Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.
The latest batch of economic reports released this week suggests the economy is slowing, but remains in fairly decent shape. *Factory orders grew by the largest amount in three months and *retailers saw solid sales.
*But that didn't translate into jobs. The Labor Department reports unemployment reached a five-month high of 4.8 percent. The hiring slowdown comes as companies cope with higher interest rates and soaring energy costs.
By mid-week, there were sharp increases in fuel prices following reports from the Energy Department that both crude oil and gasoline inventories fell.
The swelling energy costs, of course, affect everyone ... not the least of who are farmers ... as noted in USDA's annual Farm Expenditure report released late in the week.
USDA says total farm expenditures jumped to $223 billion in 2005 – up more than 5% from the previous year.
As expected, one of the largest contributors to the increased cost of production was fuel - up 26% from 2004. Other increased costs included a 14% rise in taxes, a 12% bump up in the cost of fertilizer and soil conditioners, and an 11% increase in livestock and poultry purchases
A bright spot in the report pointed to low or no interest loans for farm machinery. Trucks and equipment costs last year fell below 2004 levels. Feed grain prices were also lower – welcome news for livestock producers.
The majority of farm expenses went to cover the same items as last year including farm services…. feed ….. and labor costs.