AgDay Daily Recap - February 2, 2012

February 2, 2012 02:09 AM

FEBRUARY 2, 2012

Good morning everyone. Clinton's on assignment at top producer seminar in Chicago. He'll be back here tomorrow. Topping our news - the Labor Department has agreed to modify a plan that's intended to keep children away from some of the most dangerous farm jobs. The proposal will now have broader exemptions for children whose parents own or operate farms, or have a substantial interest in a farm partnership or corporation. Farm groups had complained that the rules would upset traditions where children often work alongside their parents and relatives to learn how a farm operates. The rules would ban children under 16 from using most power-driven equipment and prevent those under 18 from working in feed lots, grain bins and stockyards. The re-proposed portion of the rule is expected to be published for public comment by early summer.

In other labor news Indiana is the first state in ten years to enact a "right-to-work labor law". Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed the measure Wednesday. The law prohibits labor contracts that would require workers to pay union representation fees.

Meanwhile, the labor market is showing some signs of improvement in the nation's mid-section. The tenth Federal Reserve district just released its fourth quarter report on economic conditions. That district reaches from Colorado to Missouri and Montana to New Mexico. This report focused on low-to-moderate income communities. Based on interviews with bankers, the economic indicators showed an upward trend. The previous ten quarters had a negative outlook due to long-term unemployment.

The federal government has been stress testing banks to see how they would thrive or just survive under changing economic conditions. It's possible to do the same thing with a farm. In this report from the University of Illinois, Todd Gleason reports farm economists at the U of I have run the numbers on a typical grain farm in the state.

Another indicator of the economy is meat demand from restaurants. This week there's been some positive news. And that's our top story in our Beef Today Report. The restaurant performance index shows an improvement. The RPI gives a general sense of the economy from the perspective of restaurant operators. The latest index shows it reached its highest level since March 2006. The rating is based on current conditions and expectations for the next six months. 57% saw a gain in traffic from a year ago. 23% saw a decline.

Many of the key players in the nation's beef industry are gathering this week for the annual cattlemen's convention. The meeting is now underway in Nashville, Tennessee.
It's considered the largest annual gathering of the beef industry. This year about 6,000 people have registered for the cattle industry convention. In addition to the trade show, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association will hold its annual meeting to set policy. AgDay's Michelle Rook will be there for us.

Many folks would rather just forget the drought and floods of 2011. No doubt they'll have a lasting impact on agriculture. We'll take a look at the dollars and cents in a special report "From Fire to Flood", starting Wednesday on AgDay.

Andy Shissler

Some of the successful farmers in the country are gathering this week in Chicago for the annual "top producer seminar". Put-on by our corporate cousins at Top Producer Magazine, it draws farmers from across the country to learn new business skills. It's also where organizers will reveal the Top Producer of the Year. There are three finalists. Mike Stamp of Decatur Michigan, Greg Halverson of North Dakota and Tim Richter of Lime Springs Iowa. Clinton Griffiths takes us to northeast Iowa for a visit to the Richter farm. You'll meet our third finalist - potato grower Greg Halverson - tomorrow on AgDay. Up next, Food and Your Family.

In food and your family, Florida lawmakers are taking steps to prevent people on food stamps from buying junk foods. This week a Florida state senate committee passed a bill that would make snacks and fast-food off-limits to people on food assistance programs. Some of the items include sweetened soft-drinks, salty and sugary snacks. It would also prohibit the use of food stamps at fast-food restaurants.

Meanwhile, it appears the nation's school children are "okay" with healthier flavored milk at lunch. The Dairy Research Institute conducted a survey that was paid for by the Dairy Check-off. It shows many schools are now serving re-formulated flavored milk, which reduces the calories. In the battle against obesity, there was a push to remove flavored milk school. In response, the industry developed milk which reduced the sugar and caloric content and met school guidelines.

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