Even though much of the nation’s beef comes from our region, beef prices in Iowa grocery stores have been inching upwards for months. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says it’s hard to predict where the beef industry is going, but the recent closure of a beef slaughter plant in western Iowa may be an indicator.
“A lot of it will depend on the turnaround in the global economy,” Goss says. “Everyone is hearing about China and their problems, but Nebraska and Iowa together export about 12 to 13-billion dollars worth of food, so this is significant.” Goss says the escalation of prices isn’t just a challenge for Iowa, Nebraska or even the Midwest.
“One of the problems we’ve had recently is just the high value of the dollar makes it more difficult to export, it makes our goods less competitively priced abroad,” Goss says. “Energy and agriculture are two very important industries for this part of the country. They’ve been having a problem. A lot of it you can trace to the value of the dollar rising and also to global economic slowdown.”
Earlier this month, Tyson Foods announced the closure of its beef slaughter plant in Denison, eliminating 400 jobs. The company said those displaced workers would be considered for transfers to other Tyson plants, but Goss says it’s highly impractical. “Tyson offered these individuals that lose their jobs replacement jobs in Dakota City or Lexington,” Goss says. “The problem is, that’s a long distance. Lexington, that’s about a four-hour drive. That’s not a viable offer for most of the individuals losing their job.”
Another problem is, according to Goss, for every manufacturing job lost, another “spill-over” job is lost in an industry like retail.