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Atlanta Fed president: ‘It’s going to be tough’; Prices up for agricultural commodities

Raphael Bostic

Atlanta Fed President and CEO Raphael Bostic delivered a blunt message in a Wednesday webinar with the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs of Birmingham, Ala.: 'It's going to be tough.' Credit: zoom.us

By David Pendered

The Federal Reserve confirmed the obvious Wednesday – “Economic activity contracted sharply and abruptly across all regions in the United States as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Price hikes are reported across the Southeast in grains, milk and eggs, as well as demand for oranges.

florida oranges

Demand for Florida oranges is climbing, according to the Wednesday edition of the Federal Reserves Beige Book. Rising demand points toward higher prices. Credit: wikimedia

Rising prices for agricultural commodities haven’t garnered much attention. They made it into one sentence in the corner of the April 15 edition of the Beige Book:

  • “Contacts reported the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in recent significant price increases for corn, rice, soybeans, milk and eggs, and an increase in demand for Florida oranges.”

The Beige Book is a summary of observations collected from business contacts and produced eight times a year. In this case, the material was collected on or before April 6.

Atlanta Fed President and CEO Raphael Bostic is to participate Thiursday in two webinars to discuss the Fed’s views and responses to the pandemic:

  • At 11 a.m., Bostic is to launch a half-hour program, Atlanta Fed Pandemic Response Webinar Series, in which he’s to talk about the Fed’s views and responses to the pandemic, and respond to questions from viewers. The deadline to register is 9 a.m. Thursday. Information is available at this page. Future events are to be hosted by other experts with the Atlanta Fed.
  • At 3 p.m., Bostic is to participate in a webinar sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Bostic is to join Ashley D. Bell, regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, in a conversation to be moderated by Georgia Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark. Information is available at this page.

Bostic has been on the circuit this week. He’s spoken in webinars sponsored by the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs of Birmingham, Ala. and with Alabama Works program for the Fed program, Workforce Recovery Post COVID-19.

Raphael Bostic

Atlanta Fed President and CEO Raphael Bostic delivered a blunt message in a Wednesday webinar with the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs of Birmingham, Ala.: ‘It’s going to be tough.’ Credit: zoom.us

Bostic has been blunt, telling the Birmingham crowd: “It’s going to be tough.”

The Fed’s Beige Book, released on schedule on Wednesday afternoon, provided an equally tough view on the economy. As always, the report compiles information gathered from business contacts across the country, and synthesizes them into a national report and 12 regional reports tailored for each of the Fed’s 12 Districts.

The high-level takeaway from the national report on the nation’s overall economic activity observes:

  • “All Districts reported highly uncertain outlooks among business contacts, with most expecting conditions to worsen in the next several months.”

The summary by the Atlanta Fed for its territory – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and portions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee – observes: “On balance, economic activity in the Sixth District deteriorated from mid-February to late March, and the outlook diminished as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Highlights of seven sectors observe:

  • “Labor market conditions weakened significantly as businesses reported widespread layoffs and furloughs. Nonlabor costs were stable.
  • “Retail contacts noted plunging sales of discretionary goods, and surges in spending on essential items.
  • “Hospitality and tourism contacts reported significant declines in activity as conventions were cancelled and attractions were temporarily shuttered.
  • “Activity in residential and commercial real estate slowed somewhat.
  • Manufacturing activity deteriorated, but new orders held steady or increased as a result of changes in product demand.
  • “Overall transportation activity declined. “
  • “District bankers reported mixed conditions.”

Florida’s citrus crop was reported in this observation:

  • “On a month-over-month basis, the March production forecast for Florida’s orange crop was down from both last month’s forecast and last year’s production while the grapefruit production forecast was down month-over-month but remained ahead of last year’s production.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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