Hello, I'm Rick Swalwell. Mark Pearson is off this week.
If President Bush is looking to an improving economy to boost his re-election bid, he got good news this week.
In rapid succession, the government reported big industry production shot higher in February, consumer prices rose modestly, and new claims for jobless benefits dropped for the third straight week. Throw in the Federal Reserve's decision to leave its main short-term interest rate at a 45-year low, and it was a good week on the economic front.
In farm country, meanwhile, farmers and ranchers were mulling other government activity, including decisions on Mad Cow testing and usage of the Missouri River.
On Friday afternoon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to release enough water from dams to provide minimum navigation flows on the Missouri river in July and August.
As Market To Market reported last month, the uncertainty of the allowable flows prompted two barge companies to announce they would not operate on the river this year.
After a decade of controversy over appropriate water flows, there was a likelihood the Army Corps would be forced this summer to reduce the water level for two birds and a fish protected under the Endangered Species Act.
That possibility still exists, as the Corps must provide adequate habitat for the protected species. The Corps has set aside 12-hundred acres of shallow water habitat for the endangered pallid sturgeon. But the acreage must be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And that is a decision that may not be known until mid-summer.
The USDA hopes to test at least 200,000 cows in the next 12-18 months for bovine spongiform encephalopathy. That's less than half the cows the ag department estimates are at a higher risk of having BSE ... and that's not enough, say some countries who import U.S. beef.
Japan says the U.S. testing "will not be sufficient to resume imports." The country is urging the U.S. government to test all cattle, just as Japan does, as a condition for lifting the ban.
The USDA says if 201,000 animals are tested, the government would be able to ensure with 95% accuracy, that one in 10 (M) million cows in the US would test positive if the disease exists. The latest U.S. measure is intended to cover cows over 30 months old that are suspected of having physical problems, such as difficulty walking.
The $70 (M) million dollar surveillance program will begin June 1 at laboratories to be established around the country.