Ernie Goss

Ernie Goss

A monthly survey of business leaders and supply managers in Iowa finds the state’s leading economic indicator fell for the 4th straight month in October. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says Iowa’s Business Conditions Index for the month was, in a word, “tepid.” Goss says the entire 9-state Midwest region is experiencing a similar downward slide, as new export orders are dropping.

“We’ve got to separate the grain-dependent industries where prices are very weak, that would be corn, soybeans and wheat principally, and then on the beef and pork side, they’re doing better,” Goss says. “Overall, you put it all together, the ag sector is bringing down the overall economy, bringing down the growth, I should say.”

The U.S. dollar is becoming stronger though, which Goss says has an impact across the board. “When that number bounces up there, and it has been, it pushes ag prices down and pushes energy prices down,” Goss says. “Of course, that’s not all that bad. We’re now looking at gasoline prices, the best we’ve seen in a couple years.”

After rising to its highest level in more than three years in June, Goss says the overall index reading has hovered in a range pointing toward positive — but slower — growth for the regional economy over the next three to six months, with agriculture being key.

“Obviously, farm income for almost all of the nine states that we survey, very important and it’s heading in the wrong direction, unless you look at beef and pork, they’re doing better,” Goss says. “Overall, ag is weaker, probably going to be down income this year 10 to 12% from this time last year.”

Durable goods producers in Iowa, including ag equipment makers and nondurable goods manufacturers, especially food processors, reported much slower growth than earlier in the year.