Washington Insider-- Tuesday

Wrangling Over a New Stimulus

Here's a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN's well-placed observer.

FSA says WHIP-Plus applications due October 30

USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) said that October 30 is now the deadline for affected producers to submit applications for the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program – Plus (WHIP-Plus) for 2018 and 2019 losses. USDA did not originally specify a deadline when the program was announced.

FSA will launch a new tool on the farmers.gov WHIP-Plus webpage to help producers understand eligibility for the program and whether they had possible losses in 2018 and 2019. The tool will also allow producers an opportunity to provide information for FSA staff to reach out to them.

FSA will announce soon the details for producers who experienced quality loss from 2018 and 2019 natural disaster events authorized in appropriations legislation. There will be a separate signup period for producers reporting quality loss.

FSA has received more than 133,000 applications for WHIP-Plus disaster assistance and paid out nearly $1.4 billion in WHIP-Plus benefits.

Britain Acts To Prevent Vote On Imports Of Chlorinated Chicken, Hormone-Fed Beef

The British government will use an “obscure” rule to prevent lawmakers from a vote aimed at blocking imports of chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef, according to a report in the Independent newspaper.

This would defeat an attempt to give powers to a new watchdog at a time when the EU is worried Britain's post-Brexit trade deals, particularly with the U.S., could ease food and animal welfare standards.

The U.S. has long said EU restrictions on both fronts are not based on science. But there has been significant resistance on the topics from within the UK to a degree but more specifically in the broader EU that the UK is in the process of leaving.


Washington Insider: Wrangling Over a New Stimulus

Politico is reporting this week that top Trump administration officials are working to repurpose some previously approved PPP money and that the “latest salvo in a week of twists and turns in talks between the White House and congressional leaders on a new round,” continues to unfold.

“Now is the time for us to come together and immediately vote on a bill to allow us to spend the unused Paycheck Protection Program funds while we continue to work toward a comprehensive package,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wrote on Sunday to members of the House and Senate. “The all-or-nothing approach is an unacceptable response to the American people.”

The letter follows a “number of mixed signals from the administration” over the past week — including a break in stimulus talks by the president — and then a reversal of course on “a variety of relief measures.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Sunday rejected the latest $1.8 trillion stimulus offer from Mnuchin. Many Senate Republicans, meanwhile, say they are wary of greenlighting yet another hefty relief package.

Meadows and Mnuchin reserved their criticism for the Democratic-led House for passing two massive relief bills largely along party lines “instead of compromising with us on bipartisan legislation like we have done in the past.”

“We will continue to try to work with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer,” the pair wrote. “It is not just about the top-line number but also about legislation that can be passed by both the House and the Senate and signed into law by the president to help the American people.”

The two sides continue to differ on a wide range of issues, including the overall price tag of the next package. The latest Democratic proposal clocked in at $2.2 trillion, about $400 billion more than the latest White House offer, Politico said.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Sunday that Secretary Mnuchin could make a larger stimulus offer to Democrats after Trump said on Friday that he wanted a larger relief package than either party has offered.

In a TV interview, CNN host Jake Tapper had pressed Kudlow on whether the Treasury secretary — who is spearheading the stimulus talks with Pelosi—would offer more than the $2.2 trillion package the House passed earlier this month.

“He may. He may,” Kudlow said of Mnuchin. “Secretary Mnuchin is up to $1.8 trillion. So, the bid and the offer is narrowing somewhat between the two sides.”

“President Trump actually has always said... as far as the key elements are concerned, the checks, the unemployment assistance, the small-business assistance — we have got to help airlines out—he would go further,” Kudlow added. “So, I think Secretary Mnuchin, who is a very good negotiator, will be carrying the president's message.”

The president had abruptly cut off relief talks with House leaders last week, saying his administration wouldn't negotiate until after the election. But soon after that, the president called on lawmakers to approve individual relief measures, including another round of stimulus checks and aid to airlines.

And, on Friday, the president said he “would like to see a bigger stimulus package, frankly, than either the Democrats or Republicans are offering.”

His comments came amid the new, $1.8 trillion offer by Mnuchin to Democrats. In a letter to House Democrats on Sunday, Speaker Pelosi rejected the latest offer, arguing that it “does not meet the health needs” of the pandemic. She added that until differences on what is in the packages can be bridged, “we remain at an impasse.”

Kudlow, meanwhile, downplayed Senate Republican opposition to a new multitrillion-dollar stimulus and indicated that the GOP would go along if a deal were struck between the White House and Democrats. “Don't forget, the Republicans in the Senate put up their own bill a few weeks ago and got 53 votes, I think it was. So, they united,” he said. “I think, if an agreement can be reached, they will go along with it.”

Still, during the CNN interview, Kudlow and Tapper sparred over the political dynamics of passing another large aid package. Kudlow blamed Democrats for holding up a deal, but Tapper pressed the White House economic adviser on entrenched resistance from Senate Republicans.

“I don't understand the intransigence from my Democratic friends,” Kudlow said.

“Well, I'm not talking about your Democratic friends,” Tapper replied. “I'm talking about 20 Senate Republicans who were mad at Secretary Mnuchin and saying that the proposal of $1.8 trillion was way too much. They called it a death knell.”

In addition, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has expressed skepticism that a massive new relief package could pass the Senate in the coming weeks. He's focused the chamber's attention on confirming Trump's Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett.

Many Republicans have also raised the specter of an expanding budget deficit after lawmakers enacted trillions in pandemic aid in the spring. The Senate GOP rolled out a narrower relief bill in September, but the measure was blocked by Democrats.

So, we will see. There appears to be strong support for further coronavirus stimulus, but the fog of politics is almost impossible to penetrate as the runup to next month's elections proceeds. And, the economic uncertainty is intensified by concerns that the recovery may well be slowing more than anticipated. Certainly, these are trends and issues producers should continue to watch very closely as the season progresses, Washington Insider believes.

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