On the economic front, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan said it's likely that policy-makers can keep inflation in check with a gradual rise in interest rates. But he would not rule out more aggressive action to keep inflation under control. How quickly those rates rise depends in part on the recovery in the job market, which last week saw an unwelcome rise in the number of new claims for jobless benefits.
Meanwhile, on the farm policy front, USDA issued so-called final interim rules on an often controversial conservation program for working farmland.
The voluntary program will distribute more than $41 million in fiscal year 2004. The funds are designated to help producers recover costs in using environmentally friendly practices in their operations.
The agriculture department will use a rotation of America's watersheds to determine producer eligibility for CSP. Despite thousands of complaints from farmers, conservationists and lawmakers that the approach is too narrow, USDA has selected 18 watersheds for the inaugural year of the program, USDA claims 5,000 producers should be able to enroll in CSP this year.
Bruce Knight, Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service: "This new program gives us a chance to, as Secretary Veneman says, 'reward the best -- motivate the rest;' reward those folks who've been leading edge conservationists in the past and provide motivation for others."
Unlike previous programs which required farmers to idle environmentally sensitive land, CSP is designed to reward and enhance conservation efforts on working farmland. Producers on cropland, orchards, vineyards, and pasture and rangelands may apply for the program, regardless of size, type of operation or crops produced.
Even though the sign-up provisions have been announced, public comments will be accepted for 90 days and USDA still can make changes in the terms of the program.