Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. The economic news this week is one big case of the "ankle bone connected to the knee bone." The Commerce Department for example, reports * construction spending dropped 4/10ths of percent in July – the weakest report since January. * Mortgage-holders starting the foreclosure process are at an all-time high for the third consecutive quarter.
The turmoil in the housing sector is being blamed, in part, *for the sharp drop in stock prices this week and a while a *survey shows August retail sales were up by nearly 3 percent from July, but compared to a year ago sales are down a percent.
Analysts are hoping the Federal Reserve's survey of business conditions out later this month will offer clues about what the central bank will do with interest rates to boost confidence.
The report can't come too soon, as the returning Congress this week held hearings on domestic finance and learned the economic roller coaster is not over.
Also not over, is the continued debate in Congress over the environment and how it is affected by livestock production. A Senate committee this week took a hard look at concentrated animal feeding operations.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is considering a bill which, if adopted, would end the ability of federal and state governments to fine farmers and ranchers for manure pollution. The measure removes manure from the list of hazardous substances, as defined by the Super Fund Act of 1980, and exempts any release of effluent into the environment. The Act, amended in 1986, governs air and water pollution from point-sources like concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.
Several of those testifying took exception to the proposed legislation which would exempt farmers and ranchers from fines for manure spills and odors.
Catharine Fitzsimmons, National Association of Clean Air Agencies: "If CAFOs emit air pollutants taht exceed thresholds, or reportable quantities, then just like any other sources of pollution, CAFOS should comply with environmental law."
According to EPA, there are an estimated 1.3 million farms that raise livestock. Approximately 238,000 of these operations are considered animal feeding operations which produce 500 million tons of animal manure annually.
A recent study conducted by the US Geological Survey found groundwater near many of these farms was polluted with everything from nitrates to heavy metals. The source of the pollution was attributed to, among other things, agriculture.
The American Farm Bureau Federation has long supported the change to the Superfund Act. Policy makers cite the need to protect family farms from what they refer to as "the additional costs of needless regulation."
Don Parrish, American Farm Bureau: " Water quality, air quality, animal rights, all of those things, farmers are having to deal with and when they deal with it that means added cost. And in a global marketplace that means less competitiveness and it also means, that if we apply too much red tape, too much cost to our farmers and ranchers, those livestock, that are so integral to agriculture so integral to our food chain there just gonna be produced somewhere else."