Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.
The nation's economy appears to have slowed and despite five interest rate cuts since the first of the year, it doesn't appear to be picking up steam. Indeed according to revised numbers released by the commerce department, U.S. Gross Domestic output in the first quarter was much slower than thought, expanding by a lethargic 1.3 percent. And while Federal Reserve Chief Alan Greenspan says the Fed stands ready to do more, sagging orders for durable goods and new home sales underscore the limitation of jump starting the economy by making loans cheaper. Higher energy costs continue to burden expansion and plague the bottom line of businesses as well as household budgets.
The economic outlook is not lost on Rural Americans – big users of both energy and capital. Despite the challenge, spring planting is progressing.
As the end of May approaches, 90 percent of the nation's corn crop has been planted. That's a bit ahead of the average pace, though fewer corn acres will be planted this year as farmers, encouraged by higher government subsidies, are devoting more acres to soybeans.
Soybean planting is also going well. Fifty-eight percent of the soy crop is in the ground, compared to an average of 45 percent. Seventy percent of the cotton crop has been planted.
And in the breadbasket with the beginning of harvest just weeks away, 30 percent of the nation's winter wheat crop has headed. But less than 40 percent of the crop is reported to be in good or excellent condition.