Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.
If stock indices are any measure, the nation's economy is on the mend. Heartened by the advance of corporate fiscal accountability, legislation in Congress, and perhaps by televised pictures of corporate executives in handcuffs, the bulls returned to the market. Indices soared from their lowest levels in years, and the markets held onto gains into the weekend.
The promise of stability on Wall Street is good news in Rural America as well. But, the weather worries remain, and for good reason. The effect of the drought on the continent appears to spreading.
The same drought conditions fueling sometimes hundreds of fire starts each day is also causing widespread casualties in the agriculture sector. More than half of the nation is experiencing some sort of drought including almost all of the West.
Crops are struggling in the dry regions and that includes range land. Across the West, more than half of the pastures are in poor to very poor condition. Excluding Washington, Texas and Oklahoma, that number jumps to 66 percent. And in some states such as Colorado less than 10 percent of the land is worth grazing.
The absence of pasture is driving ranchers to cull their herds. Auction barns which are typically slow this time of year have been kept busy with the cattle sell off. Even with the high volume of cattle moving to sale, producers claim bids are tolerable though lacking because of the lower weights.