According to the Commerce Department, retail sales declined 0.3 percent in December from the previous month. That surprised many economists who had expected sales to actually rise 0.5 percent. Annually, retail sales fell 6.2 percent in 2009. That's the steepest annual decline on record.
Consumer PRICES, meanwhile, rose 2.7 percent last year, as an 18 percent increase in energy prices offset the biggest decline in food prices in nearly half-a-century. The spike in energy prices was fueled by a 53 percent increase in retail gasoline prices.
Fearing proposed cap-and-trade legislation winding its way through Congress will lead to even higher energy costs, the American Farm Bureau Federation has been a vocal critic of the reforms. And addressing the Federation's annual meeting this week in Seattle, Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman warned critics that farmers and ranchers will no longer tolerate opponents' efforts to change the landscape of American agriculture.
Bob Stallman, President AFBF: "If carbon prices get as high as projected by EPA analysts, roughly 40-60 million acres of cropland that is used to produce food could move into forestry. That will down size American agriculture. That will allow us to produce less food. That will cause consumer food prices to increase. At a time when we are talking about the need for increased production of food by 2050, that makes no sense to downsize American Agriculture."
In his opening address, Stallman told delegates that "The time has come to face our opponents with a new attitude," and that "the days of their elitist power grabs are over."
USDA projects that if carbon payments are $70 a ton by 2050, up to 35 million acres of cropland and 24 million acres of pasture could become forested to take advantage of carbon offsets though cap-and-trade.
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack however has stated that he does not believe the projections his department used in making its forecast "are necessarily an accurate depiction of the impacts of climate legislation."
According to Stallman, a reduction of 59 million acres of ag-land means eliminating about 130,000 American farms and ranches.