All posts by alisonmartin

DSW Inc.’s fourth quarter not as bad as feared, sales show growth

By Alison Martin

Despite a steep decline in profit, DSW Inc.’s fourth quarter results beat investor expectations and helped send the company’s share price higher.

In the quarter ended Jan. 30, 2016, The footwear and accessories retailer reported its net income as $11.8 million or 14 cents per diluted share, down dramatically from last year’s $30.8 million or 34 cents per diluted share. Although the net income fell by more than half, the latest quarter’s results beat by a hefty six cents the 8 cents a share analyst had been forecasting.
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Sharing stuff? Farmers do it, too

By Alison Martin

In this economy, sharing is caring – and trendy. Lyft Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. popularized ride-sharing, making it easy for car owners to share their cars with riders. Airbnb Inc. allows homeowners to share their spaces with travelers while the homeowners are away.

Now this concept of sharing is moving to the agriculture business, where an Internet opportunity to economize in this way is offered by MachineryLink Sharing.

But will farmers embrace this idea?

MachineryLink Sharing is the brainchild of a Kansas City, Missouri-based company called MachineryLink Inc., originally part of FarmLink LLC. It’s an online platform that allows farmers to rent out their pricey equipment – such as tractors, combines and plows – to other farmers at a fixed rate per day. In their ads, users can post details about their equipment, dates when it’s available, notes about operating the equipment, and daily use and shipping rates. Some users will even include an operator in the price, which means farmers who answer the ad won’t have to work the machine themselves.
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Pressure on egg farmers intensifies as grocers, restaurants pledge cage-free

By Alison Martin

Cage-free could be the way to be.

For grocery chains and fast-food giants, it’s the wave of the future as more and more companies pledge to sell and use only cage-free eggs.

Last week, Kroger Co. – the largest supermarket chain in the country – announced 100 percent of its eggs sold would come from cage-free hens by 2025. In September 2015, McDonald’s Corp. announced it too would progress toward using only cage-free eggs at all of its 16,000 North American locations over the next 10 years.

Other fast-food chains plan to join this trend. Taco Bell Corp. says its 6,000 locations will use cage-free eggs only by the end of this year. Dunkin’ Donuts LLC, TGI Fridays Inc. and Jack-In-The-Box Inc. plan to be cage-free in 2025–the same year as McDonald’s–while Starbucks Corporation, Panera Bread Company and Einstein Bros. Bagels – owned by Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, Inc. – have a 2020 deadline. Cheesecake Factory Restaurants Inc. plans to announce a timeline to move to cage-free.

But where is this cage-free trend coming from and how will it affect businesses down the line?
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Janie’s Farm Organics takes family farming to next generation

By Alison Martin

It’s lunchtime. After a chilly March morning of planting in the downstate Iroquois County field, Harold Wilken sets the table. His wife, high school teacher Sandy Wilken, serves bowls of her black bean chowder to the farm’s employees – son Ross Wilken, nephew Tim Vaske, bookkeeper Gerry Lunt, farm owner Ryan Wolfe and neighbor Lucas Haut. Nearly every day, the group gathers for this lunchtime tradition, bringing them together as a family rather than just employees.

“It’s time to share ideas with one another about how to be more efficient or what we can do to help each other out,” Harold Wilken said.

Since the organic farm’s founding in 2005, Harold Wilken considers himself “very blessed” to work with such a fine group of people. Through their hard work and dedication, Janie’s Farm Organics continues to grow. None of it, however, would be possible without Harold Wilken’s own perseverance and dedication to organic farming.
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Deere profit tops expectations, stock slides on soft forecast

By Alison Martin

Deere and Co.’s first quarter earnings handily beat analyst expectations Friday, but Deere shares came under pressure after the agricultural-equipment giant dismayed investors with a downbeat full-year forecast.

In the quarter ended. Jan. 31, the maker of iconic green-and-yellow tractors reported its net income of $254.4 million, or 80 cents per diluted share, a 34 percent decline from 2015’s first quarter net income of $386.8 million, or $1.12 per share.

Revenues fell by 13 percent to $5.525 billion from $6.38 billion in last year’s quarter. Continue reading

Hormel ends first quarter on high note

By Alison Martin

Hormel Foods Corp.’s shares climbed Tuesday after the food maker turned in stronger than expected fiscal first quarter results.

In the quarter ended Jan. 24, the manufacturer of consumer-branded food products reported its net income as $235.1 million or 43 cents per share, up substantially from the year-earlier quarter’s net income of $171.7 million or 32 cents. The reported earnings per share beat analyst expectations by six cents.
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Agrium sees strong fourth-quarter profit growth

By Alison Martin

Agrium Inc said fourth-quarter earnings almost tripled, thanks to impressive operating improvement in its wholesale business unit.

In the latest quarter the Canadian fertilizer producer reported net income of $200 million, or $1.45 per diluted share, a substantial increase over its year-ago net of $70 million, or 46 cents per diluted share.

The profit surge came even though sales fell by 11 percent to $2.41 billion from $2.71 billion. The company was able to cut its expenses from $625 million to $576 million, which helped offset the slump in sales.

Dead last: What does it mean for Republicans?

By Alison Martin

DES MOINES, Iowa – The caucuses ended. Results came in. Winners claimed victory. Now five other candidates must decide where to put their meager chips – or whether they should cash out.

Let’s take a look.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush outspent everyone – Republican or Democrat – in this race. The campaign was supposed to soar, buoyed by more than $100 million in outside money from super PACs and other 501(c)(4) groups, plus another $31 million from direct donations subject to dollar limits.

All the money in the world, however, can’t buy Iowa. Bush finished a distant fifth with  2.8 percent of the vote – roughly one-tenth the total of GOP winner Ted Cruz. Jeb! earned just one delegate.

Bush was not here to cry about his loss. By the time Iowans were stepping up to caucus, he was laboring in New Hampshire, the next primary battleground, where voters go to the polls on Feb. 9.

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Rubio’s volunteers make one last push before the eye of the caucus

By Alison Martin

ANKENY, Iowa – Risin’ up, one more day on the street.

In the early hours of the morning, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio visited his hardworking volunteers at his Ankeny headquarters. After months of phone calls and door knocks, Iowans all over the state would cast their votes, but in the meantime, it was up to volunteers to make the final push before the caucuses start and no more can be done.

By noon, volunteers both young and old were still dialing numbers and pitching Rubio’s policies. Communications director Jordan Russell said at this stage in the game, most volunteers were helping voters find their precincts and alerting them to voting times.

Not all volunteers were locals or even Iowans. Alex Richmond came to Iowa from Michigan. A graduate of DePaul University in Chicago, Richmond took his time deciding which candidate to support. Continue reading

Field of dreams: Ted Cruz, Iowa and the ethanol conundrum

By Alison Martin

IOWA CITY, Iowa – It’s not unusual for presidential candidates to pledge loyalty to corn.  It’s not unusual for a few to say no to ethanol subsidies, as Arizona Sen. John McCain did in 2008.

But when a Republican candidate vows to repeal the renewable fuel standard and still remains second in the Iowa polls, it’s not unusual to see everyone scratching their heads.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz wants to end the federal fuel standard, which mandates that gasoline contain a certain percentage of ethanol, made from corn, one of Iowa’s biggest crops. Without the regulation, farming corn would not be profitable, many farmers here say.

Which, in a usual political year, might spell trouble for Cruz, who wants to remove all energy subsidies and let a free market determine the nation’s energy choices. As Iowans prepare for Monday night’s first in the nation caucuses, ethanol boosters are targeting Cruz, running second to real estate mogul in the polls.

And yet, at a Sunday rally in Iowa City, supporters showed no concern about the candidate’s position – and no empathy for their farming neighbors.

“I don’t think the government should subsidize business – even big oil,” said Doug Schrage, an IT professional from Tiffin. Like many of his fellow Iowans, Schrage believes that even without the subsidy, the Iowan economy will “fix itself.”

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