Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Despite soaring oil prices, consumers remain bullish on the U.S. economy.
**The New York-based Conference Board said Tuesday its Consumer Confidence Index, soared to a six-year high in July.
**But confidence may not be widespread among those in the manufacturing sector after U.S. automakers learned their share of the domestic market dropped below 50 percent last month for the first time in history
**And crude oil hit a record high of more than $78 per barrel this week before closing slightly lower on Friday.
Higher fuel prices, of course, are but one of myriad challenges confronting America's agricultural producers. So too are reforms of government farm policy.
And with the current Farm Bill set to expire September 30th, the fight has already begun on what to include and how to pay for the 5-year plan.
Though the money devoted directly to agriculture is a small sliver of the package, payments to farmers garner much of the attention. Members of the House and Senate agree on limiting the pool of those receiving subsidy payments, but disagree on where the line should be drawn for eligibility. The House version limits subsidy payments to farmers with an adjusted gross income of $1 million. The Senate Agriculture committee is leaning towards a cap of $250,000, which is closer to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns' proposal of $200,000.
How to pay for portions of the almost $300 billion measure remain to be sorted out. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin is considering the same tax increase included in the House bill which targets overseas businesses with U.S. subsidiaries. The Iowa Democrat says it's hard to argue against closing the loophole.
Secretary Johanns does not agree with the idea of raising taxes to pay for the 2007 Farm bill and, he believes, neither do farmers.
Secretary Mike Johanns, USDA: "... If farmers stood for higher taxes on another industry to finance their programs, I think they would have told me that."