The farming community can truly benefit from developing their financial record keeping skills. By having a budget to review regularly, and maintaining and filing business-related records, farm families will create an organized, reliable personal database that can help quickly respond to government requirements or lender requests for information. It can also help farmers see a “big picture” view of their operations and plan ahead.
“We’re committed to helping address the financial challenges facing ranchers and  farmers, and that’s why we stress the importance of budgeting, record-keeping and saving,” said Mike Robards, Executive Director at CCOA. “The record-keeping that was required for each of my 4-H calves sure seemed like a pain at the time. However, I now see that it provided the foundation for a practice that is essential for effective management of any program.”
Farming and effective money management have one key thing in common: It’s an everyday occurrence.
As farm-related expenses are incurred or profits are realized, they should be recorded. These records need to be kept in an orderly, safe location. This way they’ll be easy to locate should you need to refer to them. Filing and record-keeping aren’t glamorous, but they are convenient once you get into the habit.

What to use
For computer users, a basic money management program such as Microsoft Excel is good for staying on top of your business expenses, as well as tracking personal expenses in one central location. Make sure and back up your files. Non-electronic ledgers can be used, but are often more time-consuming as all data must be written down and calculations done manually. 
The Iowa State University Extension service has a handy file that includes key worksheets for tracking farm net worth and income. You can check this out at These worksheets provide an excellent starting point for building a farm business budget. Additionally, these documents can help draw a clear financial picture the farmer can use to plan ahead, show to potential investors or lenders, or determine production.
Farmers know that these records are imperative to have for IRS or government requirements. Having documentation can also be useful if lenders want detailed information about farm assets or obligations. Lenders may also want to review several years’ worth of financial data to project long-term farm production and viability – a determination that farmers can also benefit from for planning purposes.
Having a long history of accurate records can help a farmer anticipate costs and yield. A clear picture and savvy analysis of results can help a farm maximize profits and productivity.
Particularly in the Ozarks, where water runoff issues have repeatedly landed in courtrooms, government and legal agencies are stepping up environmental regulations for farm owners. Records regarding chemical use, livestock waste applications and irrigation may increasingly become important.
Bruce Castleberry is the Community Outreach Coordinator with Credit Counseling of Arkansas, CCOA.


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