U.S. farmers and consumers who are trying to figure out what the future holds aren’t getting much help from Washington these days. As a result, they may need to pick out some economic indicators that could help them chart their course.

Ernie Goss, professor of economics at Creighton University in Lincoln, Neb., identified some of those indicators while giving members of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers his take on the current economic outlook at the ASFMRA’s 80th annual meeting in Denver.

“We’re all sitting on the sidelines, trying to figure out what’s happening,” said Goss, a graduate of the University of Tennessee who has held a number of public and private economic positions over the years. “I’ve never seen this much uncertainty over government policy and the national economy.”

While that might be a good scenario for economists and lawyers, it gives little comfort to farmers and other small business owners and consumers, said Goss. The uncertainty over the so-called cap and trade legislation, health care reform and tax increases are causing nightmares for much of America.

“I also have a small consulting business, and I’m sitting here thinking, ‘Should I hire now, should I hire later; should I buy a car now, should I buy a car later; should I buy a house now, should I buy a house later?” he said.

“We have millions of people sitting on the sidelines, and the chief, No. 1 economic problem we’re facing now is the lack of clarity. We don’t know the answers to those kinds of questions.”

Goss said the Commerce Department report issued when he spoke Thursday was “a very good sign.” The government reported that the nation’s gross domestic product grew by 3.5 percent in the third quarter of 2009.

“We don’t know how much of that is cash for clunkers or the tax credit for first-time home buyers,” he said. “We’re also likely to see continued high unemployment numbers until companies begin to do more hiring.”

Goss, one of 200 economists who took out a full page ad saying “We are not all Keynesians,” that appeared in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, said he believes the government’s fiscal policies have not helped the economy all that much.

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