Arizona AgFest 2022 Draws Lawmakers’ Attention To Vital Industry

Arizona AgFest 2022 Draws Lawmakers’ Attention To Vital Industry

By Terri Jo Neff |

Several state lawmakers spent last Wednesday afternoon attending the 2022 Arizona Farm Bureau AgFest on the lawn of the House of Representatives.

The Arizona Farm Bureau is the state’s largest farm and ranch organization, and serves as the industry’s voice. The Jan. 19 event showcased the state’s $23.3 billion agriculture industry to legislators.

Among those attending was Sen. Sine Kerr, who chairs the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Energy, and Water.

Kerr is no stranger to the Ag business. She grew up in rural Buckeye and with her husband now owns a large dairy farm.

“Agriculture is essential to Arizona’s prosperity,” Kerr said at the event. “We all depend on the work our ranchers and farmer are doing for our state and country, and I will do my absolute best to always advocate for them at the state legislature.”

Some of the other lawmakers who attended AgFest were House Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham, as well as Reps. Leo Biasiucci, Frank Carroll, David Cook, and Joel John. Senate President Karen Fann was also on hand, as well as Sen. TJ Shope.

Members of the University of Arizona Collegiate Young Farmers and Ranchers, which has its own Arizona Farm Bureau chapter, also took part in the event.

In other Arizona Farm Bureau news, it was announced earlier this month that the organization earned the American Farm Bureau Federation’s New Horizon Award, which honors the most innovative new state Farm Bureau programs.

The New Horizon Award recognized the Arizona Farm Bureau’s partnership with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service last year to launch a conservation agriculture mentoring program. Stefanie Smallhouse, president of Arizona Farm Bureau, accepted the award during the Federation’s annual convention in Georgia.

Arizona Farm Bureau also won in all four Awards of Excellence categories for demonstrating outstanding achievements in Advocacy, Coalitions & Partnerships, Engagement & Outreach, and Leadership & Business Development.

U.S. Commerce Trade Agency Adds To Arizona Staff, Announces International Trade Missions

U.S. Commerce Trade Agency Adds To Arizona Staff, Announces International Trade Missions

By Terri Jo Neff |

One of the riskiest business plans for U.S. business owners is entering a new global market or contracting with an international trade partner. But the process does not have to be fraught with stress if you know what to look for, which is where the U.S. Commercial Service comes in. 

The U.S. Commercial Service (USCS) is the promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. The agency has trade professionals in more than 100 U.S. cities, including Phoenix and Tucson, as well as U.S. embassies and consulates to help American companies get started in exporting and to support other companies hoping to increase global sales.

On Feb. 2, the USCS is hosting a free webinar about the ABCs of export due diligence. The no-obligation event will provide useful tools which business owners can utilize to quickly and confidently screen prospective international partners. 

Then in late March, the U.S. Commercial Service is hosting a Central America Trade Mission & Business Conference in Guatemala for American businesses ready to expand into -or ramp up- business far south of the border.

The conference will explore markets in Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama, and will include region-specific sessions, market entry strategies, export compliance, legal, logistics, disaster resilience and recovery, and trade financing resources.

Attendees can also prearrange one-on-one consultations with officials of the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service or the U.S. Department of State with expertise in commercial markets throughout the region. More information on the Central America Trade Mission is available at https://www.trade.gov/central-america-trade-mission

In May, USCS is hosting Trade Americas – Business Opportunities in the South America Conference held in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The conference offers U.S. companies the opportunity to explore eleven South American markets: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Uruguay.

According to USCS, the South America region’s nearly 400 million potential customers make the area a natural commercial partner for U.S. companies due to its close proximity and closely-tied history and culture. In addition, several trade agreements between the U.S. and various South America countries aim to enhance cooperation on trade and investment.

Information about the May conference is available at https://www.trade.gov/south-america-trade-mission

The USCS office in Phoenix recently added a new member to its team of trade professionals. Colin Hudson joins USCS following several years with FedEx, where he held multiple roles in international business development. 

Hudson, who is originally from England, has lived and worked in Asia-Pacific and Latin America. He relocated to Arizona from Florida, and brings experience to USCS in assisting clients from different sized companies and industries in managing and growing their global presence. In his most recent position as a FedEx Worldwide Account manager, Hudson helped companies open new markets in diverse locations such as India and Poland. 

Personalized assistance is available to Arizona companies engaged in global trade or considering an expansion into an international market.  The USCS staff is assigned based on industry or location:

Leandro Solorzano (Director) Industries: General Services, Franchising, Travel and Tourism. Leandro.Solorzano@trade.gov

Christina Parisi (Tucson office) All Industries in Southern Arizona   Christina.Parisi@trade.gov

Fernando Jimenez  Industries: Aerospace & Defense, Safety & Security, Sporting Goods, Textile, Chemicals, Advanced Manufacturing, Automotive, Transportation   Fernando.Jimenez@trade.gov

Ruth Soberanes Industries:  Education, Energy, Environmental Technology, Information & Communication Technology, Marine Technology   Ruth.Soberanes@trade.gov

Colin Hudson Industries: Architecture / Engineering / Infrastructure, Design and Construction, Processed Foods, Agribusiness/ Processed Foods, Cosmetics, Healthcare, Consumer Goods, Mining   Colin.Hudson@trade.gov

Federal Agency Seeks Comments To Advance More Productive Tech Economy

Federal Agency Seeks Comments To Advance More Productive Tech Economy

By Terri Jo Neff |

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking comments about eight emerging technology areas: Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things in Manufacturing, Quantum Computing, Blockchain Technology, New and Advanced Materials, Unmanned Delivery Services, Internet of Things, and Three-dimensional Printing, to assist in the preparation of a report to Congress.  

A Request for Information (RFI) was announced in the Federal Register under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, who is directed to coordinate with the Federal Trade Commission and other federal agencies to complete a study of the eight emerging technology areas.

The RFI seeks comments about public and private sector marketplace trends, supply chain risks, legislative, policy, and the future investment needs of the technology areas to help identify, understand, refine, and guide the development of the eight emerging technologies. Those eight areas are, more specifically:

  • Artificial Intelligence—on the state of the artificial intelligence industry and the impact of such industry on the United States economy,
  • Internet of Things in Manufacturing—on the use of internet-connected devices and internet-connected solutions in manufacturing in the United States,
  • Quantum Computing—on the state of the quantum computing industry and the impact of such industry on the United States economy,
  • Blockchain Technology—on the state of the blockchain technology industry and the impact of such industry on the United States economy,
  • New and Advanced Materials—on the state of the new and advanced materials industry, including synthetically derived materials or those with enhanced natural properties, and the impact of such industry on the United States economy,
  • Unmanned Delivery Services (air or ground)—on the impact of unmanned delivery services on businesses conducting interstate commerce and the impact of such industry on the United States economy, rules and regulations,
  • Internet of Things—on the state of the internet-connected devices industry and the impact of such industry on the United States economy, and
  • Three-dimensional Printing—on the state of the three-dimensional printing industry and the impact of such industry on the United States economy.

For each emerging technology area, NIST needs input useful to the fostering of  economic growth and competitiveness across the United States for benefit all Americans.

As a result, the NIST is inviting stakeholders throughout the scientific research, standards, advocacy, industry, and non-scientific communities, as well as the general public, to provide comments. From the comments, a Congressional report will be developed “in a manner consistent with its mission to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness,” according to the RFI.

Comments must be received by 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on Jan. 31. To submit comments electronically, go to www.regulations.gov and enter NIST-2021-0007 in the search field. Click on the “Comment Now” icon and complete the required fields, and then enter or attach your comments.

More information about the RFI is available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/11/22/2021-25428/study-to-advance-a-more-productive-tech-economy

Millions Available For Travel, Tourism, And Outdoor Recreation Federal Grants

Millions Available For Travel, Tourism, And Outdoor Recreation Federal Grants

By Terri Jo Neff |

Only two weeks are left to apply to the Economic Development Administration (EDA) for grant funding under the American Rescue Plan Act for Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation.

The EDA aims to assist communities and regions in recovery from the coronavirus pandemic’s significant negative impact on the travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation sectors. The grant program is designed to provide a wide-range of financial assistance to communities and regions to rebuild and strengthen their travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation industry through various infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects.

EDA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has already issued $510 million in tourism grants directly to states, including nearly $6 million to Arizona. Another $240 million is set aside for EDA Competitive Tourism Grants to at least 150 applicants. 

According to EDA, eligible entities are a public or private non-profit organization or association acting in cooperation with a general purpose political subdivision of a State; an institution of higher education or a consortium of institutions of higher education; a State, county, city, or other political subdivision of a State, or a consortium of political subdivisions; an Indian Tribe or a consortium of Indian Tribes; or a District Organization of an EDA-designated Economic Development District.

Eligible applicants for EDA’s Competitive Tourism Grants are advised to apply no later than Jan. 31, so the agency can review and process the application in time to get a potential award in place prior to deadlines imposed by Congress. Any award is subject to the availability of funds.

Additional information is available at https://eda.gov/arpa/travel-tourism/faq/

Maricopa County Ranks 13th In U.S. For Most Investment Income Earned By Residents

Maricopa County Ranks 13th In U.S. For Most Investment Income Earned By Residents

By Terri Jo Neff |

When all of the investment income earned by Maricopa County residents is combined, the county ranks #13 in the United States with an Investment Index of 26.48. By comparison, Pima County ranked 79th in the nation with an Investment Index of 4.93.

That’s the findings of SmartAsset, which used data sourced from the Internal Revenue Service’s Statistics of Income County Data to compare the 3,006 counties in the U.S. on three metrics: Net Capital Gains, Ordinary Dividends, and Qualified Dividends*. The rankings are based on countywide totals without a per capita adjustment.

“We calculated an Investment Index for all U.S. counties based on a combination of these three statistics and ranked them accordingly to provide a holistic view of what areas of the U.S. are generating the most investment income,” SmartAsset announced Friday.

The Top 10 counties by Investment Income are:

New York County (NY), Investment Index of 100.00

Los Angeles County (CA), Investment Index of 80.03

Cook County (IL), Investment Index of 57.25

Palm Beach County (FL), Investment Index of 45.24

Santa Clara County (CA), Investment Index of 44.64

King County (WA), Investment Index of 41.81

Harris County (TX), Investment Index of 34.25

San Francisco County (CA), Investment Index of 31.78

Miami-Dade County (FL), Investment Index of 30.17

Orange County (CA), Investment Index of 30.11

*Ordinary Dividends are payments made by a company to their shareholders and are taxed as regular income, whereas Qualified Dividends are dividends that meet certain requirements set by the IRS and are taxed at a lower capital gains tax rate. Net Capital Gains refers to the amount an asset has increased or decreased in value realized when the asset is sold.

A nationwide map is available at https://smartasset.com/investing/capital-gains-tax-calculator?year=2021#us

FDIC Political Strife Will Leave No Republicans On Board Of Directors

FDIC Political Strife Will Leave No Republicans On Board Of Directors

By Terri Jo Neff |

Jelena McWilliams, the Trump-appointed chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and only Republican on the board of directors, is resigning her position after accusing three Democratic directors of engaging in “a hostile takeover” of the agency responsible for maintaining stability and public confidence in the nation’s financial system.

News of McWilliams’s unexpected resignation effective February 4 was buried in a press release issued on New Year’s Eve. She took the helm of the FDIC in June 2018 after being confirmed by Congress to serve a five-year term as chair of what is supposed to be an independent agency that examines and supervises more than 5,200 banks and financial institutions for safety, soundness, and consumer protection. It also manages receiverships and insures deposits.

McWilliams’ announcement came just two weeks after she submitted an op-ed to the Wall Street Journal warning of the politization of America’s banking system.

The former executive vice president for Fifth Third Bank wrote of how for nearly 90 years day-to-day FDIC operations were delegated to its chairman, who controlled the board agenda and “worked collaboratively with other board members” regardless of political difference. 

But that collegiality ended in late October, according to McWilliams, when the three Democratic-appointed members teamed in an effort to begin a FDIC review of the standards used for bank mergers without McWilliams’ assent. 

Those other members are Michael Hsu, acting Comptroller of the Currency;  Michael Hsu. Rohit Chopra, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and Martin Gruenberg, former FDIC chairman who is serving on a temporary basis because the Biden Administration has not moved to fill two vacant board positions.

The FDIC may not have more than three directors of the same political affiliation. President Joe Biden, by keeping one of the five seats open throughout his first year in office, has been able to impede McWilliams’ inherent powers as chair.

McWilliams, who previously served as chief counsel on the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, initiated a program at the FDIC called Trust through Transparency in an effort to make the FDIC more accessible, understandable, and responsive. As part of that initiative, she visited in person with stakeholders in 30 states prior to COVID-19 then continued the visits on a virtual basis, including a meeting with the Arizona Bankers Association.

The Republicans on the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services tweeted Monday about concerns with McWilliams’ resignation.

“The attempted power grab by CFPB Director Chopra and Interim Chair Gruenberg raises serious concerns about @FDICgov‘s independence. Dems’ support for this unprecedented action exposes their ongoing effort to politicize our regulators for their own gain.”

McWilliams also continues to have the public support of industry groups due to her efforts to ensure all stakeholders were heard. One such supporter is Richard Hunt, the CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association.

“A total class act who always sought balance—much to my chagrin at times,” Hunt said after learning of McWilliams’ resignation. “The FDIC cannot operate where the minority is not represented.”