President Biden will use his State of the Union message tonight to try to convince a skeptical public that the economy is on the mend, and that his policies have a lot to do with it.

Biden “will both speak directly to the fact that we have more work to do, but also underscore how the progress we have made to date can paint a picture to move forward,” said Brian Deese, director of Biden’s National Economic Council.

A White House summary of the president’s record specifically cites his work to lower ocean shipping costs and meat prices. According to the summary, the new Ocean Shipping Reform Act will decrease costs for shippers, while the $1 billion USDA is spending to expand meat processing capacity will ensure the “market isn’t dominated by just a few big players.”

Take note: Operating margins at meat processing giant Tyson Foods are down substantially from a year ago. The company is reporting an operating margin of just 2.8% on beef for the latest quarter, down from 19% a year earlier, while its margin on chicken dropped from 3% to 1.8%. The company says it lost money on pork in the latest quarter.

From the GOP: In a prebuttal to the SOTU, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., repeated his call for Biden to negotiate a budget deal. “Cuts to Medicare and Social Security …. are off the table. Defaulting on our debt is not an option. But neither is a future of higher taxes, higher interest rates, and an economy that doesn't work for working Americans,” McCarthy said.

Groups call on USDA to strengthen Packers and Stockyards Act

USDA needs to adopt tougher Packers and Stockyards Act regulations and work with Congress to reinstate mandatory country-of-origin labeling, groups including R-CALF USA, Farm Aid and National Family Farm Coalition said in a petition submitted Monday.

They also called on the department to “either ban packer ownership of cattle more than 14 days before slaughter or require (it) to be traded in an open, public market where all buyers and sellers have access and bids and offers can be witnessed as they are made.”

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is expected to issue a proposed rule soon to define violations of the Act, short of harm to competition.

Temporary SNAP benefits to stop at end of the month

At the end of February, households receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program emergency allotments established during the pandemic in 35 remaining states and territories will see a drop in benefits ranging from at least $95 to as much as $250 per month.

Though all remaining SNAP households will experience a significant reduction in benefits when the emergency allotments end – especially given the modest amount of basic SNAP benefits and high recent inflation in food prices – the program’s annual cost-of-living adjustments and the recent revision to the Thrifty Food Plan will help “soften the cliff when emergency allotments end,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Food Research & Action Center warned of the negative impacts of the “hunger cliff.” In a recent blog, FRAC explains more than 17% of all households face food insecurity, a figure that rises to nearly one-quarter of households with children. FRAC also says “abrupt loss of SNAP benefit boosts and diminished SNAP eligibility would worsen hardship and inequities as well as have negative impacts on the economy.” 

Each dollar in SNAP benefits during a downturn generates between $1.50 and $1.80 in economic activity, the hunger advocacy group notes.

Rain and drought impact Brazil’s soy harvest

Heavy rains in Mato Grosso – Brazil’s largest soybean growing state – and drought in Rio Grande do Sul, its southernmost state, are taking a toll on the country’s harvest this year, according to the consulting firm AgRural.

The rains are slowing down operations in Mato Grosso, although some soybeans are being harvested. Meanwhile, prolonged dry weather in the south is harming yields.

Overall, Brazil has harvested just 9% of its soybean acres so far, down from 16% at this time last year, says AgRural.

Chicken wings still a Super Bowl favorite

Kansas City fans love barbecue and Philly adores its cheesesteaks, but when it comes to the Super Bowl, the wing is still king. Americans are expected to consume a record-breaking 1.45 billion chicken wings during Super Bowl weekend, according to the National Chicken Council’s annual Chicken Wing Report.

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This represents an increase of two percent from last year, the equivalent of 84 million more wings. National Chicken Council spokesperson Tom Super says the two main reasons for the uptick are more favorable prices and more people getting back to normal and gathering for the Big Game, whether at home or at a bar or restaurant. Wholesale and retail wing prices are down double digits from a year ago.

Big games inspire gatherings, and wings are on the menu. When comparing the week of the division championship games to the final week of the regular season, wing sales grew double digits in both dollars and pounds sold within the Kansas City, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Cincinnati markets, according to IRI OmniMarket Integrated Fresh data reported by NCC.

Fun facts: Did you know 1.45 billion wings laid end to end would stretch from GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, about 62 times? And that is enough to give four wings each to every man, woman and child in the United States.

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