Live Coronavirus Updates: News and Analysis

Live Coronavirus Updates: News and Analysis

The Agriculture Department has $16 billion to offset farmers’ losses, but who gets it?

Months before an election in which some farm states are major battlegrounds, Democrats and other critics of the administration’s agriculture policies are concerned that new agriculture subsidies, provided by Congress with bipartisan backing, could be doled out to ensure President Trump continues to enjoy the backing of one of his key voting blocs.

The Agriculture Department has set aside $16 billion for relief from economic damage caused by the pandemic.

The Trump administration’s $28 billion effort in 2018 and 2019 to compensate farmers for losses from its trade wars has been criticized as excessive, devised on the fly and tilted toward states politically important to Republicans, writes Times correspondent Sharon LaFraniere.

Now that the administration is starting to send farmers billions of dollars in additional aid, some are questioning how the money will be allocated.

“I think Congress should be concerned in terms of letting U.S.D.A. just write checks with no oversight,” said Joseph W. Glauber, a top economist with the department for 22 years who is now with the International Food Policy Research Institute.

“Are these programs politically motivated? The short answer is yes,” Mr. Glauber said.

Bill Northey, the Agriculture Department under secretary who oversaw the trade subsidies, said that the program was put in place “before actual trade and price impacts were observed,” while the studies were conducted after the fact.

Other analyses, he said, found that the payments were not excessive at all, an assertion also made by the National Cotton Council.

Agriculture policy plays out against a complex political backdrop that can transcend party loyalties. Small farmers battle big agriculture for influence. Each region of the country has discrete interests, as do producers of different kinds of crops and other farm products.

Economists say the Agriculture Department, under intense pressure from both the White House and Congress to deliver coronavirus checks to farmers, seems again engaged in major guesswork in trying to calculate losses.

“We were planning to make a lot of noise saying, ‘Hey, we’re back,’” said Ken Giddon, an owner of Rothmans, a small clothing chain. “Now we don’t think that would be appropriate. I think New York City needs a week or two of healing before a week or two of selling.”

In recent weeks, many restrictions have been rolled back. Last month, train and bus services and domestic air flights resumed. Most businesses outside hot spots were allowed to reopen.

“Somebody who’s developing a product that’s going to be of very high cost will actually ultimately lose out if the high-volume market doesn’t support that,” Professor Shattock said.

Clinical trials are beginning this month, If the vaccine is proven safe and effective, the first doses could be available early next year.

Katrin Bennhold, The Times’s Berlin bureau chief, writes that resuming a prepandemic life in Germany means regularly handing out her contact information. Read her full dispatch here.

I’ve given my phone number to a lot of strangers over the past week.

I scribbled it down for the charming barista who made my latte. I handed it to the waiter who took my first restaurant booking in more than two months. I gave it to a hairdresser, to an ice cream vendor, even to the guy behind plexiglass at the open-air swimming pool.

I swear I wasn’t flirting. I was just trying to have a swim.

Berlin has been emerging from its coronavirus lockdown in full force, and the price of a snippet of our pre-corona lives is handing over personal details so the detectives of the German health authority can trace the contacts of a newly infected person.

It is one way in which Germany’s new normal looks anything but normal. In a country where privacy is something of a national religion, Germans now casually hand over their private address at every turn.

At a trendy coffee shop in central Berlin, Sabine Baum, a graphic designer, added her details to the dog-eared handwritten list on the counter one recent morning.

“Somehow it feels OK, because it’s just on paper and not online,” she said.

The longing for normality is a powerful incentive to put up with things that in early March would have seemed either unacceptable or totally absurd to many Germans. Like wearing something in a sauna (face masks might become mandatory when saunas reopen next month).

The Chinese government on Sunday strongly defended its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, pushing back at criticism that officials had suppressed early reports of the disease and contending instead that China had set a strong example for how to combat it.

A top official said at a news conference in Beijing that the Chinese government and state news media had provided early, timely and extensive information since the first cases appeared in Hubei Province late last year. In an apparent reference to the Trump administration’s numerous assertions that China is to blame for the subsequent global pandemic, he complained bitterly about what he described as foreign lies and slanders.

“Those are completely unwarranted and unreasonable,” said the official, Xu Lin, who oversees the State Council Information Office. The agency published a detailed report on Sunday about China’s epidemic response.

Ma Xiaowei, the minister in charge of the National Health Commission, also said that China had “not delayed in any way” the release of information about the disease.

A report published by Mr. Xu’s agency on Sunday provides a detailed timeline of China’s epidemic response. But while Chinese scientists moved quickly to identify the new disease and share their findings internationally, political leaders were slower to act, ordering police investigations of doctors who tried to sound the alarm in late December.

Since the outbreak began, China has recorded more than 89,000 cases and more than 4,600 deaths.

The U.S. accusations against China continued on Sunday, with Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, saying that the United States had evidence that China was trying to slow down or sabotage the development of a Covid-19 vaccine by Western countries.

“We have evidence that communist China is trying to sabotage us or slow it down,” Mr. Scott said during an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation. “China does not want us and England and Europe to do it first. They have decided to be an adversary to Americans and I think to democracy around the world.”

Mr. Scott declined to give any evidence or details of his claim, but said it had come through the intelligence community.

In other global news:

Reporting was contributed by Katrin Bennhold, Keith Bradsher, David Gelles, Emma Goldberg, J. David Goodman, Lara Jakes, Miriam Jordan, David D. Kirkpatrick, Sharon LaFraniere, Raphael Minder, Elisabetta Povoledo, Monika Pronczuk, Anna Schaverien, Kai Schultz, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Mitch Smith and Karen Zraick.

Source link