Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 2/22/21 | WAMC

Bill Owens: Confounding And Confusing Events 2/22/21

Feb 22, 2021

In some local AG news, the Willsboro Research Farm (Willsboro New York) is currently doing research on super fruits which is being funded by the farmer driven Northern New York Agricultural Development Program.  This spring they will focus on elderberries with American and European varieties being planted, alongside already established juneberry, erronea and honeyberry, which are also undergoing trials at the Willsboro farm.  Ninety-five percent of elderberries consumed in the United States are imported from Europe so there is an opportunity for American growers to build a substantial domestic market.  The four fruits mentioned above are known as super fruits for their high phytonutrient and antioxidant content.  The results of the trial so far indicate that these four berries have adapted well to the northern New York climate.  Hopefully, this gives an opportunity to our farmers to develop yet another crop which will help create economic stability. 

The recent cold snap has sent natural gas prices soaring to almost $600 in Oklahoma.  As an example, whole sale power for delivery last Sunday was trading anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 a megawatt hour, which is an increase from 2,672% from the Friday prices in the Texas west hub.  Traders indicated they never seen electricity trade on a Texas grid for thousands of dollars for a sustained amount of time.  These cold temperatures have continued but will hopefully moderate as we move into next week, and we will see a significant decline in these prices.  The inability at the Texas grid to supply electricity except in El Paso which prepared for this and had far fewer problems.

Canadian wholesale trade increased by 5.3% from December to January which is good news for the Canadian economy and hopefully reflects confidence in ours.

The US and Canada have continuing trade disputes involving dairy quotas, softwood lumber, and safe guard duties (tariffs) on solar energy products. None of these are new and don’t have a significant impact on overall trade.

Brexit has resulted in Britain’s businesses being faced with expensive disruptions to their operations and a plunge in exports.  The bureaucracy-imposed customs procedures, health and safety checks, value added taxes on imports and other time-consuming commerce limiting hinderances have increased costs and slowed commerce. No tariffs have been imposed, as yet.

The Office of National Statistics announced on last Friday that Britain’s economy contracted nearly 10% last year, the worst plunge in centuries – note in centuries.  It doesn’t look like Brexit was a success, at least at this point, maybe in a few years when things settle down, but right now I wouldn’t want to be an exporter, or for that matter, an importer since Britain will be imposing the same kinds of bureaucracy on goods coming from the continent. 

UK performers (no not Boris, but legitimate artists) are saying that the post Brexit visa rules will spell disaster for their industry. Each of the 27 member countries has their own visa rules which increase cost and time.

Retail sales surged 5.3% in January, the most in several months while experts anticipate a 1% increase. So, the question is what does this mean, are other people going to shops or merely increased pick up shopping.

On the Trump front, numerous investigations are in process including Georgia and New York, just as Mitch McConnell predicated. The issues in Georgia are very troubling as they dovetail with his call to insurrection on January 6, 2021.

I have noticed a certain calmness in the air as the intensity created by Trump has dissipated to a large degree in much of the country.

COVID seems to have turned the corner even if vaccinations aren’t going as rapidly as we would all like. The variants are still a threat to this process as are the non-vaxers, non-mask wearers, and we will struggle I suspect to get to herd immunity.

Bill Owens is a former member of Congress representing the New York 21st, a partner in Stafford, Owens, Piller, Murnane, Kelleher and Trombley in Plattsburgh, NY and a Strategic Advisor at Dentons to Washington, DC.

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