Michigan State University food and ag leaders confident, optimistic about the future

posted on July 15, 2013 10:14pm
Michigan State University food and ag leaders confident, optimistic about the future

CONTACT:      Beth Stuever, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), 517-884-7097

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Leaders in Michigan’s food and agriculture system are extremely confident in the current business outlook. That was the key finding from the first Michigan Ag and Food Index (MAFI), released today during Michigan Ag Expo, the state’s largest general farm show. The index gauges the business climate for the state’s agriculture and food businesses.

Food and agricultural leaders give their current business condition a rating of 147. A rating of 100 on the index is considered neutral; ratings above 100 signal increasingly positive confidence, and below 100, increasingly negative confidence.  They give Michigan’s overall economic outlook a rating of 115—positive but considerably less strong than the rating they give their own businesses.

“This rating on the MAFI tells us that food and ag leaders are confident about Michigan’s business future and are especially confident about the future of food and agriculture in the state,” explained Chris Peterson, director of the MSU Product Center and lead investigator on the project. “This group is extraordinarily hopeful about the current and future business climate.”

The MSU Product Center conducted the survey in April 2013 and took into account the opinions of a newly convened Food and Ag Leaders Roundtable—more than 100 movers and shakers, representing all facets of Michigan agriculture and food processing, including farmers, ag and food processors, and other industry professionals.

The MAFI scores three additional categories for the food and ag system in Michigan. The sales outlook rated an index of 133; the job outlook rated 132. Investment opportunities came in slightly lower, with an index of 122.

Though these ratings are relatively positive, Bill Knudson, an MSU Product Center marketing economist, pointed out that respondents aren’t without concern. Finding and retaining quality, affordable talent worried some.

“When it comes to jobs, several people indicated that the Affordable Care Act and immigration reform weigh heavy on their minds,” explained Knudson, the economist who crunched the numbers on the groundbreaking survey. “Many respondents cited that immigration reform needs to be handled in a way that ensures they still have reasonable access to seasonal labor.”

In addition to labor, the roundtable leaders shared “what keeps them up at night”:  regulation, access and cost of inputs, business marketing and strategy concerns, and government policy.

Forming the roundtable and establishing the recurring MAFI were designed to enhance partnering between the food and ag system and the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) in response to Gov. Rick Snyder’s Summit on Production Agriculture, a 2011 meeting that saw industry leaders get together to discuss priorities.

Fred Poston, dean of the CANR, said he plans to use survey results as well as interactions with roundtable members to set strategic direction and ensure that college priorities are on track with the needs of food and agriculture professionals. In addition, the results will be shared with the governor’s office, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, commodity group leaders and other leaders at MSU.

“We have a healthy food and agriculture economy right now,” Poston said. “The key to keeping it that way is ensuring that we work closely with industry and government leaders as we move initiatives forward.”

The survey will be repeated every six months to track ag leaders’ perceptions of the business climate and its positive or negative changes to the food and agriculture system. The next survey will be deployed in November 2013 and the results released in January 2014.

Read the results of the Michigan Ag and Food Index 

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