed at expanding Black farmers’ share of ag markets and crop acreage.

 


CHINA UPDATE


 

U.S. ambassador visits Taiwan for first trip since 1979. The Biden administration sent an ambassador on a diplomatic trip to Taiwan, an action made possible by changes to diplomatic rules made in the final days of the Trump administration. On Monday, President Biden sent U.S. ambassador to Palau John Hennessey-Niland to Taiwan, marking the first visit to the island nation by an American ambassador since 1979.


— ASF in China adds to strong demand story for U.S. pork. May through July lean hog futures once again shot to new contract highs on Tuesday, with other contract months close behind. More reports out of China regarding African swine fever’s ongoing impact on its hog herd and the resulting opportunity this presents for the U.S. are bolstering export hopes as the country looks forward to reopening and a boost in restaurant demand. The pork cutout value set back 95 cents on Tuesday and movement soared to 401.59 loads. Cash hog bids slipped 54 cents on Tuesday.

 

 


TRADE POLICY


 

— Vilsack signals TPA/fast-track renewal request coming. There has been little from the Biden administration on the prospect for renewing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), but USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack Tuesday made clear the administration will seek its renewal. Under TPA, a new trade agreement can be voted on up or down without any amendments. Authorization for TAP expires July 1.

 

     Renewing TPA is “the only way, eventually, for us to have trade agreements that create balance,” Vilsack said, noting there was a “very delicate balance” needed on several issues in a trade agreement. “So, I'm hoping that Congress, during the course of this year, begins to get serious about resuming and extending Trade Promotion Authority, which will then give us the opportunity to complete negotiations.” Vilsack, during an event organized by the Virginia governor’s office, said it was a key for U.S. trade policy ahead since it prevents there from being “535 new negotiators” on trade deals — the 100 members of the U.S. Senate and the 435 House members.

 

      Vilsack also focused on enforcement of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in his remarks, noting the coming Mexican restrictions on imports of GMO corn. However, last week Vilsack noted that the coming rules in Mexico would not apply to corn imported by the country for feed use, but only that destinated for human consumption.

 

     As for a U.S./U.K. or U.S./European Union (EU) trade deal, Vilsack stressed the need for a “science-based” set of trade rules. The British Ambassador to the U.S., Dame Karen Pierce, also addressed the meeting, noting their exit from the EU will potentially ease up the ability of the reaching a trade deal with the US. While not signaling a shift on GMOs, Pierce did state she believed that gene-edited products should be treated differently and not regulated like GMO crops. “We’ve requested public input on a possible change to regulations,” she noted.  

 


ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE


 

— As expected, EPA to publish final rule on 2019, 2020 RFS compliance. EPA will publish the final rule April 1 outlining adjustments to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) compliance and attest engagement reporting deadlines for 2019 and 2020. With the rule (link), EPA is finalizing modifications of certain compliance dates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. EPA is extending the RFS compliance deadline for the 2019 compliance year and the associated deadline for submission of attest engagement reports for the 2019 compliance year for small refineries. The new deadlines are Nov. 30 for compliance and June 1, 2022 for submission of attest engagement reports.

 

     EPA will also extend the RFS compliance deadline for the 2020 compliance year to Jan. 31, 2022, and the associated deadline for submission of attest engagement reports for the 2020 compliance year to June 1, 2022.

 

     EPA is extending the deadline for submission of attest engagement reports for the 2021 compliance year for obligated parties to September 1, 2022.

 

     Bottom line: The action in the notice confirms what EPA previously said they would do relative to the RFS deadlines and follows what the Trump administration previously had proposed.

 

— Energy initiatives under Biden’s infrastructure proposal aim to upgrade energy infrastructure. Biden plans to:

  • establish a new Grid Deployment Authority at the Department of Energy;
  • offer a ten-year extension and phase down of a direct-pay investment tax credit and production tax credit for clean energy generation and storage;
  • establish an Energy Efficiency and Clean Electricity Standard aimed at cutting electricity bills and electricity pollution;
  • offer $16 billion to create jobs plugging oil and gas wells and restoring and reclaiming abandoned mines;
  • offer a $5 billion investment in remediation and redevelopment of Brownfield and Superfund sites;
  • reform and expand the 45Q tax credit;
  • offer $10 billion for a new Civilian Climate Corps.

— American Gas Association announced several promotions, moving Christina Sames to senior vice president for safety, operations and security; Andrew Lu to vice president for operations and engineering; and Richard Meyer to vice president for energy markets, analysis and standards. Yasmin Rigney Nelson, a former adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris when she was in the Senate, is joining Bracewell LLP’s Policy Resolution Group as a senior principal, the group announced.

 


FOOD & BEVERAGE INDUSTRY


 

— SNAP and P-EBT 12% of grocery spending during pandemic. Two months into the pandemic, around $1 in $8 spent on groceries in the U.S. came from the federal food assistance programs, SNAP (food stamps) and the newly created Pandemic EBT (P-EBT), compared to $1 of every $14 beforehand, according to USDA. Redemptions via the Electronic Benefits Transfer system used for SNAP and P-EBT averaged $8.4 billion a month last spring and summer, 86% higher than the same months in 2019. “This increase reflects the larger role of food assistance programs in supporting food expenditures during the pandemic,” said USDA. “The economic recession that accompanied the pandemic resulted in higher enrollment in SNAP and larger SNAP benefits. P-EBT, intended to help low-income parents buy food for their children when schools were closed, “reflects a substitution of one kind of food assistance benefit … to another.” Link to report.
 

     SNAP enrollment soared by 17% in the first months of the pandemic, reaching 43 million people last June, compared to 37 million before the pandemic. Enrollment was 41.4 million based on the latest count.

 


CORONAVIRUS UPDATE


 

 Summary: Global cases of Covid-19 are at 128,255,068 with 2,804,877 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. case count is at 30,393,702 with 550,996 deaths. The Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center said that there have been 147,602,345 doses administered, 52,229,830 have been fully vaccinated, or 15.4% of the U.S. population.

 

— Germany to ban AstraZeneca vaccine for those under 60. In a blow to AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine, Germany says it will halt its use for people under 60 starting today. The move, endorsed by regional health ministers and announced by Chancellor Angela Merkel, comes after new cases of blood clots associated with the vaccine.  The clots mainly occur in those under 60. “These are findings that we cannot ignore,” Merkel said late Tuesday, according to Bloomberg. “We all know that vaccination is the most important tool against the coronavirus - that we have different vaccines at our disposal is our good fortune.” The Paul Ehrlich Institute reported that as of March 29, a total of 31 cases of blood clots have been reported out of 2.7 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses administered in Germany. The vaccine was already suspended in regions of Germany yesterday.

 

     Meanwhile, new data show that the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is highly effective in adolescents. The shot showed 100% efficacy in children aged 12 to 15, according to a new trial by the drugmakers. Depending on regulatory approvals, inoculations could begin in time for the next academic year.

 

— Vilsack notes Covid aid provision will boost shots for ag workers. Inclusion of a $500 million provision in the Covid aid plan for rural health facilities to boost Covid vaccine distribution will be important for helping to vaccinate ag workers, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said at an event Tuesday with Dr. Anthony Fauci. The two agreed that using mobile units to reach farm workers at worksites would be a tool to expand vaccination. “It really is unacceptable to say that the rest of the country is doing well in containing the infection, but you have individual groups, like farmworkers, left out of the protective umbrella,” Fauci said.

 

— White House press secretary Jen Psaki criticized China for a lack of cooperation that she suggested hindered the findings of a World Health Organization report on the origins of the coronavirus. “They have not been transparent,” Psaki said of China during a White House briefing. “They have not provided underlying data. That certainly doesn’t qualify as cooperation.” Meanwhile, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus echoed the same criticism, telling member states “there is a particular need for a ‘full analysis’ of the role of animal markets in Wuhan and that the report did not conduct an “extensive enough” assessment of the possibility the virus was introduced to humans through a laboratory incident. The comments came as the team tasked with probing the origins of the coronavirus pandemic issued a report on its roughly month-long visit to [Wuhan]. The report offers the most detailed look yet at what happened in the early days of the outbreak but leaves key questions unanswered and has been overshadowed by concern about Chinese influence.

 


POLITICS & ELECTIONS


 

— Democrat Flannery enters Ohio11 race. The Cleveland Plain Dealer (link) reports former Ohio state Rep. Bryan Flannery (D) entered the Ohio11 special election race to replace HUD Secretary Fudge, “becoming the only white candidate in the Democratic primary.” Seven candidates “are vying for the seat, which includes most of Cleveland and eastern Cuyahoga County, stretching down to include portions of Akron in Summit County.”

— DNC announces revised timeline for review of presidential nominating process. The Washington Post reports (link) the Democratic National Committee on Tuesday announced a new timeline “for reviewing the party’s presidential nominating process, after missing a deadline set by delegates at the party’s 2020 convention to conduct a ‘comprehensive and structured review’ by March about issues such as voter access and the usefulness of caucuses.” The new schedule “will include meetings in May and over the summer to discuss the party’s nominating process.”

 


OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE     


 

— Change atop Maritime Commission. Daniel Maffei has been named chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) by President Joe Biden. He was appointed to the FMC in 2016 by President Barack Obama and was renominated by President Donald Trump in 2019. He replaces FMC Commissioner Michael Khouri who served as both acting chair of the FMC and then as Chairman since March 2019. Khouri has been on the FMC since December 2009.

 

— Supreme Court will hear arguments on compensating college athletes. At issue in the case today is whether the NCAA can put limits on education-related benefits. It comes amid a broader debate on whether student athletes can be paid.

 


 

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