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July 22, 2014

Food and ag leaders hopeful about industry, state economy

Leaders in Michigan’s food and agriculture industry remain optimistic about their businesses, and their confidence in Michigan’s overall economy continues to climb. Those were the results of the Michigan Agriculture and Food Index shared July 22 during the annual Ag Expo VIP breakfast.

The July MAFI is the third 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.

The MAFI for the overall state of food and agriculture has remained steady at 145 or higher since the initial survey was conducted in April 2013. The index rating for the overall state of Michigan’s economy continues to grow from 115 in April 2013 to 120 in January 2014 all the way up to 133 in the most recent survey.

In addition to the two overall scores, the MAFI rates three aspects of the food and ag system in Michigan. The current sales outlook is up slightly to 133, the job outlook hung steady at 126, and the investment outlook rebounded to 116 after dropping to 107 in January 2013.

In an open-ended portion of the survey, researchers ask respondents what keeps them up at night. The top three issues remain the same as in previous surveys: government regulation and policy, various risk management concerns and labor. However, concerns about infrastructure made their debut in the most recent survey.

Bill Knudson, an MSU Product Center marketing economist, said it’s the first time that multiple respondents have mentioned roads and Internet connectivity as major worries.

“Certainly, finding good seasonal labor and full-time labor remains on the top of their list,” Knudson said. “But several said that rural Internet is important to them and a topic that should be discussed broadly.”

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