Learning more about programs can improve a farm’s bottom line

New and beginning farmers make up 27 percent of American producers. 

Those with 10 or fewer years of farming experience have special financial opportunities which can help them manage their bottom line while investing in their operation. 

The federal government, Farm Service Agency and local farm banks acknowledge the declining age of the farmer and the expensive start-up costs of agricultural operations. To address both of these issues, special resources, including educational opportunities, loan guarantees, micro-loans and grants have been established to leverage the success of new farmers and ranchers. 

“Get to know the people in your FSA office, if you build a relationship with them, they will take care of you,” said Caleigh Waltington, a Farm Credit of Western Arkansas loan officer and young producer. “When they know you and your operation, they can guide you directly to federal resources that you qualify for.” 

All farmers, experienced and new, can use FSA and state and local county extension services as a tool for maximizing federal resources for their operations. Utilizing maximum federal resources and implementing a sound farm accounting practice is how new farmers can build a sustainable long-term financial plan for their operations. 

“You can be a great farmer, but if you don’t have that financial management as a small business you won’t last,” said, Dr. Nathan Kemper, Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness at the Dale Bumpers College of Agriculture, Food, and Life Sciences. 

Kemper explained young farmers need to value farm financial literacy. He spoke of the importance of being able to write a balance sheet, understanding your assets, having a long-term business plan, and utilizing state and federal resources. 

“You can be a great farmer, but if you don’t have that financial management as a small business you won’t last.”

— Dr. Nathan Kemper,
Associate Professor of Agricultural Economics & Agribusiness
Dale bumpers College

Resources like the University of Missouri Extension website, which offers record keeping and financial management tools designed to help farm businesses make management decisions. The website includes digital and printable farm record books, accounting software, financial statement interpretation tools and a tool for measuring and analyzing farm financial performance. 

“Long-term managing your bottom line is a combination of assessing how you have done in the past financially and taking the expert knowledge of extension and FSA and making yearly plans based on the two,” said Kemper. 

Some other available resources for farmers are offered through individual banks and can include new farmers’ special rate discounts and reduced fees for first-time farmers and first-time land buyers.

The educational resource may also be offered locally. The Farm Credit Association banks in Arkansas take their support of new farmers deeper by hosting a Young and Beginning Farmers Conference called The Future Legacy. Other educational opportunities may be hosted by county extension agents or breed associations. 

Events like The Future Legacy, Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference and Arkansas Women in Agriculture allow new farmers and ranchers to get connected with resources, build a networking circle and allow a forum for discussion around common struggles. 

New farmers and ranchers can work to leverage their success by fully utilizing federal resources available, building networks of support across the industry and intentionally practicing farm accounting skills. For those producers who do not feel confident handling the accounting for their operations, they might consider hiring an individual to do their accounting or teaching themselves how to through the extension and FSA-offered online resources.

Waltington also recommended taking advisement from older more experienced farmers or ranchers in the same area of the industry. She explained that there is no experience like living the life and doing the work of farming and ranching. Having a mentor in the industry that can offer advice on financial practices can help bridge knowledge gaps on farm finance management that federal resources and extension services may not be able to help with.


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