If you're like most farmers and ranchers who use off-the-shelf accounting software, such as QuickBooks, it may be time to consider the growing number of ag-specific programs that can greatly enhance your management.
First, assess whether you are fully using what you already have, says Greg Wolf, an ag consultant for Kennedy and Coe LLC, a Midwest-based consulting firm. "Many software programs are vastly underused."
"If you are ready to move beyond basic accounting for taxes, it pays to start with software you can grow with," says Mark Machtemes, business development manager for Red Wing Software, which has offered ag accounting software since 1979. "If you are considering management accounting, you'll need software that provides cost and profit data any time you want them."
How to choose. Make a list of the features you need, he advises. For example, is there a need for payroll, or are there off-farm income and retirement accounts to track?
Choosing new software involves much than just comparing features and purchase price, Wolf adds. "Producers need to evaluate not just their needs and interests in reporting, but also their office capabilities, training requirements and potential upcoming transitions."
Be sure to ask about customer support and training.
Does the system meet Farm Financial Standards Council guidelines for management accounting?
Check out your options by visiting company Web sites, where many offer a demo of their product. Farm trade shows are a good place to talk with software company representatives.
Find leading accounting software packages
Here's a list of some ag accounting software and services:
Farm Funds, Farm Works Software: Farm Funds integrates accounting (cash and accrual) and record-keeping software on a cost-per-acre or per-head-of-livestock basis. It gives cash-flow budgets, payroll, inventory maintenance, market value and enterprise statements. The price is $400, but it requires integration with Farm Trac field record software ($250).
e.CLIPSE, Farm Business Software (FBS) Systems: Windows-based; de-signed for management accounting. It interfaces production and financial data to give detailed cost analysis at every production stage plus the ability to track profits by field or farm. Price is $995.
CenterPoint, Red Wing Software: Red Wing, known for its AgCHEK and Perception software, now offers CenterPoint. The system allows for detailed profit-center analysis while integrating crop-management software and offers a multitude of tax reports. Additional features like fully integrated payroll can be added. Price is $995, which includes the first year of unlimited phone support.
AgManager, AgriSolutions: AgManager is fully customizable and set up to allow management through profit and cost centers and production units, such as per acre, per head, per cwt., etc. Beyond basic accounting, available modules include managerial accounting, payroll, trend reporting, inventory management and entity consolidation. Price is subscriptionbased and includes consulting and support.
To contact Jeanne Bernick, e-mail JBernick@farmjournal.com.
Top Producer, December 2008