The muddled proceedings of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen place an exclamation mark on major challenges facing the baking industry and all of U.S. business going into 2010. That challenge is the unusually poor visibility regarding a host of policy issues critical to the business community.

As difficult as it was to predict how the summit would end before the agreement was announced late Dec. 18, guessing the outcome was child’s play compared with figuring out how that may translate into U.S. policy and what kind of climate change (cap and trade/cap and tax) legislation could be enacted in the coming year.

For manufacturing companies like baking highly sensitive to air emission restrictions, such opacity impedes clear thinking when considering major capital investments. Similar doubts rule regarding a number of additional key policy issues, most notably health care, with its great ramifications for employment costs, and to a hardly lesser degree food safety legislation. Even the Federal Reserve’s near-zero interest rate policy, while nice for its effect on short-term rates, has the effect of diminishing visibility about the cost of money going into the future.

Few economists dispute that the federal government needed to step in when the nation’s financial system began faltering last year. But policymakers need to understand how the uncertainty created by their actions hinders the business investing absolutely essential to invigorating the economy in 2010 and beyond.