August 19, 2014

New film details history of Templeton Rye

The makers of a documentary about a prohibition-era whiskey are promising new revelations about how a small Iowa town became a bootlegging empire. Dan Manatt directed the film “Whiskey Cookers: The Amazing Story of the Templeton, Iowa Bootleggers.”

“The film is really going to rewrite the history of Templeton Rye,” Manatt said. “It introduces so many new characters, so many new plot lines, and so much new back story.” Roughly a decade in the making, Manatt said the documentary draws on never-before-seen files from the National Archives, court documents, and other materials.

Manatt said the secret to Templeton Rye’s success went far beyond the ingredients used to make the whiskey. “In the middle 1920s, Carroll County juries basically started engaging in civil disobedience and refused to convict bootleggers,” Manatt said. An advance screening of the film will be held this Friday at 7 p.m. at the Templeton Community Center in Templeton.

The film’s “world premiere” is scheduled for Saturday at 5:45 p.m. at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City as part of the Landlocked Film Festival. The film will air later this year on Iowa Public Television. Manatt noted that the film is not affiliated with and received no funding or editorial input from Templeton Rye Spirits LLC.



Unemployment rate moves up in July

Iowa’s jobless rate saw a small uptick in the past month, according to Kerry Koonce at Iowa Workforce Development. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose from 4.4 percent in June to 4.5 percent in July. “We did have a slight increase in our unemployment rate for July over June by just a tenth of a percent,” Koonce says. “Although our civilian labor force grow, so did our number of unemployed individuals grew just slightly as well.”

The number of unemployed Iowans rose to almost 77,000 during July, up from about 74,000 during June. Overall, Koonce says, the total number of working Iowans fell to about 1,624,000 in July. “We really saw no change in the non-farm jobs,” Koonce says. “All of the gains that we had in the private sector were offset heavily by government areas and also in the leisure and hospitality areas. Some of the summer stuff starts to slow down.”

Education and health services added the most jobs during July, Koonce says, due to gains in both private education services and health care services. She says the state’s workforce is in better shape than it was a year ago. “July of this year, our non-farm numbers are significantly higher,” Koonce says. “We’re 16,500 jobs higher than we were at this time last year, so that’s very good. Plus, our unemployment rate this time last year was at 4.8% so we’ve lost 3/10th of a percent there as well. All in all, our numbers are looking very good compared to this time last year.”

Many seasonal jobs are vanishing as summer gives way to fall and back-to-school time, which may contribute to the jobless rate next month. “You’ll see a little bit of that, but you’ll also have teachers and colleges and universities and things like that going back as well so you’ll see an increase in the employment there,” Koonce says. “It usually tends to level out pretty good.” Iowa’s unemployment rate at 4.5 percent for July is well below the national jobless rate of 6.2 percent.


Deere announces layoffs to adjust to product demand

After reporting a deep drop in quarterly earnings earlier this week, Deere and Company now plans to lay off more than 600 workers at four of its manufacturing facilities, including one in central Iowa and two in the Quad Cities.

Deere spokesman Ken Golden says the job cuts will be coming at the Des Moines Works in Ankeny, at the Harvester Works in East Moline, Illinois, the Seeding and Cylinder Works in Moline, Illinois, and at the plant in Coffeyville, Kansas. “The largest number on today’s announcement is from the John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline,” Golden says. “That’s about 425 employees at that location. Des Moines is going to have 110 employees on indefinite layoff.”

Deere is Iowa’s largest manufacturing employer and the company announced third quarter earnings on Wednesday of $850 million, down $150-million from a year ago. Ag equipment sales dropped 8-percent in the U.S. and Canada, 11-percent globally. “We are always going to align the size of our manufacturing workforce with the market demand for our products,” Golden says. “Our employees are aware of that and so there is going to be some flux in the size of the workforce.”

There are two ways the company makes adjustments, Golden says, like with extended shutdowns at each facility based on what’s being produced there. “For instance, in Des Moines, all of the employees will be on an extended shutdown through September 29th,” Golden says. “When we place someone on an indefinite layoff, as we have done today, we are not projecting a particular date that they will be called back. That’s the unfortunate thing.”

Deere is also implementing a seasonal shutdown affecting most of the manufacturing workforce at its Ottumwa Works. Production will be cut in the fourth quarter to meet market demand, which Golden says, is “not anything new for us.” Deere revised its full-year earnings projection to $3.1 billion, compared to its spring prediction of $3.3 billion.


Deere reports drop in 3rd quarter earnings

Deere and Company is reporting a drop in earnings for the third quarter. The Moline, Illinois-based manufacturer of agriculture and construction equipment says third-quarter earnings fell 15 percent. Deere earned nearly $851 million, or $2.33 per share, in the quarter.

A year ago Deere posted earnings of more than $996 million, or $2.56 per share. An 8-percent drop in equipment sales in the U.S. and Canada is getting the blame. Deere also expects weak sales in the U.S., Canada and abroad will negatively affect earnings for the entire year. Iowa’s largest manufacturing employer is predicting $3.1 billion in profits in 2014, down slightly from earlier projections.

Ken Golden, Director of Global Public Relations, says worldwide sales from May through July dropped five percent. Sales fell eleven percent in Deere’s Agriculture and Turf Division. He says that means production schedules will change. “Production would be cut back in the 4th quarter to meet current market demand. That’s not anything new for us. We have said we’re committed to always cutting production to market levels,” Golden says.

He says other divisions are benefiting from growth in the U.S. economy. “We still expect sales of construction and forestry equipment to increase by ten percent for the full year. You know this is showing where the economy headed. The economy is recovering, and there’s higher housing starts in the. And we’re also seeing sales increases outside the U.S. and Canada for that division,” according to Golden.


(Reporting by Phil Roberts, Davenport)


Refinery problems could cause gas prices to go up

Fuels analysts fear gasoline prices in Iowa could be about to jump following recent problems at three refineries in the Midwest region. That comes after more than two months of steady gas price declines in the state.

Rose White, spokeswoman for Triple-A-Iowa, says there was a big fire at a major refinery in Coffeyville, Kansas, on July 29th. “Repairs are expected to take about four weeks,” White says. “Also, there’s some reported problems at a refinery in Whiting, Indiana, as well as one in El Dorado, Kansas.” An interruption at one regional refinery might not be so bad, but she says slow-downs or complete halts at three Midwestern fuel facilities could spell a price hike due to reduced supply.

“The good news is, there is a good supply already built up in the inventory levels,” White says. “This might provide some cushion and help prevent severe spikes.” Iowa’s been seeing prices at the pump drop steadily since early June, but White says that could be about to end, even though demand is starting to drop off with the end of the summer driving season.

“Refinery production had been at record high levels in the Midwest this summer,” White says. “That’s going to provide some needed cushion to help weather these problems. Prices do continue to drop across most states in the region but that could change in the next few days.” Triple-A says gas prices in Iowa are averaging $3.36 a gallon, that’s nine cents below the national average.

Also, prices statewide have fallen 14 cents in the past month and more than 30 cents since June 1st.


Iowa Farmers Union leader says ag concentration hurting rural areas

The president of the Iowa Farmers Union says a few corporations are gaining more control over growing, processing, marketing and delivering our food. Jana Linderman, of Cedar Rapids, says concentration in the ag industry is hurting rural economies and the environment while driving independent family farmers off the land.

“It cuts into their ability to market their product in a competitive way,” Linderman says. “A lot of my growers are turning more and more to local markets and small-scale processing for that reason because that’s the only way for them to get a fair price for their labor.”

Linderman says they’re not huge, but those local markets provide farmers with a niche opportunity for getting their products to consumers. “The bigger challenge is finding local processers that are available to do that,” she says. “Of course, a lot of them have to turn to state-inspected facilities which limits some of their marketing availability but it’s a good opportunity, especially for our beginning farmers.”

Tyson Foods recently sold its poultry facilities in Mexico and Brazil to Pilgrim’s Pride and JBS. Linderman says Tyson’s recent acquisition of Hillshire Brands is another worry. “It’s very concerning,” she says. “There’s already so much concentration, so few processors for our meat producers, any kind of livestock production, it’s not just poultry, it’s everything. Any further concentration in that sector is concerning to us.” Linderman says the Iowa Farmers Union wants the U.S. Justice Department to thoroughly review the proposed Tyson-Hillshire merger.

(Reporting by Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton)


Grassley says U.S. tax system the reason companies consider overseas headquarters

While some critics blast Walgreens for considering a plan to move its headquarters overseas to save billions of dollars in U.S. taxes, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says it’s America’s tax system that’s “unpatriotic.”

While the Illinois-based drug store chain reportedly will abandon plans to base itself in Switzerland, Grassley says he doesn’t want corporations to leave this country, but he can’t blame them for doing so. “I don’t like companies doing this,” Grassley says. “I like to have them think of the United States coming first, but we have tax laws that make them uncompetitive with international competition. At 35%, our tax rate is the highest of any industrialized nation in the world.”

The average corporate tax rate of all of the other industrialized countries is 20 to 25-percent, Grassley says, which means U-S-based companies have a very hard time competing in the global marketplace. Grassley says, “It ought to be seen as unpatriotic for us to have a tax system at 35% that’s different than any other tax system in rest of the world where we’re shipping jobs overseas and even encouraging our capital (to) go overseas.” A former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley says U.S. corporations are storing one-and-a-half to 2 trillion dollars in offshore accounts, money that could be used for “economic good” in the U.S.

“We ought to have a tax system that encourages companies to locate here and bring capital in and to be internationally competitive,” according to Grassley. Walgreens, the nation’s largest drug store chain, has 69 stores in 35 Iowa cities and more than 8,200 stores nationwide.