Originally created 02/14/01

Business briefs



Worried investors sell in stock drop

NEW YORK - Disgruntled investors sold stocks lower Tuesday, suffering a letdown after Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan suggested interest rates will fall by a smaller amount than Wall Street wants.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 43.45 to close at 10,903.32. The Nasdaq composite index tumbled 61.94 to 2,427.72, while the Standard and Poor's 500 index dropped 11.51 to 1,318.80.

Advancing issues narrowly outnumbered decliners 16 to 15 on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume was 1.27 billion shares, compared with 1.23 billion at the same point Monday.

Experts predict lower farm incomes

WASHINGTON - As if low crop prices weren't tough enough, the nation's farm economy is now being battered by soaring costs for energy and fertilizer.

Net farm income is likely to drop 20 percent, or $9 billion, over the next two years unless there is a fresh outpouring of federal aid, an agricultural policy institute told Congress on Tuesday.

Farmers received $8 billion in emergency aid last year and lawmakers are virtually certain to pass another large bailout this year.

Congress will begin hearings this month on a long-term overhaul of farm policy that includes proposals for a new system for subsidizing growers when crop income is down.

"It's not only low prices, it's high production costs that are squeezing farmers," said Bruce Babcock, an Iowa State University economist who assisted in the report.

The report released Tuesday estimates net farm income will drop from $45.4 billion last year to $39.6 billion in 2001 and $36.3 billion in 2002 before starting to turn around in the following years as commodity prices rise.

Report cites seafood safety lapses

WASHINGTON - Less than half of seafood firms are following safety standards to ensure Americans don't eat bad fish, and government inspectors aren't cracking down on violations, says a scathing new congressional report on seafood safety.

"The potential health risks associated with these violations are significant," says the report, released Tuesday.

The Food and Drug Administration acknowledged some problems and put seafood companies on alert: Instead of annual inspections, FDA inspectors will visit firms it considers high-risk repeatedly this year to check for contamination, and act quickly to shut down those that violate safety rules.