Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. If you've purchased gasoline anytime recently you already know energy prices are on the rise. But other than that, inflation seems to be in check.
**According to Commerce Department, energy prices surged up in March by nearly 6 percent -- the largest single month increase since Hurricanes Rita and Katrina shut-down Gulf Coast refineries. **Outside of energy though, the overall Consumer Price Index increase rose just six-tenths of one percent.
**As for retail prices, the big increase was at the fuel pump, where prices jumped over 3 percent in March. **But overall, Retail Sales rose seven-tenths of one percent. **Those numbers brought out the bulls on Wall Street where the Dow gained more than153 points on Friday.
Optimism abounds in rural America too, where a recent study of nonurban, agriculturally dependent portions of nine states revealed rising farm income is pushing farmland values to record levels.
That's not necessarily good news for those trying to begin a career in agriculture. And this week, the government whet the appetites of those wanting to enter farming, by offering them a larger piece of the pie.
Sec. Mike Johanns, USDA: "We are doing something here today that quite honestly is far beyond anything that has ever been done in a farm bill for beginning farmers."
USDA Secretary Mike Johanns was at Iowa State University this week to promote his efforts to recruit young people into the farming profession. Johanns said USDA proposals include $250 million in increased payments for those seeking a career in agriculture.
Johanns: "What would that mean? If you are a beginning farmer or rancher and qualify and are raising one of our program crops…we are going to increase your direct payment by 20-percent during the first five years of your farming operation."
While Johanns was pushing for increased financial support for young farmers, some farm-state lawmakers were "drawing a line in the sand" on future legislation.
In recent weeks, congressional agriculture leaders Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Tom Harkin of Iowa have made it clear that Congress designs the 2007 farm bill….not USDA. Extensive discussions and disagreement are expected on a number of farm-related issues including:
- The potential move towards a permanent disaster payment system.
- Farm payment limits to the nation's wealthiest recipients.
- And new competition provisions that attempt to regulate livestock marketing.
The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release a baseline for agriculture programs next month. Early predictions suggest an additional $20 billion will be added for farm bill spending.