** On Tuesday, the Dow topped the 14,000 mark for the first time in history. But the rally proved to be brief.
When Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Wednesday **that inflation continues to be the Fed's major concern, stocks plummeted in a sell-off that continued the rest of the week. Nevertheless, a pair of government reports released this week painted a more optimistic scenario.
**According to the Labor Department, the Consumer Price Index rose just 0.2 percent in June indicating inflation seems to be in check.
**And the Commerce Department reported new housing starts were up 2.3 percent in June following two consecutive months of declines.
Though not immune to these economic trends, millions of rural Americans also are affected by government farm policy. And this week, the House Agriculture Committee approved a measure with significant ramifications for the Heartland.
-$1.6 billion in supports for the fruit and vegetable industry,
-giving farmers who receive subsidy payments a choice between traditional price protection and a new market-oriented revenue-based program,
-and rebalancing loan rates and target prices among commodities.
While these measures are designed to level the playing field for producers the one provision in the measure that likely will be met with resistance is a cap on subsidy payments. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Colin Peterson addressed the hot-button issue.
Colin Peterson, D-Minnesota: "After talking to various groups and reform advocates, I believe the proposal we will consider today is a sound compromise no one is satisfied with but, none the less, represents real reform."
The Minnesota Democrat was instrumental in capping subsidy payments at $1 million and limiting compensation to farmers at $125,000. Petersen predicts the cap will save taxpayers $226 million over the five-year life of the bill.
While agreeing there would be some kind of limit, the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, wasn't specific about the amount.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa: "Not paying farmers when they're making money and doing well, that's the market. But if they're subject to bad weather or floods or droughts or world wide market fluctuations, then you have a safety net and that, to me, quite frankly, that's going to be the underpinning of this farm bill."
Despite their best efforts, time may run out on lawmakers since the current Farm Bill expires on September 30. Harkin has stated that Senate Republicans are blocking Democratic amendments to other measures which, in turn, slows down the legislative process.