Friday, January 29, 2010
Wages and benefits paid to U.S. workers posted a modest gain in the fourth quarter, ending a year in which recession-battered workers saw their compensation rise by the smallest amount on records going back more than a quarter-century.
The anemic gains have raised concerns about the durability of the economic recovery. The fear is that consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, could falter if households don’t have the income growth to support their spending.
The Labor Department said today that wages and benefits rose by 0.5 percent in the three months ending in December. For the entire year, wages and benefits were up 1.5 percent, the weakest showing on records that go back to 1982.
The 1.5 percent increase in total compensation in 2009 was about half the 2.6 percent increase in 2008 and both years represented the smallest gains for the government’s Employment Compensation Index.
Last year, wages were up by just 1.5 percent and benefits rose by the same 1.5 percent, both record lows. In 2008, wages and salaries had been up 2.7 percent and benefits, which cover such things as health insurance and pension contributions, had risen by 2.2 percent.
The 0.5 percent rise in the fourth quarter for total compensation was slightly higher than the 0.4 percent advance economists had expected, and was the biggest quarterly gain since a 0.6 percent rise in the third quarter of 2008. Compensation had been up 0.4 percent in both the second and third quarters of this year.
Workers’ compensation has been battered by the country’s deep recession as a loss of 7.2 million jobs over the past two years has depressed wage gains. A separate report from the Labor Department earlier this month showed that nonsupervisory workers’ inflation-adjusted weekly earnings fell by 1.6 percent last year, the sharpest drop since 1990.
The concern among economists is that the economic recovery that began in the summer could falter in coming months if consumer spending slows as households remain fearful about boosting spending in the face of such anemic wage growth.
The slow growth in employee compensation has allowed the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates at record low levels in an effort to jump-start economic activity since wage pressures, often a major force driving inflation higher, have been absent.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
“With the farm economy and rural jobs being so closely linked to the well being of our rural communities, it is really important for rural Minnesotans to attend their precinct caucus to express their concerns and thoughts and get their voices heard,” said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President. “In Minnesota, there are over five million people; eighty thousand of them are listed as farmers, which is another reason to attend – to be at the table when policies are discussed and agendas are set.”
According to the Secretary of State’s office, precinct caucuses are meetings organized by Minnesota’s political parties to begin the process of selecting candidates for the 2010 election and policy positions to shape the party platform. They are open to the public, and participation is encouraged.
You can find your precinct caucus location by contacting your local political party, your county auditor’s office or going to the Secretary of States website:
This site also has a “frequently asked caucus questions” section.
Minnesotans will be electing a new governor in 2010, and the precinct caucuses are where delegates are elected to the next level, the county and senate district conventions. Resolutions are often discussed and passed to go to the next level and help shape the party’s platform.
Minnesota Farmers Union (www.mfu.org) is a nonprofit membership-based organization working to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life of family farmers and ranchers, as well as rural communities.
"The bank bailout was about as popular as a root canal." - I liked that line.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Jennifer Jopp will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning this Thursday January 28, by appointment at the Health Care Mall in downtown Hoffman. Read this week's issue of the Herman-Hoffman Tribune to learn more.
Monday, January 25, 2010
All state highways in west central and southwestern Minnesota were closed at 3 p.m. until further notice.
The Minnesota National Guard has been activated to assist counties in west central and southwestern Minnesota to provide shelter and other support. National Guard Armories in Olivia, Marshall and St. James have been opened for standed travelers.
The road closing includes highways south and west of Willmar, including U.S. Highway 71 and state Highways 23 and 40. Additional west central counties included in the road closing Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone, Redwood and Yellow Medicine.
The National Weather Service's blizzard warning includes the west central Minnesota counties of Chippewa, Douglas, Kandiyohi, Lac qui Parle, McLeod, Meeker, Pope, Redwood, Renville, Stevens, Swift, and Yellow Medicine.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Saturday, January 23, 2010
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey of rural bankers in 11 Midwest and Plains states shows that the region’s economy remains weak but not enough to dampen bankers’ optimism for an economic rally.
The overall index for the Rural Mainstreet economic report released late Thursday inched up in January, to 41 from 40.9 in December. That’s the fifth straight month the index has increased, but organizers say the figure indicates significant economic weakness.
The index ranges between 0 and 100. A score below 50 suggests the economy will contract in the next few months.
The index has remained below 50 for 23 consecutive months, said survey organizers Ernie Goss, a Creighton University economist, and Bill McQuillan, CEO of CNB Community Bank of Greeley, Neb.
“The uncertainty surrounding legislative changes coming from Washington, combined with economic weakness among mainstreet businesses linked to the farm sector, appear to be weighing on the rural, agriculturally dependent economy,” Goss said.
But bankers remained upbeat about future economic prospects. The monthly confidence index climbed to 59.7 from December’s 5 3 . 7 a n d N ove m ber’s 50.1.
Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming are surveyed.
The survey showed some signs of life in new hiring, with the new-hiring index rising from 33.4 in December to 40.1 — the highest since July 2008. But Goss noted the index has remained below 50 for 25 consecutive months.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Valentine's Day coming! Get all you need locally - even just a simple Valentine's Card at Hoffman Grocery, or fine jewelery at Main Street Galleria
Hoffman Main Street Galleria hours are 9:30 to 3pm on Saturdays. The Hoffman Grocery is open from 8am to 6pm on Saturdays.
A snowmobile driven by 16-year old Justin Woldahl of Ashby was traveling east down Central Lakes snowmobile trail in Ashby and had driven into the side of a semi tractor which was parked partially across the snowmobile trail. This semi was unloading fertilizer at the plant.
The Ashby Ambulance, Grant County Sheriff's Office, and the Ashby Police Department responded to the scene, and Justin was transported to the Douglas County Hospital where he died from his injuries.
He was a sophomore at Ashby High School.
This accident remains under investigation by the Grant County Sheriff's Office.
“Unlike many other farm organizations, who generally come late to the table after the visionary work has gone forward and the outcome is clear, AAM has always worked for what was best for America and America’s farmers,” said Matlack. “Even today, some farm organizations collaborate with those seeking to delay the development of additional and newer renewable fuels and power from American agriculture and forests. This is one major reason that it has taken over thirty years to bring biofuels into the picture as a major supplier of our transportation fuel.”
“AAM has always fought for programs that best serve the American farmer, rancher, and forester no matter which political party supported those advances,” explained Matlack. “Our keynote speaker at this year’s AAM convention is a testament to that effort; William Holmberg, Chairman of the Biomass Coordinating Council of the American Council on Renewable Energy, first worked with AAM in the late seventies when he was with the U.S. Department of Energy and established the federal government’s first alcohol fuels office.”
Holmberg retired from military service as a highly decorated Marine Lieutenant Colonel and served both Republican and Democratic administrations for an additional thirteen years, helping to pioneer the ethanol and biodiesel industries. “Holmberg continues to serve his country, working on behalf of sustainable renewable energy from America’s farms and forests,” stated Matlack. The AAM lauded the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and the Biomass Coordinating Council (BCC) for their efforts in launching the American Agriculture and Forestry Movement for Sustainable New Wealth Industries (SNWIs) and declaring 2010 the Year of Biomass to increase the awareness of the American people about what farms and forests can contribute to energy self-reliance.
Matlack quoted former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director R. James Woolsey who said, “This is the only war the U.S. has ever fought where we pay for both sides. We fund and support our brave military personnel fighting terrorists, and we then fund countries supporting those terrorists by purchasing their oil. So, when we look at the problem and seek a solution, we need only to look into our own eyes in the rear view mirror when we pump fuel into our gas tanks. As fast as possible, we should be fueling our cars with alternative fuels and electricity produced right here in the United States.”
“If not for the economic prosperity for rural areas, and America in general, that results from producing our own renewable fuels, then we all certainly have a moral obligation to our troops and our country. We must all rise to this task and AAM asks farmers across the nation to avoid the shortsighted advice of those farm organizations, or others, who would weaken America by continuing our dependence on foreign energy far into the future,” charged Matlack. “AAM also asks each American to become informed, involved and dedicated to SNWIs so energy self-sufficiency becomes a reality in our lifetime.”
If the Vikings win, Landrieu will cook a Minnesota wild rice casserole and deliver it to Klobuchar’s office while wearing a Brett Favre jersey for Minnesota constituents to enjoy. If the Saints win, Klobuchar will cook gumbo and deliver it to Landrieu’s office while wearing a Drew Brees jersey for Louisiana constituents to enjoy.
“I hope for the sake of Mary’s constituents that the Saints don’t win, because I’ve never even made gumbo!” said Klobuchar. “But I have strong faith in the Vikings that they’ll pull this game out and move on to the Super Bowl, and I’ll never have to learn to make the gumbo! We in Minnesota have been waiting a long time for this.”
“Louisianans have waited 43 long, and sometimes agonizing seasons, but I believe this is going to be the year the Saints get to the Super Bowl. Coach Sean Payton, Drew Brees and all the players have brought this franchise a long way and the team is undoubtedly the heart and soul of New Orleans. My prediction is that the Vikings will need some hot gumbo from Senator Klobuchar to warm them up on their cold march back to Minnesota! But if the Saints can’t pull it out, we’ll just keep our fingers crossed that Minnesotans like their wild rice casserole with crawfish and Tabasco,” said Landrieu.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
A great commentary in this week's Pope County Tribune regarding the closure of small town auto dealers
Here's the body of the column:
National Newspaper Association President Cheryl Kaechele, publisher of the Allegan County (MI) News, spoke out this week in support of a new law requiring reconsideration of the closing of local auto dealerships that may have been shut down by General Motors and Chrysler Corporation without consideration of the value of the dealers in rural and small town America.
In Glenwood, we are lucky to have Schwieters Chevrolet still doing a good business here. The local dealership was not one of the unlucky dealerships that were closed during the financial crisis of the past year. The entire community and region should be thankful for that.
Apparently there was a new arbitration process decreed by Congress in late December as it directed two of the Big Three auto makers that received federal bailout dollars to reconsider the status of some 3,000 auto dealerships closed in 2009. President Obama signed the law, embodied in the massive federal appropriations bill HR 3288, on Dec. 17. The law permits dealerships to take the closure to arbitration.
Many communities in mostly rural areas felt the impact of the closings on their own businesses, but they also affected local newspapers who rely on those businesses to use their pages to market and sell cars.
"Locally-owned auto dealers also are historically major contributors to community life in America's small towns, supporting youth sports, civic organizations and local commerce," Kaechele wrote in her commentary about the new arbitration bill. "We do have the impression from our NNA member newspapers' reactions that more rural and small town dealers were closed than in larger cities. We want the arbitration panels to be aware of the role the dealers play in American communities."
"A dealership, especially in smaller towns, may be one of the largest employers in town; may be the largest sales tax payer in town; is likely one of the largest property tax payers in town; and, as already mentioned, supports civic/sports/community organizations and activities," said NNA Executive Director Brian Steffens "Their elimination will affect schools and town or county services. Making folks go 30, 40 or 100 miles away for service is not only a burden on the vehicle owner, but moving economic collateral out of one town over to another."
We certainly agree. Small communities get ravaged by a number of economic factors coming together each year. Auto dealerships are one piece of the puzzle. Obviously, we are lucky to still have Schwieters in Glenwood, and we can help keep them, and all our remaining businesses, by making sure we purchase goods and service from them.
The Pope County area features a lot of very vibrant and strong businesses, and it is up to us to keep them that way. Each time we lose a business, the impact isn't simply on consumer choices at the local level. We lose tax dollars for our cities, schools and county, and we lose major contributors to the many fundraisers and activities at our schools, churches and civic organizations.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
It will be updated on a weekly basis. A new "URL" or website address is currently being sought by the Tribune. Once a new website address is picked, it will be promoted on this blog and in the hard copies of the Herman-Hoffman Tribune.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Teachers in Bemidji approved a contract Friday evening. Education Minnesota now counts 28 districts which we believe missed the deadline. Here is the updated list, as of 9:30am Saturday.
The following are school districts who have not settled yet:
Benton Stearns Education District
Bird Island-Olivia-Lake Lillian (BOLD)
Carver Scott County Co-operative
Eastern Carver County (Chaska)
Intermediate School District 287
Lac Qui Parle Valley
Lake of the Woods
Remer - Northland Community
South Koochiching- Rainy River
Yellow Medicine East (YME)
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
St. Paul, Minn., Jan. 15, 2010 – Minnesota school teachers made historic sacrifices in pay and benefits in their latest contract negotiations to help school districts deal with difficult financial conditions.
Education Minnesota, the union of 70,000 educators, estimates more than half of the state’s teachers accepted salary freezes in one or both years of their new two year contracts. Salary increases averaged just 0.77 percent in the first year, and only 0.96 percent in the second year. They’re the lowest settlements on record.
“Teachers are making historic sacrifices for the sake of their students,” said Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher.
Just four years ago, Minnesota ranked 16th in the nation in average teacher salary. Today, it ranks 20th. The average teacher salary in Minnesota is $51,938, compared to the national average of $54,333. The average starting salary for a Minnesota teacher is just $33,009.
An estimated 309 of the state’s 344 districts met the January 15 deadline to reach settlements with their teachers. The 35 districts which are not expected to make the deadline face a $25 per student fine.
“I want to congratulate the teachers in the settled districts,” Dooher said. “Despite all the difficulties and troubled times, they worked through their issues together. They did the best they could under tough conditions. Their communities should be proud of the leadership, patience and hard work their teachers demonstrated.”
One of the most difficult issues in this year’s bargaining was the soaring cost of health insurance. Studies have shown those costs, far more than teacher salaries, are responsible for escalating expenses to schools. “It makes sense that if we can lower that cost, we can put those resources where they directly benefit our students,” Dooher said.
“Despite all the rhetoric, we know these things are true,” Dooher said. “The Jan. 15 deadline works. Teachers accepted remarkable sacrifices to make that happen. They’re doing everything they can to put the interests of their students first, and we hope everyone else can do the same.”
Editor's comment: My question is, how many teachers experienced actual cuts in pay? I don't begrudge teachers for what they make - they earn it! But what the teachers did is nothing to brag about. If they took 5 or 10% pay cuts, that would be something to crow about, because that's what's going on in the private sector!
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Forty percent of Americans expect to have less disposable income this time next year, while half as many (21%) anticipate it will increase. Few say they are planning a major purchase in the coming year, including retail items such as a major appliance (12%), an HD television (12%) or a computer (16%). Of those who plan on making a major purchase, 24% say they plan on buying something used. Americans are feeling insecure: Just 35% believe the economy will be better, and 43% expect the unemployment rate will be 10% or higher by the end of this year.
So retailers know they can't succeed without adjusting. They must adapt to the new, more frugal and utilitarian shopper or face extinction.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
...And the editor is recording countless Youtube clips! Stay tuned.
The Youtube clips are found at the following website address: www.youtube.com/user/hoffeditor
Countless video clips have been uploaded today.
Don't forget - Monday night (tonight) is the annual Hoffman Commerce and Ag/HEDA meeting (click on ad below)
The discussion material will be plentiful as Hoffman looks back on a year of great achievement and perseverance during our country's severe recession.
If you can't attend the event (and it is my sincere hope that you can!), be sure to read more on the event in the January 14 issue of the Herman Hoffman Tribune.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Tom Rukavina and an old colleague of his, Clair Nelson of Hoffman.
More video clips are being uploaded to the Editor's Youtube site: www.youtube.com/user/hoffeditor
To a few of our Douglas County Commissioners: You are a gutless group of government-bloating blowhards
I am seething over your decision to add to the salaries for a few elected officials of Douglas County - giving pay raises totaling $6,000.
Pay raises were approved by the above-mentioned Douglas County Commissioners at their first meeting of 2010 on Tuesday morning, January 6.
They are as follows (pay raise with their total salary in parentheses):
•Chris Karpan, county attorney – $1,000 ($106,034).
•Tom Reddick, auditor/treasurer – $1,500 ($90,555).
•Dawn Crouse, recorder – $1,800 ($60,000).
•Troy Wolbersen, sheriff – $1,500 ($86,169).
Commissioners Norm Salto and Jerry Johnson - THANK YOU for your stand against this very bad action. I give you a huge pat on the back for voting against the pay raises.
More on this wholly irresponsible act of government spending will be published in the January 14 issue of the Herman Hoffman Tribune.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
It's getting worse out there - Difficult to hazardous driving conditions in western Minnesota; Lac qui Parle Co. pulls its plows
Blowing snow, reduced visibility and drifting have created difficult to hazardous driving conditions in the region.
No travel is advised in areas west of Montevideo, where road conditions are described as hazardous. Lac qui Parle County pulled its county plows from the roads in the morning, and is advising no travel in that area, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
County plows are still operating in Chippewa, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties, but are finding the going difficult.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation in Willmar reports that state plows are keeping the highways clear but cautions that there is drifting in sheltered areas.
Diane Beck, MnDOT public affairs, said the department also advises motorists that there are drifting and visibility problems in the western portion of the region.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
The Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DFL) in the counties of central and west central Minnesota are sponsoring a DFL Gubernatorial Candidate Forum on Saturday, January 9 at 1 p.m. at the Alexandria Technical College Auditorium, South Auditorium, Room 743.
During the forum, the candidates will answer questions in order to introduce themselves, identify their positions on current issues, and present their leadership insights and abilities.
A time to meet and talk with individual candidates will follow.
This event is timely, say local DFL leaders, because it provides information for caucus-goers to use in the non-binding preference vote for the Democratic governor candidate at the statewide DFL caucuses, which will be held Tuesday, February 2.
There are 10 candidates vying for the DFL endorsement, including State Senator Tom Bakk, former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton, former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, former State Senator Steve Kelley, State Senator John Marty, State Representative Tom Rukavina, Mayor of Minneapolis R.T. Rybak, and State Representative Paul Thissen.
2010 will be an important election, according to local DFL leaders.
This January 9 forum is open to all – an opportunity to get to know the candidates, learn more about the issues and participate in the process of choosing a candidate.
Morris Sun Tribune staff reports
Stevens County Emergency Management has issued a weather alert because of potentially dangerous blowing snow and cold temperatures.
The Morris Area School District also dismissed students at 1 p.m. on Wednesday because of deteriorating weather conditions.
According to the National Weather Service, a winter storm warning is in effect for West Central Minnesota through 6 p.m. Thursday.
As much as six to eight inches of fluffy snow is expected by late Wednesday night, and wind gusts of 30 to 35 miles per hour could cause significant blowing and drifting snow.
Temperatures also are expected to plummet, causing dangerous wind chills.
To receive emergency alerts from Stevens County via phone, mobile phone or email through the Instant Alert Plus system, contact Dona Greiner, Emergency Management Deputy Director, at email@example.com, or sign up at www.envoyprofiles.com/STEVENSCOUNTY/
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
One of them, the Chokio Review, published an article by Minnesota Commissioner of Agriculture Gene Hugoson. In it, Huguson talked about the importance of agriculture when it comes to job creation and retention in Minnesota. He highlighted the woeful job outlook that our state and nation are both facing.
Nowhere in the article does he mention how important it is to keep farmers on the land, operating their family-owned farms, keeping the means of production for our food as local as possible.
More will follow on Wednesday morning.
An additional video is posted to the Editor's Youtube page, the link being: youtube.com/user/hoffeditor