It was a quiet week on the economic front, although the few government reports that were released gave further evidence of a sustainable recovery.
The Conference Board's Index of Leading Indicators rose slightly in April. The four-week moving average of initial jobless claims fell to its lowest level in three-and-a-half years. And though the number of new housing projects dipped slightly in April, analysts report the construction sector remains healthy.
One area where most analysts would like to see some improvement is the nation's trade deficit, which last month rose to record highs. Boosting overseas sales also is of keen interest to the trade-sensitive farm sector, as members of Congress learned this week.
With the rekindling of WTO trade negotiations, Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte made it clear what he felt was necessary for increased agricultural trade.
Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R) Virginia: "U.S. goals for these negotiations are to decrease and harmonize tariffs, eliminate export subsidies and reduce and harmonize trade distorting domestic support policies."
Chairman Goodlatte found a great deal of support from the assembled witnesses.
Dee Vaughan, President, National Corn Growers Association: "..we'd like to see our reward come from the marketplace rather than from US government programs but, at the same time, we have to realize that as we move toward increasing market share around the world opening new markets, we have to have a safety net that protects us, because the law of economics still applies, we will over produce at times and we have to have a safety net."
Jan Lyons, President, National Cattlemen's Beef Association: "Let me just sum up and say that our members know that the future of ours, and of our families, depends on the viability and the growth of our industry. We also recognize that the greatest opportunity for such growth hinges on our ability to market our safe, wholesome, quality beef around the world."
This is not to say there wasn't some healthy skepticism among a few of those in attendance. Dave Fredrickson, President of the National Farmers Union, expressed his displeasure with a few of the previously negotiated agreements like the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
Dave Fredrickson, president National Farmers Union: "Time and time again we've been told prosperity, based on free trade, is, frankly, just around the corner. As producers we never seem to be able to make it to that corner."
The committee has pledged to keep a watchful eye on trade negotiations as they progress on both multilateral and bilateral fronts.