ratcheting down gas deliveries to several European countries.

Across the continent, countries are preparing blueprints for emergency rationing that involve caps on sales, reduced speed limits and lowered thermostats.

As is usually the case with crises, the poorest and most vulnerable will feel the harshest effects. The International Energy Agency warned last month that higher energy prices have meant an additional 90 million people in Asia and Africa do not have access to electricity.

Expensive energy radiates pain, contributing to high food prices, lowering standards of living and exposing millions to hunger. Steeper transportation costs increase the price of every item that is trucked, shipped or flown — whether it’s a shoe, cellphone, soccer ball or prescription drug.

“The simultaneous rise in energy and food prices is a double punch in the gut for the poor in practically every country,” said Eswar Prasad, an economist at Cornell University, “and could have devastating consequences in some corners of the world if it persists for an extended period.”

Group of 7 this past week discussed a price cap on exported Russian oil, a move that is intended to ease the burden of painful inflation on consumers and reduce the export revenue that President Vladimir V. Putin is using to wage war.

Price increases are everywhere. In Laos, gas is now more than $7 per gallon, according to GlobalPetrolPrices.com; in New Zealand, it’s more than $8; in Denmark, it’s more than $9; and in Hong Kong, it’s more than $10 for every gallon.

Leaders of three French energy companies have called for an “immediate, collective and massive” effort to reduce the country’s energy consumption, saying that the combination of shortages and spiking prices could threaten “social cohesion” next winter.

increased coal production to avoid power outages during a blistering heat wave in the northern and central parts of the country and a subsequent rise in demand for air conditioning.

Germany, coal plants that were slated for retirement are being refired to divert gas into storage supplies for the winter.

There is little relief in sight. “We will still see high and volatile energy prices in the years to come,” said Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency.

At this point, the only scenario in which fuel prices go down, Mr. Birol said, is a worldwide recession.

Reporting was contributed by José María León Cabrera from Ecuador, Lynsey Chutel from South Africa, Ben Ezeamalu from Nigeria, Jason Gutierrez from the Philippines, Oscar Lopez from Mexico and Ruth Maclean from Senegal.

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Banking body urges decisive wave of global rate hikes to stem inflation

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Plastic letters arranged to read “Inflation” are placed on U.S. Dollar banknote in this illustration taken, June 12, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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LONDON, June 26 (Reuters) – The world’s central bank umbrella body, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), has called for interest rates to be raised “quickly and decisively” to prevent the surge in inflation turning into something even more problematic.

The Swiss-based BIS has held its annual meeting in recent days, where top central bankers met to discuss their current difficulties and one of the most turbulent starts to a year ever for global financial markets.

Surging energy and food prices mean inflation in many places is now its hottest in decades. But the usual remedy of ramping up interest rates is raising the spectre of recession, and even of the dreaded 1970s-style “stagflation”, where rising prices are coupled with low or negative economic growth.

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“The key for central banks is to act quickly and decisively before inflation becomes entrenched,” Agustín Carstens, BIS general manager, said as part of the body’s post-meeting annual report published on Sunday.

Carstens, former head of Mexico’s central bank, said the emphasis was to act in “quarters to come”. The BIS thinks an economic soft landing – where rates rise without triggering recessions – is still possible, but accepts it is a difficult situation.

“A lot of it will depend on precisely on how permanent these (inflationary) shocks are,” Carstens said, adding that the response of financial markets would also be crucial.

“If this tightening generates massive losses, generates massive asset corrections, and that contaminates consumption, investment and employment – of course, that is a more difficult scenario.”

World markets are already suffering one of the biggest sell-offs in recent memory as heavyweight central banks like the U.S. Federal Reserve – and from next month the ECB – move away from record low rates and almost 15 years of back-to-back stimulus measures.

Global stocks (.MIWD00000PUS) are down 20% since January and some analysts calculate that U.S. Treasury bonds, the benchmark of world borrowing markets, could be having their biggest losing first half of a year since 1788.

CREDIBILITY

Carstens said the BIS’s own recent warnings about frothy asset prices meant the current correction was “not necessarily a complete surprise”. That there hadn’t been “major market disruptions” so far was also reassuring, he added.

Part of the BIS report published already last week said that the recent implosions in the cryptocurrency markets were an indication that long-warned-about dangers of decentralised digital money were now materialising.

Those collapses aren’t expected to cause a systemic crisis in the way that bad loans triggered the global financial crash. But Carstens stressed losses would be sizeable and that the opaque nature of the crypto universe fed uncertainty.

Returning to the macro economic picture, he added that the BIS didn’t currently expect a period of widespread stagflation to take hold.

He also said that though many global central banks and the BIS itself had significantly underestimated how quick global inflation has spiralled over the last six to 12 months, they weren’t about to lose hard-earned credibility overnight.

“Yes, you can argue a little bit here about an error of timing of certain actions and the responses of the central banks. But by and large, I think that the central banks have responded forcefully in a very agile fashion,” Carstens said.

“My sense is that central banks will prevail at the end of the day, and that would be good for their credibility.”

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Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by David Holmes

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U.S. bars Cuba, Venezuela from Americas summit; Mexican leader sits out

WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY, June 6 (Reuters) – The White House on Monday excluded Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas this week, prompting Mexico’s president to make good on a threat to skip the event because all countries in the Western Hemisphere were not invited.

The boycott by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and some other leaders could diminish the relevance of the summit in Los Angeles, where the United States aims to address regional migration and economic challenges. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, hopes to repair Latin America relations damaged under his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, reassert U.S. influence and counter China’s inroads.

The decision to cut out Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua followed weeks of intense deliberations and was due to concerns about human rights and a lack of democracy in the three nations, a senior U.S. official said.

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U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the Biden administration “understands” Mexico’s position, but “one of the key elements of this summit is democratic governance, and these countries are not exemplars, to put it mildly.”

Biden aides have been mindful of pressure from Republicans and some fellow Democrats against appearing soft on America’s three main leftist antagonists in Latin America. Miami’s large Cuban-American community, which favored Trump’s harsh policies toward Cuba and Venezuela, is seen as an important voting bloc in Florida in the November elections that will decide control of the U.S. Congress, which is now in the hands of the Democrats.

Lopez Obrador told reporters that his foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, would attend the summit in his place. The Mexican president said he would meet with Biden in Washington next month, which the White House confirmed. read more

“There can’t be a Summit of the Americas if not all countries of the American continent are taking part,” Lopez Obrador said.

Lopez Obrador’s absence from the gathering, which Biden is due to open on Wednesday, raises questions about summit discussions focused on curbing migration at the U.S. southern border, a priority for Biden, and could be a diplomatic embarrassment for the United States.

A caravan of several thousand migrants, many from Venezuela, set off from southern Mexico early Monday aiming to reach the United States. read more

But a senior administration official insisted Lopez Obrador’s no-show would not hinder Biden’s rollout of a regional migration initiative. The White House expects at least 23 heads of state and government, which the official said would be in line with past summits.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat and chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized the Mexican president, saying his “decision to stand with dictators and despots” would hurt U.S.-Mexico relations.

CUBA CRITICAL

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist and Trump admirer who leads Latin America’s most populous country, will attend after initially flirting with staying away. read more

The exclusion of Venezuela and Nicaragua had been flagged in recent weeks. President Miguel Diaz-Canel of Communist-ruled Cuba said last month he would not go even if invited, accusing the United States of “brutal pressure” to make the summit non-inclusive.

On Monday, Cuba called the decision “discriminatory and unacceptable” and said the United States underestimated support in the region for the island nation.

The United States invited some Cuban civil society activists to attend, but several said on social media that Cuban state security had blocked them from travel to Los Angeles. read more

Having ruled out Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the Biden administration expects representatives for opposition leader Juan Guaido will attend, Price said. He declined to say whether their participation would be in person or virtually.

The senior administration official, asked whether Biden might have a call with Guaido during the summit, said there was a good chance of an “engagement,” but declined to elaborate.

Washington recognizes Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president, having condemned Maduro’s 2018 re-election as a sham. But some countries in the region have stuck with Maduro.

Also barred from the summit is Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla who won a fourth consecutive term in November after jailing rivals.

Most leaders have signaled they will attend, but the pushback by leftist-led governments suggests many in Latin America are no longer willing to follow Washington’s lead as in past times.

Faced with low expectations for summit achievements, U.S. officials began previewing Biden’s coming initiatives. Those include an “Americas partnership” for pandemic recovery, which would entail investments and supply-chain strengthening, reform of the Inter-American Development Bank, and a $300 million commitment for regional food security.

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Reporting By Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Dave Graham in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Eric Beech and Patricia Zengerle in Washington, Kylie Madry and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City, Jose Torres in Tapachula and Dave Sherwood in Havana; Writing by Ted Hesson; Editing by Grant McCool, Alistair Bell and Leslie Adler

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Migrant caravan in Mexico heads for U.S. border as Americas Summit starts

TAPACHULA, June 6 (Reuters) – Several thousand migrants, many from Venezuela, set off from southern Mexico early Monday aiming to reach the United States, timing their journey to coincide with the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles this week.

Migration activists said the group could be one of the region’s largest migrant caravans in recent years.

At least 6,000 people, according to Reuters witnesses, left the border city of Tapachula. Mexico’s National Institute for Migration did not provide an estimate of the group’s size and provided no additional comment on the caravan.

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Caravan organizer Luis Garcia Villagran said the group represented various nationalities of people fleeing hardship in their home countries, including many from Venezuela.

“These are countries collapsing from poverty and violence,” he said. “We strongly urge those who attend the summit … to look at what is happening, and what could happen even more often in Mexico, if something is not done soon.”

U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to announce a regional pact on migration later in the week.

The migrants, including many children, began their trip early under rainfall and fanned out across several lanes of highway, with some wearing plastic ponchos and holding umbrellas, Reuters images show.

Large caravans headed to the United States also traveled across Mexico in 2018 and 2019, mostly comprised of Central Americans, followed by smaller groups in recent years.

Record numbers of migrants last year attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

Colombian migrant Robinson Reyes, 35, said he hoped the group would attract the attention of leaders at the summit.

“We want a future for our children … we want to cross Mexico without any problems,” he said. “God willing, they can talk and resolve this.”

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Reporting by Jose Torres in Tapachula and Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; editing by Grant McCool

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Biden to unveil economic partnership for Americas – U.S. official

A LAPD helocopter flies near the LA Convention Center during the first day of the Ninth Americas Summit in Los Angeles, U.S., June 6, 2022. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

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WASHINGTON, June 6 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will announce this week at the Summit of the Americas an economic partnership for the Western hemisphere focusing on promoting economic recovery by building on existing trade agreements, U.S. administration officials said on Monday.

Dubbed the “Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity”, the plan will cover five areas including mobilizing investments, reinvigorating institutions, clean energy jobs, resilient supply chains and sustainable trade.

“The overall objective is to build our economies from the bottom up and middle out by building on the foundation established by our free trade agreements with the region to better address inequality and lack of economic opportunity,” a senior administration official told reporters in a call.

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The plan would aim to offer an alternative in a region where China has been expanding its sphere of influence. It was unclear, however, how many countries in economically troubled Latin America would buy into such an arrangement.

The United States is hosting the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, a gathering where Biden aims to address regional migration and economic challenges. On Monday, the White House said it was not inviting Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, prompting Mexico’s president to skip the event.

The summit is being convened in the United States for the first time since the first such gathering in Miami in 1994, as Biden seeks to reassert U.S. leadership and counter China’s growing clout. He is due to formally open the summit on Wednesday.

Biden will put forward “an ambitious reform” of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the official said, adding that the United States would also seek an equity stake at the bank’s private sector lending arm to support the deployment of private capital.

“Because the private sector has a central role to play,” the official said.

Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas think tank, told a Senate subcommittee last week that the Biden administration should push for a regional trade initiative similar to the one for the Indo-Pacific that Biden announced during his Asia tour in May.

But the idea of creating a hemisphere-wide trade bloc has never gotten off the ground, partly because of protectionism sentiment among U.S. labor unions and some lawmakers.

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Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Los Angeles; Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Eric Beech; Editing by Chris Reese and Stephen Coates

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Oil tops $120 a barrel on Saudi pricing despite OPEC+ deal

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A drilling rig operates in the Permian Basin oil and natural gas production area in Lea County, New Mexico, U.S., February 10, 2019. REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo

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  • Saudi Arabia raises official prices for Asian buyers
  • OPEC+ unlikely to reach increased output target -JP Morgan
  • WTI hits highest since early March

June 6 (Reuters) – Oil prices settled slightly lower after choppy trade on Monday, buoyed by Saudi Arabia raising its July crude prices but amid doubts that a higher output target for OPEC+ oil producers would ease tight supply.

Brent crude fell 21 cents, or 0.2%, to settle at $119.51 a barrel after touching an intraday high of $121.95.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures fell 37 cents, or 0.3%, to settle at $118.50 a barrel after hitting a three-month high of $120.99. The benchmark fell by $1 earlier in the session.

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Saudi Arabia raised the July official selling price (OSP) for its flagship Arab light crude to Asia by $2.10 from June to a $6.50 premium over Oman/Dubai quotes, just off an all-time peak recorded in May when prices hit highs due to worries of disruptions in supplies from Russia. read more

The price increase followed a decision last week by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, together called OPEC+, to boost output for July and August by 648,000 barrels per day, or 50% more than previously planned, though constraint in global refining capacity has kept prices elevated.

“Crude inputs into the U.S. refineries have been reduced by about 6% from four years ago at this time with this reduction associating with a need for less crude cover while contributing to a severe tightness in the gasoline and diesel markets,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates in Galena, Illinois.

The increased target was spread across all OPEC+ members, many of which have little room to increase output and which include Russia, which faces Western sanctions after its invasion of Ukraine in February.

“With only a handful of … OPEC+ participants with spare capacity, we expect the increase in OPEC+ output to be about 160,000 barrels per day in July and 170,000 bpd in August,” JP Morgan analysts said in a note.

On Monday, Citibank and Barclays raised their price forecasts for 2022 and 2023, saying they expected Russian output and exports to fall by around 1 million to 1.5 million bpd by end-2022. read more

Separately, Italy’s Eni and Spain’s Repsol could begin shipping small volumes of Venezuelan oil to Europe as soon as next month, five people familiar with the matter told Reuters. read more

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Reporting by Laura Sanicola; Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla in London, Florence Tan in Singapore and Sonali Paul in Melbourne; editing by Jason Neely, Will Dunham and Chris Reese

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Biden Has ‘Only Bad Options’ for Bringing Down Oil Prices

HOUSTON — When President Biden meets Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia, he will be following in the footsteps of presidents like Jimmy Carter, who flew to Tehran in 1977 to exchange toasts with the shah of Iran on New Year’s Eve.

Like the prince, the shah was an unelected monarch with a tarnished human rights record. But Mr. Carter was obliged to celebrate with him for a cause that was of great concern to people back home: cheaper gasoline and secure oil supplies.

As Mr. Carter and other presidents learned, Mr. Biden has precious few tools to bring down costs at the pump, especially when Russia, one of the world’s largest energy producers, has started an unprovoked war against a smaller neighbor. In Mr. Carter’s time, oil supplies that Western countries needed were threatened by revolutions in the Middle East.

During the 2020 campaign, Mr. Biden pledged to turn Saudi Arabia into a “pariah” for the assassination of a prominent dissident, Jamal Khashoggi. But officials said last week that he planned to visit the kingdom this summer. It was just the latest sign that oil has again regained its centrality in geopolitics.

oil prices fell below zero at the start of the pandemic. Big companies like Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Shell have largely stuck to the investment budgets they set last year before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Energy traders have become so convinced that the supply will remain limited that the prices of the U.S. and global oil benchmarks climbed after news broke that Mr. Biden was planning to travel to Saudi Arabia. Oil prices rose to about $120 a barrel on Friday, and the national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $4.85 on Sunday, according to AAA, more than 20 cents higher than a week earlier and $1.80 above a year ago.

Another Biden administration effort that has appeared to fall flat is a decision to release a million barrels of oil daily from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Analysts said it was hard to discern any impact from those releases.

The Biden team has also been in talks with Venezuela and Iran, but progress has been halting.

The administration recently renewed a license that partly exempts Chevron from U.S. sanctions aimed at crippling the oil industry in Venezuela. In March, three administration officials traveled to Caracas to draw President Nicolás Maduro into negotiations with the political opposition.

In another softening of sanctions, Repsol of Spain and Eni of Italy could begin shipping small amounts of oil from Venezuela to Europe in a few weeks, Reuters reported on Sunday.

Venezuela, once a major exporter to the United States, has the world’s largest petroleum reserves. But its oil industry has been so crippled that it could take months or even years for the country to substantially increase exports.

With Iran, Mr. Biden is seeking to revive a 2015 nuclear accord that President Donald J. Trump pulled out of. A deal could free Iran to export more than 500,000 barrels of oil a day, easing the global supply crunch and making up for some of the barrels that Russia is not selling. Iran also has roughly 100 million barrels in storage, which could potentially be released quickly.

But the nuclear talks appear to be mired in disagreements and are not expected to bear fruit soon.

Of course, any deals with either Venezuela or Iran could themselves become political liabilities for Mr. Biden because most Republicans and even some Democrats oppose compromises with the leaders of those countries.

“No president wants to remove the Revolutionary Guards of Iran from the terrorist list,” Ben Cahill, an energy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said about one of the sticking points in the talks with Iran. “Presidents are wary of any moves that look like they are making political sacrifices and handing a win to America’s adversaries.”

Foreign-policy experts say that while energy crises during war are inevitable, they always seem to surprise administrations, which are generally unprepared for the next crisis. Mr. Bordoff, the Obama adviser, suggested that the country invest more in electric cars and trucks and encourage more efficiency and conservation to lower energy demand.

“The history of oil crises shows that when there is a crisis, politicians run around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to figure out what they can do to provide immediate relief to consumers,” Mr. Bordoff said. U.S. leaders, he added, need to better prepare the country for “the next time there is an inevitable oil crisis.”

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$10K Grant from Arvest Bank and FHLB Dallas Helps National Guard Veteran

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–U.S. military veteran Angelia Shaw dedicated 39 years of her life to the National Guard. Her time in the service included spending more than four years at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas, organizing the safe homecoming of injured soldiers.

Ms. Shaw, 63, of North Little Rock, retired from the National Guard in 2018 and is now a financial secretary at Camp Robinson. While she found her service fulfilling, her training over the years in the National Guard took a heavy toll on her knees.

Ms. Shaw was able to make repairs to her home because of a $10,000 Housing Assistance for Veterans (HAVEN) grant from Arvest Bank and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas). The funds were used to replace her heating and air-conditioning unit, upgrade a bathroom and do other minor home repairs.

HAVEN funds assist with necessary modifications to homes of U.S. veterans and active-duty, reserve or National Guard service members, who became disabled as a result of their military service since September 11, 2001. Alternatively, the funds can be awarded to Gold Star Families that were impacted during this time frame for home repairs/rehabilitation.

“I was really surprised and happy to learn that I qualified and wouldn’t have to pay the funds back,” Ms. Shaw said. “I’ve told some other people about it, and I’m really grateful and appreciative that this program is out there.”

Virgil Miller, group CRA director at Arvest Bank, said the grant is an opportunity to give back to Ms. Shaw and other veterans.

“Arvest Bank has been involved with the HAVEN grant for many years,” said Mr. Miller. “It’s an incredible honor to serve our veterans and Gold Star Families this way.”

Greg Hettrick, first vice president and director of Community Investment at FHLB Dallas, said HAVEN is an extraordinary program because it allows FHLB Dallas and its members to express gratitude to veterans and their families.

“We commend Arvest Bank and its devotion to supporting veterans like Ms. Shaw,” he said. “We deeply value its commitment to the HAVEN grant.”

To learn more about HAVEN, see fhlb.com/haven.

About Arvest Bank

With more than $26 billion in assets, Arvest Bank is a community-based financial institution serving more than 110 communities in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Established in 1961, Arvest Bank is committed to meeting the needs of its more than 830,000 retail and business customer households by continually investing in the digital tools and services customers expect. Its extensive network of more than 200 banking locations provides loans, deposits, treasury management, credit cards, mortgage loans and mortgage servicing as a part of its growing list of digital services. Arvest is known for its commitment to the communities it serves and to attracting, hiring and retaining a diverse group of talented people. Arvest is an Equal Housing Lender and Member FDIC. To learn more please visit www.arvest.com.

About the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas is one of 11 district banks in the FHLBank System created by Congress in 1932. FHLB Dallas, with total assets of $62.6 billion as of March 31, 2022 is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community development by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to approximately 800 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas. For more information, visit our website at fhlb.com.

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Illegal Immigration Is Down, Changing the Face of California Farms

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GONZALES, Calif. — It looks like a century-old picture of farming in California: a few dozen Mexican men on their knees, plucking radishes from the ground, tying them into bundles. But the crews on Sabor Farms radish patch, about a mile south of the Salinas River, represent the cutting edge of change, a revolution in how America pulls food from the land.

For starters, the young men on their knees are working alongside technology unseen even 10 years ago. Crouched behind what looks like a tractor retrofitted with a packing plant, they place bunches of radishes on a conveyor belt within arm’s reach, which carries them through a cold wash and delivers them to be packed into crates and delivered for distribution in a refrigerated truck.

The other change is more subtle, but no less revolutionary. None of the workers are in the United States illegally.

are not coming in the numbers they once did.

There are a variety of reasons: The aging of Mexico’s population slimmed the cohort of potential migrants. Mexico’s relative stability after the financial crises of the 1980s and 1990s reduced the pressures for them to leave, while the collapse of the housing bubble in the United States slashed demand for their work north of the border. Stricter border enforcement by the United States, notably during the Trump administration, has further dented the flow.

the economists Gordon Hanson and Craig McIntosh wrote.

As a consequence, the total population of unauthorized immigrants in the United States peaked in 2007 and has declined slightly since then. California felt it first. From 2010 to 2018, the unauthorized immigrant population in the state declined by some 10 percent, to 2.6 million. And the dwindling flow sharply reduced the supply of young workers to till fields and harvest crops on the cheap.

The state reports that from 2010 to 2020, the average number of workers on California farms declined to 150,000 from 170,000. The number of undocumented immigrant workers declined even faster. The Labor Department’s most recent National Agricultural Workers Survey reports that in 2017 and 2018, unauthorized immigrants accounted for only 36 percent of crop workers hired by California farms. That was down from 66 percent, according to the surveys performed 10 years earlier.

The immigrant work force has also aged. In 2017 and 2018, the average crop worker hired locally on a California farm was 43, according to the survey, eight years older than in the surveys performed from 2007 to 2009. The share of workers under the age of 25 dropped to 7 percent from a quarter.

hire the younger immigrants who kept on coming illegally across the border. (Employers must demand documents proving workers’ eligibility to work, but these are fairly easy to fake.)

That is no longer the case. There are some 35,000 workers on H-2A visas across California, 14 times as many as in 2007. During the harvest they crowd the low-end motels dotting California’s farm towns. A 1,200-bed housing facility exclusive to H-2A workers just opened in Salinas. In King City, some 50 miles south, a former tomato processing shed was retrofitted to house them.

“In the United States we have an aging and settled illegal work force,” said Philip Martin, an expert on farm labor and migration at the University of California, Davis. “The fresh blood are the H-2As.”

Immigrant guest workers are unlikely to fill the labor hole on America’s farms, though. For starters, they are costlier than the largely unauthorized workers they are replacing. The adverse effect wage rate in California this year is $17.51, well above the $15 minimum wage that farmers must pay workers hired locally.

So farmers are also looking elsewhere. “We are living on borrowed time,” said Dave Puglia, president and chief executive of Western Growers, the lobby group for farmers in the West. “I want half the produce harvest mechanized in 10 years. There’s no other solution.”

Produce that is hardy or doesn’t need to look pretty is largely harvested mechanically already, from processed tomatoes and wine grapes to mixed salad greens and tree nuts. Sabor Farms has been using machines to harvest salad mix for decades.

survey by the Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology found that about two-thirds of growers of specialty crops like fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts have invested in automation over the last three years. Still, they expect that only about 20 percent of the lettuce, apple and broccoli harvest — and none of the strawberry harvest — will be automated by 2025.

Some crops are unlikely to survive. Acreage devoted to crops like bell peppers, broccoli and fresh tomatoes is declining. And foreign suppliers are picking up much of the slack. Fresh and frozen fruit and vegetable imports almost doubled over the last five years, to $31 billion in 2021.

Consider asparagus, a particularly labor-intensive crop. Only 4,000 acres of it were harvested across the state in 2020, down from 37,000 two decades earlier. The state minimum wage of $15, added to the new requirement to pay overtime after 40 hours a week, is squeezing it further after growers in the Mexican state of Sinaloa — where workers make some $330 a month — increased the asparagus acreage almost threefold over 15 years, to 47,000 acres in 2020.

H-2A workers won’t help fend off the cheaper Mexican asparagus. They are even more expensive than local workers, about half of whom are immigrants from earlier waves that gained legal status; about a third are undocumented. And capital is not rushing in to automate the crop.

“There are no unicorns there,” said Neill Callis, who manages the asparagus packing shed at the Turlock Fruit Company, which grows some 300 acres of asparagus in the San Joaquin Valley east of Salinas. “You can’t seduce a V.C. with the opportunity to solve a $2-per-carton problem for 50 million cartons,” he said.

While Turlock has automated where it can, introducing a German machine to sort, trim and bunch spears in the packing shed, the harvest is still done by hand — hunched workers walk up the rows stabbing at the spears with an 18-inch-long knife.

These days, Mr. Callis said, Turlock is hanging on to the asparagus crop mainly to ensure its labor supply. Providing jobs during the asparagus harvest from February to May helps the farm hang on to its regular workers — 240 in the field and about 180 in the shed it co-owns with another farm — for the critical summer harvest of 3,500 acres of melons.

Losing its source of cheap illegal immigrant workers will change California. Other employers heavily reliant on cheap labor — like builders, landscapers, restaurants and hotels — will have to adjust.

Paradoxically, the changes raking across California’s fields seem to threaten the undocumented local work force farmers once relied on. Ancelmo Zamudio from Chilapa, in Mexico’s state of Guerrero, and José Luis Hernández from Ejutla in Oaxaca crossed into the United States when they were barely in their teens, over 15 years ago. Now they live in Stockton, working mostly on the vineyards in Lodi and Napa.

They were building a life in the United States. They brought their wives with them; had children; hoped that they might be able to legalize their status somehow, perhaps through another shot at immigration reform like the one of 1986.

Things to them look decidedly cloudier. “We used to prune the leaves on the vine with our hands, but they brought in the robots last year,” Mr. Zamudio complained. “They said it was because there were no people.”

Mr. Hernández grumbles about H-2A workers, who earn more even if they have less experience, and don’t have to pay rent or support a family. He worries about rising rents — pushed higher by new arrivals from the Bay Area. The rule compelling farmers to pay overtime after 40 hours of work per week is costing him money, he complains, because farmers slashed overtime and cut his workweek from six days to five.

He worries about the future. “It scares me that they are coming with H-2As and also with robots,” he said. “That’s going to take us down.”

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Small players lose faith in crypto after sell-off

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WASHINGTON/MUMBAI, May 17 (Reuters) – Nofe Isah, a 25-year old based in Nigeria, has been investing in crypto since January. Last week, she lost all of her $5,000 in savings as cryptocurrency luna went into free fall.

Isah, a recently unemployed administrative officer, vowed she would never invest in crypto again.

“I can’t believe I fell for crypto,” she told Reuters by phone. “I’m just trying not to get myself depressed. Crypto has taken my money, fine. It shouldn’t take my head.”

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The crypto market, known for its wild price swings, slumped last week as investors yanked money from riskier assets amid worries over soaring inflation and rising interest rates.

Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, fell as low as $25,401 on Thursday, its lowest since Dec. 2020. It hit a record high of $69,000 in November.

Small tokens were hit too, with ether, the second-largest token, dropping more than 15% to its lowest since June. Luna – a digital coin widely hyped on social media and backed by institutional crypto investors – shed nearly all of its value.

Small traders such as Isah have flocked to cryptocurrencies in the hope of quick returns, despite warnings from regulators that the emerging assets can be high risk.

Platforms such as Robinhood, which has 23 million customers across a variety of assets, have helped spur retail investing, including in crypto. Around a quarter of Robinhood’s transaction-based revenues came from cryptocurrencies in the first quarter of this year, Robinhood said in its latest earnings statement.

Overall user numbers at crypto platforms have ballooned. Binance, the world’s biggest crypto exchange, had some 118 million clients last month, up from 43.4 million in the first quarter of last year.

But after last week’s turmoil, online forums were awash with tales of woe, as retail investors expressed anguish about their losses.

“I’m 49, big mortgage, 3 kids etc. My retirement party is on ice for the foreseeable future!”, a user with the handle Boring-Fun-3646 said on Reddit.

Another user with the handle AdventurousAdagio830 posted on Reddit: “It doesn’t seem real that I lost $180,000.”

‘DEATH SPIRAL’

Emblematic of crypto risks was the collapse last week of terraUSD, a stablecoin designed to keep a constant value via a complex algorithm that involved luna.

When the coins came under heavy selling pressure, the system broke down. TerraUSD – designed to keep a value of $1 – traded around 9 cents on Tuesday while luna plunged to near-zero, based on CoinGecko data. read more

Tejan Shrivastava, a 31-year old graphic designer from Mumbai, who has been investing in cryptocurrencies for the last year, had his $250 investment wiped out by luna’s collapse.

“It was stuck in a death spiral. All the money was gone in 15 minutes,” he told Reuters.

“I don’t even know if I’ll invest in crypto in the future. I have a crypto portfolio, but I am planning to liquidate it once it reaches break even.”

Luna’s fall wiped out most of its market value which had been above $40 billion as recently as early April, CoinGecko data shows.

Retail investors’ online frustration even spilled over into the real world.

Seoul police last week said they were seeking a suspect after an unidentified individual rang the doorbell of the apartment of Do Kwon, the founder of terraUSD, and ran away.

Police would investigate whether the suspect had invested in cryptocurrencies, a Seoul police officer told Reuters.

PATCHY REGULATION

Through its 13-year life, the crypto sector has been peppered by vertiginous climbs and sudden free falls. In November, for instance, bitcoin slumped by a fifth in just under two weeks after touching a record $69,000. Six months earlier, it had tumbled by almost 40% in just nine days.

Yet crypto’s latest crash – which pushed the sector’s combined value to $1.2 trillion, less than half of where it was last November – led to the crushing of luna, which on May 1 was the eighth-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalisation.

Cryptocurrencies are subject to patchy regulation across the world, with traders of bitcoin and the panapoly of smaller tokens typically unprotected against price slumps.

But it is difficult to gauge the scale of retail investors’ pain from the crypto plunge and the repercussions on future appetite given the opaque nature of the market.

In Britain more than 4% of adults – some 2.3 million people – own cryptocurrencies, data published last year by the UK financial watchdog showed.

Britain’s watchdog said understanding of crypto was falling compared with a year earlier, “suggesting that some crypto users may not fully understand what they are buying”.

Still, some small investors are keeping the faith.

Eloisa Marchesoni, based near Tulum in Mexico and investing with a crypto syndicate, said she would not give up.

“I am looking to buy the dip – we are all waiting for bitcoin to go down to $22,000, which is not something too probable but not something that’s ‘not probable at all’.”

Marchesoni is also hedging her crypto bets with physical assets — “cars because you can lease them, watches, real estate”.

Bitcoin was hovering around $30,000 on Tuesday, having lost more than 20% so far this month.

Regulators remain on alert. The British government said last month it will regulate stablecoins. read more

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is toughening its stance. Gary Gensler, SEC chair, said this week investors in cryptocurrencies needed more protections. read more

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Additional reporting by Alun John in Hong Kong and Soo-hyang Choi in Seoul; Writing by Carolyn Cohn, Elizabeth Howcroft and Tom Wilson in London. Editing by Jane Merriman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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