Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.
While the nation's economy is hardly turning handsprings, new numbers released on Friday indicate it is growing. Despite the angst preceding the war, strong housing construction, new home sales, sales of clothing and non durable goods offset weakness in other sectors like autos and appliances. A Federal Reserve survey of banks in the system reveals weakness remains in the nation's manufacturing sector and businesses are still cautious about investing in new equipment.
In Rural America the mood is generally more upbeat. That may be simply due to spring optimism. There are still some worrisome fundamentals in place that could affect this year's crop.
With last year's drought still fresh in the minds of Western producers, recent precipitation has been a welcome sight. The runoff has boosted streamflow predictions in some areas, breeding optimism in irrigation intensive states such as Nebraska. But the precipitation is deceptive. While moisture content in the soil is on the rise, the water content generally is still far from abundant.
Also adding to rural angst are rising fuel and fertilizer prices.
Despite the drought and cost concerns, input intensive corn acres nationwide are expected to equal 2002 seedings. As of the last report, corn plantings are on pace with the three year average. Cotton plantings are also in line with the average.
In contrast to other major crops, seeding of spring wheat continue to be ahead of the average with 25 percent planted.