Hello, I'm Rick Swalwell. Mark Pearson is off this week.
If U.S. consumers are nervous about the economy, they don't appear to be showing it.
*According to the Commerce Department, retail sales rose 1.7 percent in June... nearly double what analysts had expected. Much of the gain was driven by *auto sales, which posted a gain of nearly 5 percent in June -- their strongest showing in 13 months.
*And the government reported this week that U.S agricultural exports rose modestly in May while imports declined, leaving the U.S. with an agricultural trade surplus of 39 million dollars.
The surplus is only about half of what it was in 2004 and the Bush administration is aggressively promoting a series of free trade initiatives in hopes of keeping agricultural trade in the black.
Those efforts received a shot in the arm this week with a federal court decision that paves the way for the resumption of cattle imports from Canada.
In a decision welcomed by the Bush administration, a federal appeals court late this week overturned the ban on imports of cattle from Canada.
USDA immediately took steps to resume the importation of cattle under 30 months of age from Canada.
The decision by a three-judge panel in Seattle was unanimous ... and overturns an earlier court ruling in Montana, where the judge granted a temporary injunction keeping the border closed.
In March, a Montana judge ruled in favor of R-CALF, a cattle producer interest group, which sought to block USDA from opening the border. The cattlemen feared economic and health consequences from the potential of a mad cow outbreak.
Some industry watchdogs argued that R-CALF was more concerned about profits than consumer health. Since the border has been closed, cattle prices in some areas have gone up.
Meanwhile, profits have declined at U.S. packing plants and feedlots. The National Meat Association says its members have lost $1.7 (B) billion dollars in revenue because fewer cows are being processed in the U.S. The revenue decline idled some packing houses and prompted layoffs.
In 2002, before the ban, Canada shipped 1.6 (M) million cattle to the U.S.--its largest foreign market.
Further south, officials in Texas this week lifted a quarantine on an undisclosed ranch that produced the first native case of BSE. In an Ames, Iowa laboratory, tests were done on 67 animals from the ranch ... all born within about a year of the 12-year old Brahma cross which tested positive for BSE last month. Test results on all 67 animals came back negative for the brain-wasting disease.