Time to Step Up: Cut Bad Habits, Seize Opportunity
Mar 11, 2015
Richard Brock spoke at the 2015 Mid-South Farm & Gin show last week in Memphis, Tenn. In my opinion the crowd was even larger than last year. Beyond the significance of a high attendance, the event’s Ag Update included a key message that stuck out to me. Although the older generation is fearful of how we (30-somethings) will handle challenging cyclical changes in farming, Richard feels this is a great opportunity for young farmers.
Let’s compare to 4 years ago. Back then farming was more profitable and, in a sense, exciting. Everyone wanted to farm, even if in retirement. Why would anyone want to quit? If you are a young farmer trying to get your foot in the door, opportunities in that environment are few and far between.
Now, however, corn is down nearly $1.00 per bushel and soybeans are down $4.00 per bushel. Income shifts will discourage many businesses from expanding, or maybe even continuing. This opens a window of opportunity for those that need it most.
So how do farmers take advantage of these opportunities? By cleaning up sloppy management decisions that may have festered during easier financial periods. I have heard so many ag professionals preach along these lines that I’ve decided sloppy management has become more common than I realized. Change is hard. Tradition, complacency, stubbornness, and greed are among the common excuses to keep things the same. Advisors see such a large volume of those refusing change that it has almost become a plea to help us overcome the trend.
The first step in adapting to change is a simple. If you don’t know where to start, then ask for advice -- and use it. Accountants, lenders, consultants, and other professionals see a high volume of similar situations, so they have invaluable advice that you need to improve your situation. It’s a competitive world for them too, so they will not be blunt unless you ask. If they are already blunt without your even asking, you may have pushed your limits too far already!
The next step requires leadership. Those around you need to understand changes and goals from a management perspective. I think sometimes people are afraid to make changes in fear others will think they’re failing. Reducing expenses, for example, is easier to do before you are forced, but it is still embarrassing. A spouse or employee may be discouraged to learn of necessary adjustments, but not making changes to things in your control will result in worse consequences later.
This is only a bad time if you’ve made bad decisions and refuse to change. Adapt to lower incomes, listen to advisors, and remain cautiously optimistic. This is the time for young farmers to show the older generation what we’re made of.
Email Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org