An economist who oversees a survey of rural bankers in 10 Plains and Midwest states says healthy farm income is pushing the regional economy further toward recovery.

The overall index for the Rural Mainstreet economic survey in December reached 55.4, its highest level since January 2008. The November figure was 53.3.

The index ranges between 0 and 100. A score below 50 suggests the economy will contract in the next few months; above 50 suggests the economy will expand.

Ernie Goss, a Creighton University economist, oversees the survey. He says businesses heavily dependent on the farm economy are benefiting from farmers' strong income streams.

Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming are surveyed.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.