Washington delivered a mixed bag of economic news this week ... much of it related to personal income.
The government says incomes rose modestly in February, thanks to a surge in hiring. But the March figures weren't as friendly. Payroll growth last month marked its smallest increase since last summer. The manufacturing sector was one of the bright spots in March, recording its 22nd consecutive month of growth.
Economies, of course, don't operate in a vacuum. It takes jobs to create wealth ... and it takes wealth and confidence to create the kind of consumer spending that makes the economy go.
In farm country, net income literally rises from the ground up ... and it starts with agronomic matters, like deciding each year what to plant.
The numbers were in line with trade expectations, helping soybean prices to rally on pre-report guesses. The impact on grain prices was less dramatic.
The report, which was based on a survey of 68,000 farms in 31 states, said the biggest decline in soybean acres will come in the Dakotas ... and in the Mississippi Delta and Southeast. Farmers in those regions gave differing reasons for switching to other crops. In the Northern Plains, farmers said they were worried about depressed prices; in the South, the concern was the spread of Asian soy rust.
Even so, nationwide only 1 in 10 farmers said soy rust was a factor in their planting decision.
Total soybean acres were pegged at 73.9 million.
The all-wheat acreage guesstimate of 58.6 million would make this year's total the lowest since 1972. USDA says farmers will plant 4 percent less winter wheat, the type that dominates U.S. wheat production. Spring wheat plantings will rise by 4 percent, while durum wheat acreage will rise by 2 percent.
Estimated corn plantings covering 81.4 million acres would mark the highest total since 1985. Growers will plant more of the crop in the Corn Belt and southern Great plains ... but will plant fewer acres in the South and Northern Great Plains.
Cotton seedings are projected to cover 13.8 million acres, thanks largely to increases in planted acres of Pima cotton in the West.