Iowa Public Television


Rivers Swollen; Checkoff In Court

posted on April 20, 2001

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson.

Early in the week the Federal Reserve injected a couple of cc's of joy into the nation's financial community with a surprise interest rate cut. The half point cut was the fourth this year and the second outside a regularly scheduled Fed meeting.

The move only prods a sluggish economy, but it did hearten Wall Street considerably. Stock indices soared on the news. However, by week's end expectations had already shifted to when the fed would make another cut.

The cost of borrowing is of course important to Rural Americans. But, this week many were arguing the merits of financing agricultural promotion, while others were coping with aberrant weather.


More than 400 miles of the bloated Mississippi River between Minneapolis and southern Iowa was closed to boat and barge traffic as the river reached near-record flood levels.

A National Weather Service hydrologist says the Mississippi will likely stay high for several weeks. That's short-term compared to those in the west bracing for a severe drought.

A dry winter in much of the west and northwest is seen in low water levels at area dams. Less water and power shortages are leading to restrictions on irrigation.

The weather has had a small impact on the markets. Soggy conditions have increased the potential for a poor harvest, pushing the markets marginally higher. Thirty-five percent of the winter wheat in Kansas is rated poor to very poor. And nationwide, only 45% of the crop is rated good to excellent.

In Washington the major crop these days seems to be litigation. This week the issue of mandatory participation in commodity trade groups was before the Supreme Court.

United Foods, a large-scale mushroom grower based in Bells, Tennessee claims the government shouldn't force it to pay for generic ads designed to promote the entire mushroom industry.

The company claims the ads violate the first amendment of free speech.

Laurence Tribe of the Harvard Law School pleaded the case before the Supreme Court.

Laurence Tribe: "What I suggested in the argument is, there's no difference in principal between telling a company, you've got to hire an ad agency and give a message of the following kind -- which we all think they couldn't do under the first amendment -- and saying you've got to put your money in the kitty of this industry group and let them put the message out. I mean that's no better, it's worse if anything ‘cause it deprives you of the freedom to chose your own spokesperson. So I think that's why freedom of speech is deeply involved.


The High Court's ruling could affect the marketing campaigns for other groups. Currently, federal and/or state regulators oversee checkoff campaigns for dozens of commodities.


Tags: agriculture courts floods Mississippi River mushrooms news weather