Government economists this week projected bigger U.S. harvests in 2013 -- and bigger paydays for farmers.
According to the Agriculture Department, net farm income will soar this year to $128.2 billion. Adjusting for inflation, that’s the best performance since 1973.
The estimate is predicated on increased crop production. And -- despite the impact of drought -- USDA says a return to trendline yields would result in record harvests.
Agricultural expenses, however, are expected to increase this year to an all-time high of $353 billion.
Farm sector assets, debt, and equity ALL are predicted to increase in 2013. But rising in asset values are expected to exceed increases in farm debt, with agricultural real estate leading the pack.
And in a sign of rural economic vitality, the total farm debt-to-equity ratio is expected to reach a historic low.
Data from other sectors also bodes well for the economy. But there’s still plenty of room for improvement. And this week, in the first major address of his second term, President Obama outlined his priorities.
President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union speech this week, calling for action on jobs, deficits and other of his lofty goals.
Absent from the speech, however, were ideas specific to rural America. But, thanks largely to a boom in U.S. oil production -- especially in less-populated areas--- America is finally beginning to wean itself from foreign oil.
President Barack Obama: “After years of talking about it, we’re finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar -- with tens of thousands of good American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before -- and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.”
Obama claimed carbon pollution has been reduced on his watch, but he said more needs to be done especially in the wake of major weather events over the past decade.
President Barack Obama: “Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods -- all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science -- and act before it’s too late.”
Obama vowed to increase gas and oil permits, and encourage research and technology to power a transportation revolution.
President Barak Obama: “I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.”
In the wake of the November elections, immigration has become one of the politically popular ideas on both sides of the aisle. The president wants stronger border security and reduced waiting times to attract highly-skilled immigrants.
President Barack Obama: “Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship -- a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English, and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.”
But the theme underscoring almost every subject was jobs…from creating them to improving them, even envisioning their role in reducing the national debt.
President Barack Obama: “Deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan. A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs -- that must be the North Star that guides our efforts. We should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills they need to get those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?”
The president says his plans don’t add to the deficit and are a broad based addition to last year’s American Jobs Act.
President Barack Obama: “Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing. After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.”
Obama announced the launch of three more manufacturing hubs, modeled after an initiative in Ohio.
The goal is to turn regions left behind by globalization into centers of high-tech jobs.
The president followed tradition and took to the road to tout his priorities and campaign for support. In a speech in North Carolina, Obama made his case for raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour.
President Barack Obama: “Our job as Americans is to restore that basic bargain that says If you work hard, if you're willing to meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead. It doesn’t matter what you look like, doesn't matter where you come from. That's what we need to be focused on."