July 7, 2015

Hops production lags behind the expansion of craft breweries



Iowa’s craft beer brewing industry has been steadily growing, and in some ways is like the resurgence of the wine industry in Iowa. The owner of the Peace Tree Brewing Company in Knoxville, Megan McKay, agrees there are some similarities, but says craft breweries are behind in using home-grown ingredients.

“I think the big difference between the wineries and the breweries is they’re growing a lot of their inputs and then using that to make their products,” McKay says. “And we, just because of the way the hops grow, it doesn’t do quite as well in Iowa. And then processing piece of it — so that it gets to where we can use it in large quantities –we don’t have that infrastructure set up.”

McKay says efforts are underway to grow more hops for beer in Iowa. “There’s a hop farm that they are working on over in Solon. I just met a women who is putting part of her 40 acres into hops up in northwest Iowa. There’s a couple of others kind of scattered throughout the state,” according to McKay. “The big problem with that is they can grow them — but for us to use them in a large commercial brewery they usually need to be dried down into hop flakes or dried down and palletized so that it preserves the aromas and flavors.”

She says the producers growing hops here are limited in where their crops can be used. She says they are good for home brewers and small brew pubs that are just using a small bit at a time. But she says the state is not at a level where they could take out 10 percent of the hops they buy and use Iowa grown material.

Iowa State University has a program that is helping growers learn about hops. McKay says another issue has been a lack of demand in the state to make it profitable to grow and process the hops.

“There hasn’t been enough breweries demanding it, and so it is hard to build up that infrastructure and grow inputs is nobody is doing that. I am hoping we can keep working to together on that,” McKay says. McKay is on the Iowa Wine and Beer Promotion Board, which recently released a study that shows the craft brew industry has a $110 million economic impact on the state.


Iowa Job Honor Awards recognize ‘second chances’

A new non-profit group is putting the spotlight on Iowans who’ve made the most of “second chances” and recognizing the companies that have hired them.

Kyle Horn is the founder of the “Iowa Job Honor Awards” program.

“The case that we attempt to make is not for the indiscriminant hiring of candidates with ‘red flags’ but rather fair consideration of individuals, so that people whose lives are demonstrably on a new trajectory, so they’re given a fair shot,” Horn says. “Certainly not all individuals with ‘red flags’ in their background change, but some do.”

A criminal history can be a big “red flag” that sidelines job opportunities in the future, but Horn says physical or intellectual disabilities as well as a lack of marketable skills also put a job-seeker at a disadvantage.

“Many of those individuals, their lives are completely on a new track, they have great skills, they’re looking for a job and, once hired, they become an incredibly and committed employee,” Horn says. “…Unfortunately, a lot of employers have pre-screen requirements that automatically exclude such candidates and the case we make is that there are some individuals…who have overcome those barriers. They not only make acceptable employees, they make outstanding employees and a lot of the employers who have taken a chance on them report they tend not to have the sense of entitlement that we see so frequently with other candidates. but rather a sense of appreciaton and committment to the job.”

The first “Iowa Job Honor Awards” were handed out in 2014. This year’s recipients include Haley Equipment in Carroll, a family-owned business that sells and repairs heavy eqiupment. Workforce Solutions in Burlington was also recognized for helping people find a job after they’ve been released from prison. Horn’s vision is to spread this kind of a spotlight beyond Iowa’s borders.

“We’re rolling out the Wisconsin Job Honor Awards later in 2015 and plan to continue to move on, state-by-state, until we’ve covered the nation,” Horn says.

One of the individual Iowans honored this year is Edward Roberson of Ankeny, a veteran who got job after his release from prison and just got married. The other individual is Angela Avila of Afton who suffered from a social anxiety disorder. She was praised for conquering her fears and being willing to work as an intern before she was hired full-time.

(Reporting by Quinn Palmer, KCIM, Carroll)

New law makes growlers more available across the state

BEER-GROWLERA new law beginning today expands the availability of containers of beer known as growlers. Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division spokesperson Robert Bailey says the growlers are jug-like containers that range in size from 32 to 72 ounces — and are already sold at craft breweries and brew pubs.

“The new part is that now convenience stores and any licensee that has a carry-out beer license can also now pour fresh growlers,” Bailey explains. He says the growlers are a way for people to have a chance to try craft brews. “They’re to take the product home in smaller samples. From a craft brewer, that beer does not stay fresh for very long. So, you do need to consume it within 48 hours,” Bailey says, “that is what a lot of people do, they just take that craft brew experience home and share it with their friends.”

There are some rules for selling and buying the growlers. He says it has to be filled when it is ordered, the growler has to be sealed. “So that when I take it back to my car I don’t get caught with an open container violation. And the person that sells it to me had to be 18 years of age,” Bailey says.

You may be able to bring in your own growler to have it filled, or buy one at the site. “It depends on the retailer. Some I think will take your growler that you bring in, clean it or just fill another one and give it to you. So, there’s going to be a lot of variations on that business model,” Bailey says.

He says IABD has some guidelines for those who are considering selling growlers. Bailey says they are in the process of creating administrative rules for selling growlers. But they do have information on their website as he says there are not only alcohol rules, but there are also food inspection rules. “It is considered a food-serving situation, so anyone interested in serving growlers also needs to check with the Department of Inspections and Appeals to make sure they meet those sanitation requirements,” Bailey says.

There is one retailer in Ankeny selling growlers under the new rules, and Bailey believes that will change. “We expect a lot of interest, a couple of large retailers are already ramping up and preparing to put in systems in their operations,” Bailey says. “The people that we really want to make they reach out to use are the smaller businesses that think this might be an interesting part of their business model.”

Bailey says it is a big investment to begin selling the growlers, so it is important that businesses understand that before moving ahead. For more information on growlers and other alcohol policies, regulations and licensing requirements, go to: www.iowaabd.com.


Pro-immigration group touts poll of Iowa Caucus goers

Research released this past weekend indicates 77 percent of likely Iowa Caucus goers support creation of a new process that would grant U.S. citizenship to undocumented immigrants.

John Stineman, a Republican political consultant, conducted a telephone conference call this morning to discuss the poll that was conducted in April.

“It’s really time for a reset on the immigration issue in Republican politics,” Stineman said. “And that’s both in Iowa and in Republican presidential politics where our state gets to play a major role.”

The Partnership for a New American Economy, a group that supports immigration reform, paid for the poll.

“We think that the findings are quite compelling,” Stineman said.

According to Stineman, it’s time to “tear away” labels like “amnesty” and starting having an “intelligent discussion” about how to fix the situation.

“Iowa Republican Caucus goers are really supportive of immigration reform,” Stineman said. “There’s really no two ways about it.”

The poll found just 17 percent of Iowa Caucus goers consider immigration policy their number one voting issue and will not support a candidate who talks about reforming the immigration system rather than deporting undocumented immigrants.

Egg prices not expected to drop anytime soon

eggsConsumers are still seeing egg prices climb after the avian influenza outbreak that sidelined a good portion of Iowa’s poultry producers.

More than 31 million birds had to be euthanized at 77 operations in 18 Iowa counties. Shayle Shagam a livestock analyst at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says wholesale egg prices recently hit a new high of $2.29 a dozen, almost doubling in two months.

“Prices on May 1st were about $1.18 a dozen,” Shagam says. “If you go back and you compare it to a year ago, we had prices about $1.37 a dozen.” Shagam says egg prices will likely remain high for up to a year because it will take that long for the poultry facilities to replace their chicken populations.

Shagam says food manufacturers rely on so-called “breaker egg” producers and they were hit hard by loss. Now, those food makers are buying up eggs from the consumer market, boosting prices.

Many Iowa turkey producers have also been impacted by the bird flu outbreaks. Shagam says turkey production will be down about 7 percent for the second half of this year, which is a big about-face.

“In the first quarter of 2015, production was actually about 7% higher,” he says. Also, supplies of frozen turkeys are up so consumers may only be paying slightly more per-pound compared to last year. “Tom turkeys were up 11% and hen turkeys 13% from a year ago,” Shagam says. Predictions call for turkey prices to increase about 6-cents a pound from a year ago.

Winnebago CEO says company doing well with revenue up

WinnebagoWinnebago Industries reports a rise in revenue for the latest quarter. The Forest City-based recreational vehicle maker saw its fiscal third quarter revenue increase 7.6 percent when compared to the same period a year ago.

CEO Randy Potts says while analysts this fiscal year have expected not-so-good news for the company, Winnebago is doing well. He says there’s a good top line, a good bottom line, reducing the inventory and really being focused on some of the nit-pick things that drove the negative comments. He says business is strong and people should feel good about how both the quarter and the year are going.

Motor home revenue rose 7.4 percent in the quarter, primarily a result of motor home unit shipment growth of over 11-percent, while the average selling price for the units fell. Towable revenue jumped 16-percent, boosted by better volume and shipments. Potts says there’s still room to grow.

He says the towable side is at or slightly above pre-recession levels, while the motor home side of the business is still recovering almost eight years after the start of the recession. He says their goal is to continue to try to outperform the market as they have been doing. Recreational vehicle sales are considered by many analysts as a leading economic indicator. Potts says he sees a lot of positives ahead for his company with the current state of the economy.

“The housing market continues to recover, I continue to see strong consumer sentiment,” Potts says. He says there are a lot of reasons to think there’s “a lot of good years for our business ahead.” For the quarter ending May 30th, Winnebago booked earnings of 11-and-a-half million dollars, or 43-cents a share, up slightly from 11.4 million, or 42-cents a share, a year earlier.

Analysts predicted Winnebago’s third-quarter earnings to be 41-cents a share. Winnebago shares have dropped 13-percent over the past three months but were up nearly eight-percent shortly after the opening bell this morning.

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)


Kinze Manufacturing announces layoffs

A Kinze planter.

A Kinze planter.

An eastern Iowa based maker of farm equipment is blaming the downturn in the ag economy for the layoffs of 215 employees. Kinze Manufacturing employs about 850 people, primarily at the company headquarters near Williamsburg.

In announcing the 215 layoffs Wednesday, company officials blamed sluggish sales and the sharp decline in corn and soybean prices.

Earlier this year, Kinze cut its work-week to 30 hours in order to retain employees. The company reports the sales are not supporting the current workforce, but the remaining employees will return to a full-time work-week.