FMI details concerns regarding food labeling legislation

The Food Industry Association (FMI) recently announced concerns about potential repercussions of language included in the Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) Online Act, stating it would be duplicative and burdensome.© Shutterstock The concern stems from the Senate’s recent advancement of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which includes language from the COOL Online Act, detailing how the […]

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The Food Industry Association (FMI) recently announced concerns about potential repercussions of language included in the Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) Online Act, stating it would be duplicative and burdensome.

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The concern stems from the Senate’s recent advancement of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which includes language from the COOL Online Act, detailing how the bill would require retailers to include country of origin information in product descriptions on their websites, reflecting the origin of the exact product the customer will receive.

The FMI maintains the requirement would foster costly new technology challenges while conflicting with current requirements identifying the country of origin on the package in place under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) authority for more than 10 years.

“Now is not the time to place additional, duplicative burdens on essential industries like food retailers with no additional benefit to customers,” said Andy Harig, FMI vice president of Tax, Trade, Sustainability & Policy Development. “Online purchasing by customers has increased exponentially due to the COVID pandemic, and retailers have expanded their online product offerings at significant costs to meet consumer needs.”

The FMI said the existing USDA COOL program has proven functional, providing consumers with country-of-origin information efficiently and cost-effectively with food retailer high compliance rates.

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Reps. Guest, Soto seek update on DOJ investigation into cattle market

U.S. Reps. Michael Guest (R-MS) and Darren Soto (D-FL) are seeking updates from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on its investigations into anticompetitive conduct within the beef industry.© Shutterstock Guest and Soto said cattle producers across the country have experienced volatile livestock markets driven by supply chain disruptions and labor challenges. These challenges have […]

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U.S. Reps. Michael Guest (R-MS) and Darren Soto (D-FL) are seeking updates from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on its investigations into anticompetitive conduct within the beef industry.

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Guest and Soto said cattle producers across the country have experienced volatile livestock markets driven by supply chain disruptions and labor challenges. These challenges have been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic and a consolidated beef market. In May of 2020, the Department of Justice launched investigations into the four largest meatpackers in the United States to examine if anticompetitive practices led to price disparities between live cattle prices and wholesale beef.

The lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland asking for an update on that investigation.

“We understand that a thorough investigation can take many months, but it concerns us that farmers, ranchers, and the packers themselves have all been left with little direction since the CIDs were issued,” the lawmakers wrote to Garland. “As you may know, the price for live cattle in the United States has decreased in the last several years, forcing many small operators to make difficult decisions as they strive to stay in business and keep their farms operational. Yet, at the same time, the price of boxed beef has increased significantly, raising consumer prices and widening the gap between live cattle prices, which is a concern for ranchers and consumers alike. This disparity has only been accelerated by the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the labor shortages in processing facilities due to enhanced government benefits, all of which has resulted in continued food supply chain disruption.”

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CFTC subcommittee recommends switch form LIBOR to SOFR for interest rate swaps

A subcommittee within the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) voted to recommend switching interdealer trading conventions from LIBOR to the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) for interest rate swaps. © Shutterstock The recommendation was made by CFTC’s Market Risk Advisory Committee’s (MRAC) Interest Rate Benchmark Reform Subcommittee. This initiative, referred to as “SOFR First,” is […]

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A subcommittee within the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) voted to recommend switching interdealer trading conventions from LIBOR to the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) for interest rate swaps.

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The recommendation was made by CFTC’s Market Risk Advisory Committee’s (MRAC) Interest Rate Benchmark Reform Subcommittee. This initiative, referred to as “SOFR First,” is the third recommendation this subcommittee has referred to the MRAC for consideration in connection with the transition of US Dollar derivatives and related contracts away from LIBOR. SOFR First is a best practice modeled after the U.K.’s SONIA First. It represents a prioritization of interdealer trading in SOFR rather than LIBOR.

“I commend the Interest Rate Benchmark Reform Subcommittee on the development of SOFR First and its forward-thinking approach to increasing overall SOFR derivatives trading in order to facilitate a smooth transition of exposures from LIBOR to SOFR. SOFR First’s milestone date of July 26, 2021, is consistent with, and is designed to complement, U.S. banking regulators’ supervisory guidance that banks should cease entering into new contracts that use USD LIBOR as a reference rate at the end of 2021. Many thanks to the Subcommittee for their hard work on this important contribution to the benchmark reform effort,” Acting MRAC Chair Rostin Behnam said.

Specifically, the subcommittee recommends that starting July 26, interdealer brokers replace trading of LIBOR linear swaps with trading of SOFR linear swaps. This step will cause trading activity amongst swap dealers on these platforms, which account for a substantially large share of trading in the interest rate swap markets, to switch from LIBOR to SOFR.

The subcommittee’s recommendations will not be reviewed by MRAC for consideration.

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Insurance groups support new Texas law enhancing annuity protections

Three consumer advocacy organizations are espousing the benefits of recently passed Texas legislation that lawmakers said would bolster protections for those seeking lifetime income through annuities.© Shutterstock The measures enhance the standards financial professionals are mandated to follow while preserving consumers’ ability to access tools needed for a secure retirement, per the American Council of […]

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Three consumer advocacy organizations are espousing the benefits of recently passed Texas legislation that lawmakers said would bolster protections for those seeking lifetime income through annuities.

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The measures enhance the standards financial professionals are mandated to follow while preserving consumers’ ability to access tools needed for a secure retirement, per the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI); Texas Association of Life and Health Insurers (TALHI); and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA).

“Unlike a fiduciary-only approach that limits choices for consumers, these measures make sure savers, particularly financially vulnerable middle-income Americans, can access information about options for long-term security through retirement,” ACLI President and CEO Susan Neely. “We hope additional states adopt these new standards so that more consumers planning for retirement can benefit from these protections.”

TALHI President and CEO Jennifer Cawley said running out of money is among retirees’ biggest fears.

“Annuities are the only product on the market that can provide a guaranteed stream of income and address this concern,” she said. “Thanks to the Texas Legislature’s leadership, Texans planning for retirement will have the tools they need to secure peace of mind no matter how long they live.”

NAIFA–Texas President Danny O’Connell said the new legislation imposes strict requirements on financial professionals, ensuring they will act in the best interest of Texas consumers they serve.

“Life insurance companies and agents strongly support this new law,” he said. “It provides Texans planning for retirement confidence that financial professionals will offer savings recommendations that address the unique situations of individuals and families, rather than their own financial interest.”

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ICI supports SEC plan to require companies to disclose greenhouse gas emissions data

The Investment Company Institute (ICI) said the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) should require companies to disclose direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions data and demographic information about their workforces.© Shutterstock The statement responds to a call for feedback that the SEC recently put out on climate change-related corporate disclosure. Consistent, comparable, and reliable data […]

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The Investment Company Institute (ICI) said the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) should require companies to disclose direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions data and demographic information about their workforces.

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The statement responds to a call for feedback that the SEC recently put out on climate change-related corporate disclosure. Consistent, comparable, and reliable data about climate change and workforce diversity make it easier for fund managers to make investment decisions on behalf of retail investors who invest in their funds, ICI officials said.

“Mandating disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions and workforce diversity will give fund managers the consistent, comparable, and reliable data they need to better assess current and future sustainability-related risks,” ICI President and CEO Eric Pan said. “While we believe certain disclosures should be mandatory, it’s essential that the SEC develops a regulatory framework that is flexible enough to allow disclosure practices to develop organically over time. Having a dynamic framework will enhance the quality and volume of disclosures about how sustainability-related risks could affect companies’ long-term value, which drives investment decisions. In the past, the SEC has successfully applied the materiality standard to principles-based regulation, and we believe that standard is an appropriate foundation for any climate change-related corporate disclosure framework.”

ICI also called on the SEC to promote the development of reporting practices before considering requiring companies to disclose other indirect sources of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, it should leverage private-sector initiatives so it can more easily catch up to sustainability-related reporting that US market participants voluntarily have achieved over the past decade.

Also, they said the SEC should allow companies to disclose climate change-related information in various formats and discourage the use of boilerplate language. In addition, it should promote a global framework for corporate sustainability disclosure, given the international nature of capital markets and the shared challenges that climate change poses worldwide.

Further, ICI states that the commission should require private companies that meet specific asset and shareholder criteria to disclose the same sustainability information as public companies so investors can assess those entities as well. Finally, it should establish a committee that includes a wide range of market participants — including companies, funds, and investors — to understand better how climate change risk affects companies.

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GOP lawmakers express concerns to SEC chair on climate change disclosures

U.S. Rep. French Hill (R-AR) is among a group of Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee that have expressed concerns with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposal to mandate disclosures for public companies regarding climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.© Shutterstock “We are concerned that in the context of climate change disclosures, the […]

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U.S. Rep. French Hill (R-AR) is among a group of Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee that have expressed concerns with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposal to mandate disclosures for public companies regarding climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

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“We are concerned that in the context of climate change disclosures, the SEC is currently on a course that will take it far afield of its statutory mission to protect investors; maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets; and facilitate capital formation…The nature and scope of climate change disclosure rightfully depends upon a particular company’s business line and their carbon footprint…One-size-fits-all, uniform mandates would be deeply misguided for an issue as complex as climate change,” Hill and the 22 Republican committee members wrote to SEC Chair Gary Gensler.

The GOP committee members reminded the SEC chair of the importance of the materiality standard for corporate disclosure, as well as the commission’s obligations under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Further, they discussed the importance of the SEC’s reputation as an expert regulator that operates independently of political agendas.

“We urge you and your fellow commissioners to ensure that any further action the SEC takes regarding climate-related disclosure is clearly tied to its core competencies… [which] ultimately will ensure that the Commission’s rulemakings are in the long-term interest of Main Street investors,” the lawmakers added.

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Federal Reserve to issue bank stress test results

Federal Reserve Board officials said its bank stress tests results will be released on June 24.© Shutterstock The process ensures banks have the capital to absorb losses amid a recession to lend to households and businesses. Per the Federal Reserve Board, this year’s bank stress test involves the resilience of banks with more than $100 […]

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Federal Reserve Board officials said its bank stress tests results will be released on June 24.

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The process ensures banks have the capital to absorb losses amid a recession to lend to households and businesses.

Per the Federal Reserve Board, this year’s bank stress test involves the resilience of banks
with more than $100 billion in total consolidated assets being tested against a hypothetical recession featuring a global downturn with commercial real estate and corporate debt markets stress.

Smaller banks are only required to participate in the testing initiative every other year. This year, four firms opted in voluntarily: BMO Financial Corp., MUFG Americas Holdings Corporation, RBC US Group Holdings LLC, and Regions Financial Corporation.

“The banking sector has provided critical support to the economic recovery over the past year,”
Vice Chair for Supervision Randal K. Quarles said. “Although uncertainty remains, this stress test will give the public additional information on its resilience.”

The hypothetical situations are not forecasts, the Federal Reserve Board said, and the scenario is more severe than most current baseline projections for the path of the domestic economy under the stress testing period.

The goal is to assess the strength of large banks during the recession scenario, with each scenario including 28 variables covering domestic and international economic activity.

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Treasury Department releases Final Environmental Impact Statement for new production facility

U.S. Department of the Treasury officials said the Agency’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) has released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a new Currency Production Facility (CPF).© Shutterstock The EIS for the proposed construction and operation of the CPF within the National Capital Region (NCR) analyzes potential environmental, cultural, and socioeconomic impacts […]

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U.S. Department of the Treasury officials said the Agency’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) has released the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a new Currency Production Facility (CPF).

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The EIS for the proposed construction and operation of the CPF within the National Capital Region (NCR) analyzes potential environmental, cultural, and socioeconomic impacts in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The proposed new venue, per authorities, would replace the Treasury Department’s Washington, DC production facility while offering a modern, scalable, sufficiently sized production facility within the NCR that meets the agency’s needs – resulting in more efficient and streamlined currency production and allowing a continual presence within the NCR.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) previously confirmed that the DC Facility has been operating for more than 100 years.

Additionally, the GAO determined the site can neither support modern currency production nor support the Treasury Department’s and BEP’s current and future missions of secure and efficient currency production, maximum worker safety, environmental responsibility, and effective use of public resources.

The Treasury Department has indicated based on the Final EIS analysis, the agency is slated to prepare and execute its Record of Decision (ROD) announcing which alternative is environmentally preferable, the alternative selected for implementation, and which mitigation measures are to be implemented to reduce potential adverse impacts.

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Sens. Brown, Reed, and Tester praise revisions to military borrowers initiative

Three senators recently applauded the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) revisions to its proposed COVID-19 Veterans Assistance Partial Claim Payment (COVID-VAPCP) program.© Shutterstock The revisions stemmed from concerns raised by legislators and other stakeholders, with Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Jack Reed (D-RI), […]

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Three senators recently applauded the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) revisions to its proposed COVID-19 Veterans Assistance Partial Claim Payment (COVID-VAPCP) program.

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The revisions stemmed from concerns raised by legislators and other stakeholders, with Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Jack Reed (D-RI), chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services and Jon Tester (D-MT), chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The senators noted that the changes would help veterans with VA-guaranteed home loans return to making normal payments after exiting a COVID-19-related forbearance.

Authorities indicated the original proposal outlined the program could add additional debt for military borrowers exiting forbearance, raise monthly costs, and cause military borrowers to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more than other borrowers. However, the final rule will allow veterans and servicemembers whose loans are in forbearance to resume their payments without increasing their monthly costs.

“This decision will keep veterans and service members from losing their homes,” Brown said. “As originally proposed, this program would have raised costs for those who served our country and jeopardized their ability to stay in their homes. (VA) Secretary (Denis) McDonough listened to the concerns my colleagues and I raised and those raised by consumer advocates and lenders and took action to ensure that veterans and service members who have struggled during this pandemic have the opportunity to get back on track with their payments.”

Tester said men and women in uniform fell on tough times this past year trying to make payments to keep a roof over their heads and get the meaningful support they needed.

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FHFA announces extension of forbearance for multifamily property owners

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue to offer COVID-19 forbearance to qualifying multifamily property owners through Sept. 30, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced. © Shutterstock This is the third extension of the programs, which were set to expire on June 30, 2021. However, they remain subject to the continued tenant protections that […]

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Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue to offer COVID-19 forbearance to qualifying multifamily property owners through Sept. 30, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced.

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This is the third extension of the programs, which were set to expire on June 30, 2021. However, they remain subject to the continued tenant protections that FHFA imposed during the pandemic.

“While COVID-19 cases are declining and many homeowners continue to emerge from forbearance, many renters, who are unable benefit from rising home prices, have not financially recovered from the pandemic. To help those families still struggling to pay their rent and to help multifamily property owners maintain their properties, FHFA is extending the multifamily COVID-19 forbearance and tenant protections through the end of September 2021,” FHFA Director Mark Calabria said.

Property owners with Fannie or Freddie multifamily mortgages can enter a new or, if qualified, modified forbearance if they experience a financial hardship due to the COVID-19 emergency. However, property owners who enter into a new or modified forbearance agreement must inform tenants in writing about tenant protections available during the property owner’s forbearance and repayment periods.

They must also agree not to evict tenants solely for the nonpayment of rent while the property is in forbearance. In addition, they must give tenants at least a 30-day notice to vacate and not charge late fees or penalties for nonpayment of rent. Further, they must allow for tenant flexibility in the repayment of back-rent over time.

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