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MSU - Food and Ag Leaders' Confidence Continues to Grow
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Varying markets and fluctuating prices put farmers on opposite sides of opinion polls in 2014, but one thing they all agree on is that confidence in Michigan’s food and agriculture remains high. In addition, confidence in Michigan’s overall economy is up dramatically in the past 12 months. These findings are among the results of the Michigan Agriculture and Food Index (MAFI), a survey of the industry’s leaders.
 

 

Source: Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

 

Contact: Beth Stuever, stuever@msu.edu or Sean Corp, corpsean@msu.edu

 

Michigan State University: Food and Ag Leaders’ Confidence in Michigan Economy Continues to Grow


Varying markets and fluctuating prices put farmers on opposite sides of opinion polls in 2014, but one thing they all agree on is that  confidence in Michigan’s food and agriculture remains high. In addition, confidence in Michigan’s overall economy is up dramatically in the past 12 months. These findings are among the results of the Michigan Agriculture and Food Index (MAFI), a survey of the industry’s leaders.
Food and ag leaders gave the overall state of the food and agriculture system a rating of 147. This rating has been steady since the first survey was conducted in April 2013.  They gave Michigan’s overall economy a rating of 140, up 24 points since April 2013.

 “That 24-point jump is significant,” explained Chris Peterson, director of the Michigan State University Product Center and lead investigator on the project.  “While they have always been confident in their own industry, this tells us that they have increasingly more confidence about the overall economic outlook for the state. A robust economy in Michigan is good news for everyone, not just the food and ag industry.”

The MAFI , released in February after the November 2014 survey, is the fourth of its kind. It gauges the current business climate of the state’s food and agriculture system by surveying 100 influential players in food and agriculture businesses. A rating of 100 on the index is considered neutral; ratings above 100 signal an overall positive outlook, and below 100, an overall negative outlook.

In addition to the overall economic ratings, the survey shows that confidence in industry sales was up slightly to 136, and investment was up slightly to 119. The jobs outlook took a significant leap.

Peterson and Bill Knudson, the technician on the project who crunched the numbers, sat down with a select group of members of the food and ag system in December 2014 to discuss the findings.

“They were thrilled to learn that confidence in the Michigan economy is catching up with the ag outlook,” Knudson said. “Even more interesting to them was the fact that the jobs outlook moved up significantly—from a rating of 126 a year ago to 134. That bodes well for young people on the cusp of starting their careers.”

Even so, labor issues continue to be a hotspot of trouble in the ag industry. In an open-ended portion of the survey, researchers asked respondents what keeps them up at night. The top three issues remain the same as in previous surveys: labor , government regulation and policy, and risk management, though this was the first time that labor issues topped the list. Concerns about labor, coupled with continuing infrastructure worries, had respondents fearful about the ability to attract young people to careers in agriculture.

Expanded wireless broadband Internet access is a necessity in any effort to attract young people to the sector, Knudson said.

“During our discussion, the roundtable members continued to stress that rural Internet connectivity is absolutely essential in an industry that increasingly depends on technology,” he said. “They seemed to agree that issue needs to be addressed on a broader level.”

The MSU Product Center has been conducting the survey every six months since April 2013. Results are compiled and released semi-annually.