Times are tough in farming. But opportunities abound for those who are upping their management game, pursuing new ventures and developing top-notch teams. Those were just a few of the common themes shared by experts in business, finance and management at the 2018 Top Producer Seminar.
“If you want to make a difference in life, don’t be average,” says Bryan Dodge, a business coach, author and speaker at the event. His advice: Be a student of knowledge. Don’t let it come to you, reach out to it.
More than 700 participated in this year’s business conference, which featured nearly 30 educational sessions on topics including coaching employees, negotiation, commodity marketing, succession planning, federal policy and taxes. Producers, representing nearly 5 million acres, came to Chicago from 33 states and three Canadian provinces.
The event included the annual Top Producer of the Year award banquet, where Frank Howey of Frank Howey Family Farms in Monroe, N.C., was announced as the winner of the award, which is sponsored by Bayer and Case IH.
Also finalists for the award were Zach, Cole, Mason and Darren Bailey of Bailey Family Farm in Iola, Ill., and Jeremie Pavelski of Heartland Farms in Hancock, Wis. Each honoree will appear in a future issue of Top Producer.
Read on to discover some of the top takeaways from the event, as well as major trends in farm business.
“I had the pleasure of listening to Chris Koch @IfICan79 speak at the Top Producer Seminar today in Chicago. His story and message were truly inspirational. #TPS18” via @reestes1
“Can you live with the consequences if you don’t deal with conflict? If the answer is no, then you must deal with it! #TPS18” via @bizcoachrena
“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength” —Bryan Dodge. #TPS18” via @Tyne_Ag
“Tax reform has a greater impact on agriculture than the Farm Bill” —Jim Wiesemeyer at #TPS18” via @glen_newcomer
5 Ways to Plan for Weather Impacts
With the plethora of weather information available today, you can easily get lost in the weeds. But your farm’s profitability heavily depends on weather conditions. To make smart decisions for your farm operation, follow these tips from Eric Snodgrass, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Illinois.
1. Never bet the farm on a forecast.
2. Use long-range weather forecasts as guidance only.
3. Use short-term weather forecasts to plan your operations.
4. Watch global weather stresses for market moves.
5. Know how weather conditions have impacted your operation in the past.
Develop Leaders for Your Operation
How deep is your farm’s bench? Developing leaders in your operation can be an exciting, as well as, challenging process, says Rena Striegel, president of Transition Point Business Advisors. She shares these five steps to grow your team’s skills and leadership capacity.
1. Prepare the Team. To start this process, develop a shared vision for your farm that’s understood by all. Then schedule regular meetings, develop an accountability structure and have a procedure for dealing with lack of performance by team members.
2. Evaluate Leadership Potential. With today’s technological advancements, you need a specific type of leader to ensure you don’t fall behind. Your leaders should be able to think of new solutions, be comfortable with chaos, understand technology, have high emotional intelligence and be able to work with both people and technology.
3. Define Your Competitive Advantage. Core competencies are what your team does well, makes you unique and differentiates your business from competitors. Basically, they are the collective learning of your team.
4. Identify the Gaps. Determine the differences between your team’s current skills and the skills you need to achieve your vision in the future. The gaps can be filled by mentoring, honest feedback, training, experiential learning or hiring talent outside your organization.
5. Expand Your Team. If you need to hire outside of your organization, clearly identify what skills you need. Make sure to tie everything to your vision and values, and be clear about your expectations. Develop SOPs for this process. Include several people in the interview process and have a clear onboarding procedure. After they’re hired, monitor their work closely and provide timely feedback. —Alexa Nordwald
If NAFTA Collapses…
Trade is the No. 1 policy issue farmers and ranchers should watch right now, says Jim Wiesemeyer, Washington policy analyst for Pro Farmer and Farm Journal. Front and center is the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
President Donald Trump continues to threaten to withdraw from NAFTA, which is a major point of concern for U.S. agriculture. “Any data analysis shows the significance of trade with Canada and Mexico,” Wiesemeyer says.
For instance, 73% of all ag exports from North Dakota go to Canada or Mexico. Missouri and Michigan are not far behind as more than 60% of their ag products are dependent on NAFTA.
If the U.S. withdraws from NAFTA, U.S. agriculture will suffer short-term and long-term pain, Wiesemeyer says. “It will lead to a recession for agriculture,” he predicts.
Other negative effects if NAFTA negotiations fail:
The U.S. economy would experience setbacks.
The stock markets could be adversely impacted.
Some factory work might move north from Mexico, but the U.S. would lose a net 256,000 jobs over three to five years.
Auto, food and apparel makers that have crafted efficient supply chains around duty-free passage of parts and goods across the borders would lose business. —Sara Schafer