Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.
It's called gross domestic product, or GDP, and it's one of the most closely watched measuring sticks by economists. GDP determines the value of all goods and services produced in the U.S. and is the broadest gauge of the country's economic health.
*This week, the government announced the third quarter GDP grew at a robust rate of 4 percent, thanks largely to spending by consumers and businesses. *And though consumer spending has grown more modest as the holidays approached, analysts are confident the fourth quarter GDP also will be solid. *The overall economic picture would have been even brighter were it not for the nation's worsening trade deficit, which shaved the GDP by a slight amount.
Historically, agriculture is a bright spot on the U.S. trade front. But USDA is predicting falling export values for U.S. farm goods next year. That will be one of the main issues tackled by Secretary of Agriculture-designee Mike Johanns, as well as the new power elite in Congress.
When the 109th Congress convenes in January, there will be a new chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He is Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss -- who, while in the House -- served eight years on the House Ag Committee.
As head of the senate committee, Chambliss will spend the next several months preparing for the new farm bill Congress plans to write in 2006. While generally supportive of current farm law, Chambliss acknowledged in a recent interview that lawmakers may have to curtail farm spending. He said, "It's given a helping hand in the tough years and in the years farmers had good years. But it's been a very expensive bill. We're always concerned about budget issues."
Chambliss also is an attorney and at one time represented the interests of peanut producers and other farmers in his home state of Georgia.
First elected to the House in 1994, the 61-year old was elected to the senate just two years ago. His rapid ascension to chair of the Ag Committee was due to colleagues with more seniority wanting to keep other chairmanships or leadership positions.