Washington Insider-- Thursday

Conflict at the Capitol

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

World Food Prices Continued To Rise In December

World food prices rose a seventh consecutive month in December, with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's food price index averaging 107.5 points in December, up from 105.2 in November.

All food categories posted increases for the month except for sugar.

For all of 2020, the index averaged 97.9 points, a three-year high and a 3.1% increase from 2019. However, that still marked a decline from the 2011 peak in the index.

The rise in food prices globally could become an issue moving forward as countries that rely on food imports are facing increased costs at a time when they are also dealing with the COVID pandemic.

Smithfield Foods Readying Vaccines For Employees

Smithfield Foods said it is actively preparing for COVID-19 vaccine distribution to its employees and has medical capabilities at its U.S. plants.

The meat processing sector was one of the hardest hit by the virus. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicated food and ag workers should receive the vaccine in a later phase, after healthcare workers and those over the age of 75.

The meat industry has also offered up their cold storage facilities to help with storage of the vaccines given the need for those to be stored in cold conditions.


Washington Insider: Conflict at the Capitol

The news was dominated this week by three events; the debate and tumult at the Capitol on Wednesday; the formal recognition of Joe Biden by Congress as the next U.S. president early Thursday and the Georgia wins of two Democrats on Wednesday to shift control of the Senate.

These developments have been endlessly broadcast and discussed, but continue to shock since they resulted in four deaths and 52 arrests during efforts breach one of the most iconic buildings in the United States after the president urged his supporters to oppose the ceremonial counting of the electoral votes.

This led to an armed standoff at door to the House and breaches of several other buildings. Observers were shocked at the TV images and serious questions are being raised about the responsibility for and the impacts of the protests, Bloomberg said.

Press reports said that the stunning display of “insurrection” was the first time the U.S. Capitol had been overrun since the British attacked and burned the building in August of 1814, during the War of 1812.

However, also on Wednesday, lawmakers began returning to the Capitol once the building was secured and resumed their intended business, the confirmation of Biden's win by counting the votes in the Electoral College. It took until the early hours of Thursday morning, but Congress eventually counted and certified Biden as the victor.

The Democratic win was sealed after House and Senate members fended off a final round of objections to the Nov. 3 election outcome raised by a handful of Republicans on President Trump's behalf. Shortly after lawmakers certified the election results, President Trump said there would be an “orderly transition” of power to Biden on Jan. 20 – but he also noted his continued “disagreement” with the outcome of the election.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and many others, placed the blame for the violence squarely on Trump, but argued that Congress wasn't deterred. “These images were projected to the world,” Schumer says. “This will be a stain on our country not easily washed away.”

“I am genuinely shocked and saddened that our nation, so long the beacon of light and hope for democracy, has come to such a dark moment,” Biden said in brief remarks on the incident in Wilmington, Delaware on Wednesday.

Bloomberg noted that President Trump has no further means to challenge the election outcome, barring an unlikely decision by the Supreme Court to consider his unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud before Biden is inaugurated.

However, the press also noted that the new president inherits a raging pandemic that has been all but ignored over the last two months as the current president has waged a legal and political campaign to overturn the election results. The new president's first test will be to more effectively distribute and deliver coronavirus vaccines, following the current administration's shortfalls of its year-end goal to inoculate 20 million Americans, Bloomberg said.

The certification came on the same day that President-elect Joe Biden learned he will have a Senate Democratic majority after twin runoffs in Georgia. He has promised to put forward another economic stimulus bill soon after taking office that would include billions of dollars in spending for vaccine distribution and to safely reopen schools, with the goal of allowing most to begin in-person instruction within the first 100 days of his presidency. His team is building a full federal response to the pandemic that includes vaccine distribution, personal protective equipment and economic aid.

Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and raised in Delaware, Biden spent decades pursuing the presidency. He ran for the White House in 1988 and 2008 and considered running in 1984 and 2016.

Elected to the Senate in 1972 at the age of 29, Biden served 36 years in the chamber. He chaired the Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees before becoming Barack Obama's vice president in 2009. He accepted the offer to be Obama's running mate on the condition that he would be the last person in the room when Obama made key decisions, though he wasn't always heeded.

Throughout his candidacy, President-elect Biden endured criticism that he was too moderate or too old while focusing his appeals on a reliable base of support – African Americans, women, and a sliver of White voters who had voted Republican in 2016 but had soured on the president.

His general-election argument in 2020 centered on the president's handling of the pandemic that had killed nearly a quarter of a million people by Election Day and put millions more out of work. He survived the president's efforts to attack him as corrupt and senile, returning the Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania to the Democratic column and adding Arizona and Georgia, two states that hadn't supported Democratic presidential candidates in this century.

In all, Biden notched the same Electoral College vote total that Trump had secured four years earlier, 306 to 232.

So, we will see. The violence at the capitol was previously threatened, but appears to have been not fully anticipated and will lead to numerous follow-up investigations, observers say. The nation's governing mechanisms seem likely to become slightly better aligned, but clearly will be deeply tested in the coming weeks, debates that should be watched closely by producers as they emerge, Washington Insider believes.

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