Briefs related to the business industry around the area.
USDA projects agricultural exports to rise in upcoming year
Despite continued reports of sluggish economic growth worldwide, the United States Department of Agriculture estimates the value of the country's agricultural exports will increase in value for the third consecutive year.
While the USDA said global economic growth this year will be the slowest since 1993, ag exports are expected to jump in value, with much of the gain expected from the higher sales of major bulk commodities such as corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton.
Exports of horticultural products, such as various fruits and vegetables, are also projected to reach near-record levels in 2002 by the USDA.
The organization also said higher prices of wheat, corn and soybeans would account for much of the gain, good news for Midwestern corn and soybean farmers.
Retail food prices slide in fourth quarter
According to the American Farm Bureau's marketbasket survey, consumers enjoyed a decrease in retail prices paid at the grocery store during the fourth quarter.
The latest informal survey shows an 18-cent decrease on the average total cost of 16 basic grocery items from this year's third quarter prices.
The $35.52 average shoppers paid for the items marked the eighth time a decrease occurred in the fourth quarter since the first AFB survey took place in 1989, including last year, when the fourth quarter average experienced a 12-cent drop.
Although total average cost has steadily increased since the survey's inception, the total is still only $7.02 more than the inaugural average of $28.50 recorded in the 1989 survey.
Of the 16 total items surveyed, 10 decreased in price, five increased in price and one remained the same compared to last quarter.
Flour experienced the biggest decline, as the price of a five-pound bag fell 16 cents to $1.38, while pork chops dropped 12 cents to $3.29 per pound.