Time for Action

March 14, 2009 03:53 PM

Reading through the results of our AgWeb succession planning survey conducted at the end of 2008, you can almost feel the emotion in the respondents' answers. The heartache and angst is captured by two powerful statistics: Almost 80% of the respondents plan to transfer control of their operation to the next generation, but fewer than 20% are fully confident of their succession plan. That startling gap speaks loudly to the need for succession planning for U.S. farmers.

Nearly 60% of the 369 respondents are more than 50 years old and roughly half of those are 60 or older. The majority run a farm that has been in the family for two or more generations (20.8% for two generations, 28.6% for three generations, and 37.8% for four generations). Yet nearly 40% do not have a formal succession plan.

The reasons presented for not being prepared point to a range of concerns. Not having a younger generation interested in participating in the operation topped the list, with 33.9% of respondents saying it was a barrier to leaving a legacy. Concern over potential family conflicts, cited by 25.6%, was the next most common limiting factor. Beyond those factors, inadequate planning tools, unavailable professional help, inadequate farm resources, disagreement with a spouse and lack of time were targeted as major reasons a plan isn't in place.

The survey looked at succession planning status in five key areas. Estate distribution is in the best shape, with 51.8% of respondents reporting they have completed their plans. Leadership development is the greatest area of need, with only 32.7% saying they have a plan for the next generation.

This online research is part of Farm Journal Media's work to establish a baseline understanding of where U.S. farmers are in the legacy planning process. Watch for more results from our comprehensive study in a future issue of Farm Journal.

You can e-mail Charlene Finck at cfinck@farmjournal.com.

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