Over 80 farmers and land owners from as far away as Washington, D.C. and Upstate New York attended the 2014 Farm Futures Ag Finance Boot Camp held in St. Louis on February 20. Addressing the group were officers and board members of the Farm Financial Standards Council. Topics during the day-long event included the role of financial record keeping, the basics of understanding balance sheets and income statements, using ag accounting in decision-making, and an open panel forum on key issues. The program was hosted by Farm Futures magazine and was sponsored by John Deere, Farm Credit, and the Council.
Farm Futures magazine will partner with the Farm Financial Standards Council to hold a one-day seminar on farm financial management on Jan. 6 at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark hotel. The meeting is designed for all farmers who want to boost skills that can lead to better farm management decisions.
“Many farmers tell us they struggle to understand the numbers behind their business,” says Mike Wilson, Farm Futures editor. “Our most recent farmer survey shows farmers with the best business skills are three times as likely to run high-profit farms.”
The learning event comes at a crucial time for U.S. agriculture, as lower grain prices, farm bill uncertainties and high input costs squeeze profits.
“The Ag Finance Boot Camp is ideal for farmers who want to become better managers and navigate the volatility so common in farming,” says Wilson. “Great business management starts with a broad understanding of dollars and cents.”
The sessions will be taught by professionals affiliated with the Farm Financial Standards Council.
“I am excited that we have this opportunity to work directly and hands-on with a group of farmers and ranchers from across the country,” says Jim Keirn, Ag consultant and FFSC president. “While we hope those at the Boot Camp will get great information from what our members present, we also look at this as a way to get some real feedback on the materials we’ve prepared and the way they are being used.”
Topics for the boot camp include:
• Why financial recordkeeping for agriculture is more than cash-basis accounting
• Real-life application of the basic principles of ag accounting, including standardization of definitions, measures, ratios, benchmarking and analysis methods
• How to improve the financial condition of your operation through sound financial analysis and improved financial decision-making skills
• Understanding balance sheets, income statements, cash flows, liquidity and profitability measures
A panel discussion will focus on key financial topics for farmers and ranchers, such as financial literacy required to do accrual-based accounting; accounting on the farm vs. outside services; training available for accounting software and financial management; and how to use recordkeeping to improve borrowing power.
Attendees will be given a link to download their choice of either the “Financial Guidelines for Agriculture” or the “Management Accounting Guidelines for Agriculture,” provided by the Farm Financial Standards Council. The “Financial Guidelines” document will be the January 2014 edition, which includes a new, extensive section on hedging.
The Ag Finance Boot Camp costs $100 when participants register by Dec. 1; the cost rises to $150 per person after Dec. 1. Farm Futures has arranged for a special room rate of $85 per night at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark hotel. For convenience, the boot camp takes place a day before the Farm Futures Business Summit, Jan. 7-8, at the same hotel.
The boot camp is sponsored by John Deere and Farm Credit Services. To see the agenda and register, click here. Farm Futures is a Penton/Farm Progress publication.
Jim Kelm was elected president of the Farm Financial Standards Council during the organization’s annual conference. Kelm is principal of Kelm Management/Dairy Business Consulting, based in Red Wing, Minnesota.
Kelm has been a member of the Council since 2002 and previously served as secretary/treasurer and vice president. He is a University of Minnesota graduate and served as a farm business management instructor at Riverland Community College prior to establishing his consulting business.
Barbara Wheeling, dean of Business and Professional Accounting at Montana State University – Billings, Billings, Montana, was elected vice president of the Council. She has been a member of the Council’s board of directors since 2007 and previously served as the organization’s secretary/treasurer.
Paul G. Neiffer, CPA, was elected secretary/treasurer of the Council. A principal with the AgriBusiness Group of CliftonLarsonAllen, LLP, Yakima, Washington, Neifffer is a graduate of the University of Washington. In addition to his work with CLA, he authors a monthly column for Top Producer magazine called “The Farmer CPA.”
See more details of the conference here.
We’ll be updating this article with information on the 2013 conference in Bloomington. Stay tuned for more, and keep checking back!
A WHOLE BUNCH OF DEADLINE ARE RUNNING OUT SOON !!
Monday, July 8 – LAST DAY to register for lodging at the Crowne Plaza Minneapolis, Airport !!
Monday, July 8 – LAST DAY to reserve tickets for the Minnesota Twins/Kansas City Royals baseball game !! And you don’t have to pay for them until you get there!
Friday, July 12 – LAST DAY to register for the meeting itself !! After that we have to provide head counts for meals and other details.
DON’T LET THESE DATES GET AWAY FROM YOU !!
If you have already registered, and many of you have…thanks.
Otherwise, take the time NOW to fill out the forms and make the phone calls!! Don’t get left behind.
Download the full information packet and registration form here.
The annual conference of the Farm Financial Standards Council is scheduled for July 30-August 1 in Minneapolis. We’ll be talking a lot about our ongoing effort to “tune up” the Financial Guidelines for Agriculture as tax laws, practices, and industry standards change. The focus on this year’s conference will be on refining some specific areas of the Guidelines so they will continue to fit everyone who sits down to “play.”
(Please note that the conference will be held in Bloomington, Minnesota — not Illinois, as one earlier registration form indicated.)
Download the full information packet and registration form here.
Topics to be covered include:
— Recommendations on Using Financial Information (Section IV)
• Trends toward using financial data in farm benchmarking
• Issues to consider when using financial data for farm benchmarking • Accounting issues that can affect comparisons and interpretation of financial performance
— Using Financial Information in Farm Benchmarking
• How we use farm financial benchmarks with our clients
• How can financial benchmarking help farmers improve the financial
performance of their businesses
• What are some of the pitfalls of using financial benchmarks with
— How do you handle Hedging?
• The difference between a cash flow hedge and a fair value hedge
• Two different methods for accounting for hedges
• Examples for crops and livestock using the two methods
— Evaluating the New Century Go-Go Farmers — The FFSC Online Education Program
• A Special Presentation by Thomas Gillaspy, Ph.D., retired Minnesota State Demographer
• Annual FFSC Pro/Am Golf Classic (Want to put together a 4-some?)
• Minnesota Twins vs Kansas City Royals
(Optional activity. A block of tickets has been reserved for FFSC. Uncommitted tickets will be released on July 9. Therefore, reservations to be part of this group activities are required by July 8th. Those attending the game will go to the game as a group on the afternoon of July 31. You will be notified of a final price prior to the July 8 cutoff. Payment can be made with your conference registration.)
In early 2011 members of the FFSC Executive Committee determined that if the Council was going to fully realize its vision as the definitive resource of financial guidelines to benefit agricultural producers, it would need to do more than just make the Guidelines documents available as downloads on its Web site.
At a special meeting held in St. Louis in July 2011, it was determined that the Council should proceed with the exploration of developing on-line education programs that would offer coursework in agricultural financial recordkeeping….to bring the Guidelines to life in a learning atmosphere.
A special group of Council members were selected to begin developing a feasibility study regarding the scope of such a project — Tim Ohlde, ABA representative to the Council; Ken Hilton, former president and a professional in the field of software development; Kathy Rancour, then FFSC President and a producer; and Barbara Wheeling, representing academia. They were assisted by Carroll Merry, FFSC administrator.
Over the next few months a Request for Proposal for the feasibility study was developed and sent to a number of organizations for consideration. After reviewing the responses to the RFP, it was determined that the best ‘partner’ for developing the education program further would be Alex White, most recently with Virginia Tech.
Mr. White has a long list of credential which qualify him to develop this program for the Council, not the least of which is the fact that he was involved with what was then the Farm Financial Standards Task Force when the very initial meetings were held which led to the development of the Guidelines we know today.
He attended the 2012 FFSC Annual Conference in Bloomington, IL and met with and addressed the Council members attending. His final recommendations were received in early September and the Executive Committee met again in St. Louis in early October to review his proposal.
The general findings of the Feasibility Study were:
• The timing is right for such an on-line program to be launched
• While there are similar programs in place being offered by various organizations, the Council is in the
unique position of being able to provide the information as a generic and neutral body with no
specific geographic restrictions, academic allegiances, or other ties/liabilities.
• The program has the firm endorsement from many of the founders of the original Task Force and
current leaders within the industry
• Such a program will take a period of time to develop and could require a very substantial monetary
commitment from the Council and/or financial supporters
• If designed and implemented properly, such a program would be self-funding into the future and could provide some financial security to the Council
A result of that meeting was the establishment of a Council subcommittee consisting of Kathy Rancour, immediate past president of the Council, Barbara Wheeling, a long-time Council member and current Secretary/ Treasurer, and Curt Covington, the ABA-designated representative to the Council. This group will be leading the direction as Phase II of the proposal moves forward. This phase is dedicated to the identification of specific markets for the program, a specific definition of the product, and the task of identifying possible ‘partners’ which have the required learning platforms in place and would be willing to work with the Council on a licensing basis.
The goal for Phase II is to have recommendations in place by Dec. 31.
The FFA Project
This is an activity that is occurring parallel and simultaneous to the development of the On-line Education Program. As background: the Council was approached mid-2011 by the FFA Organization to assist that group in updating their financial education programs being taught at the vocational agriculture level. The irony was the timing of this contact with the planning underway to pursue a feasibility study for developing the On-line Education Program.
Subsequently, a meeting was held in November 2011 in conjunction with the American Bankers Association’s Agricultural Banking Conference in Indianapolis. Attending the meeting were: Tim Ohlde and Carroll Merry, representing FFSC; Dr. David Kohl; Dr. Freddie Barnard; Dwight Armstrong, CEO of the FFA Organization, Rebecca Carter, an Education Specialist with the FFA; and Christine White, Director, Educational Programs Division of the FFA. Danny Klinefelter, Texas A&M, participated via conference call.
The group discussed the proposed On-line Education Program at length with the result being a commitment by the FFA to assist in developing the modules and provide technical support as well as providing assistance in identifying potential financial resources.
The FFA also asked that the Council provide two members who could work with the FFA over a period of time in developing new financial education programs for their vocational agriculture program. Scotty Elston, AgTexas Farm Credit Services, and Jim Kelm, Kelm Management, subsequently volunteered to serve as these representatives of the Council and to work with the FFA on its project. They are attending FFA meetings on behalf of the Council.
At this time, both the FFA assistance project and further development of the On-line Education Program are ongoing.
Curt Covington, Bank of the West, Fresno, CA, and an ABA-designated representative to the Farm Financial Standards Council, provided a briefing on the activities of the Council to members of the planning committee at the 2012 ABA National Agricultural Bankers Conference held Nov. 4 – 7 in Milwaukee.
With an audience of nearly 40 lenders from across the country in attendance, Covington provided an overview of the On-line Education Program as well as the FFA project (see Executive Summary) which are top Council Priorities.
Covington discussed the evolution of the education program and how it was fitting to the Mission of the Coun- cil. “This takes the Council to the next step in being a provider of education,” he explained to the group. He noted the desire of the Council to find a ‘partner’ that already has an on-line learning platform in place and said an ultimate goal of the program would be to offer some type of accreditation or certification.”
Joe Kessie, Lake City Bank, Warsaw, IN, an ABA committee member and also a member of the FFSC Board of Directors, explained the growing relationship between the Council and the FFA Organization. “This can be a perfect fit for so many,” he noted. “The Council wants to achieve greater industry recognition and acceptance of the Guidelines and the FFA is looking for uniformity in the ag finance programs they are distributing to vocational agriculture instructors around the country.”
John Blanchfield, Senior Vice President, ABA Center for Agricultural and Rural Banking, told the group of the very early development of the Council and the role of the ABA in working with the very early Farm Financial Standards Task Force, which was the original name of the Council.
Responding to questions about Council funding, FFSC Administrator Carroll Merry explained the overall make- up of the Council and the fact that outside of sales of the Guidelines documents, the Council has to rely solely on contributions in order to allow it to continue to function.
“It is anticipated that the On-line Education Program would be self-funding once it is fully developed,” Coving- ton told the group. “The ABA, and the members of this group, may want to be open to some kind of financial sponsorship as the Council works to get the program up and running,” he concluded.
The FFSC Annual Conference was a great time, as always. You can download the full report, or check out a few highlights below.
FFSC Pro-Am Golf Tournament
Sunny skies greeted the duffers at the Prairie Vista Golf Course in Bloomington. The losing team of Jim Kelm, Joe Daughhetee, Mary Kelm and Ken Hilton (left) lodged a formal complaint against the winning team of George and Janet Moriarty, Owen Thompson and Gregg Howell (right) for allowing “gimmies” to qualify as winning putts.
All were encouraged to visit Clonmel Ireland, home of Merrys Irish Cream, to carry on their arguments with the governors at that organization. Great interest was shown, but no flight reservations were made.
At left, “Hole-in-One” Hilton shows off his expertise with his sand wedge — look carefully. Good shot, Ken! Notice how he kept his head down.
Twin Groves Wind Farm
Those visiting the Twin Groves Wind Farm received an up-close and personal presentation by Karen Buss, a local landowner who happens to have one of the giant towers on her farm. The towers reach nearly 400 feet at the tip of the turbine arc and were the largest available when the farm was built in 2008. A total of 240 towers are on 130 different properties and provide enough electricity to power 109,000 average Illinois homes each year.
The concrete walkway replicates the dimensions of a 67-meter tower. The main towers at this farm are 80 meters tall, not including the blades.
Kent and Karen Meister opened their home to a casual opening reception. The food was great and the weather fantastic, although locals would have loved to have seen some rain. At left, Kent (far right) and Jeff Bushey (center) visit with Teruhisa Homman, a Japanese student current studying at the University of Oregon.
Online Education Program
Janet Schneider, Stewart Peterson Company, discussed the online education programs her company currently offers to vocational agriculture instructors around the country.
Alex White provided an update on the status of the feasibility study he is doing regarding launching an online education program sponsored by the Council. His final report is due in early September.
He noted that if the Council proceeds with developing the program, structural changes within the Council itself may be required to provide staffing to launch and manage the effort on a continuing basis.
We heard lots of good presentations at our meeting in Bloomington. Here’s a list of some of the Powerpoint presentations from that meeting.