David Kohl, Ph.D., is professor emeritus of agricultural finance and small business management and entrepreneurship at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg. Dr. Kohl has traveled more than eight million miles in his professional career and conducted over 6,000 workshops and seminars for a variety of agricultural audiences.
Getting into ag may not just be about the generational transition or low interest rates. It may be about the millennial generation and their desire to juggle multiple enterprises.
Commodity prices may be low, but it still may be a good time to get into farming. Check out three reasons why it might be the best time to venture into farming.
Recently, I was on a four-day speaking tour in the northwestern part of the United States. During the conferences, I had the pleasure of sharing the podium with meteorologist, Eric Snodgrass of University of Illinois.
Well, it is that time of year again where much of our thought is on the year ahead and beyond.
In my lectures, the importance of setting goals is often discussed.
In today’s economic environment, it is sometimes easy to get caught up in negativity where the “cup half-empty” approach almost begins to feel normal. In reality, a negative perspective often masks opportunity and vital adjustments.
This summer at seminars with agricultural lenders, I frequently encountered similar questions regarding negative margins.
In my recent travels, I continue to encounter the question, “Hey Doc, why haven’t land values dropped?” Well, this is a serious question for many connected to the agriculture industry.
The U. S. federal debt is the topic of many conversations today worldwide. Interestingly, the federal debt level has nearly doubled since the Great Recession of 2008.
Recently, a well-respected agricultural producer and business entrepreneur asked me an intriguing question, “Will the U.S. economy stagnate over the next 10 to 20 years?” Well, it is campaign season in the U.S. with negative ads, debates, and issue dissection.
While many individuals examine financials for the reasons behind a business’ success, it is often the unseen components that lead to financial fortune.
Recently, a lender in one of my classes raised an excellent point. He questioned whether recommended burn rates on working capital should vary depending on enterprise.
The “starting five” may sound like a basketball team ready to start the game, but it is actually five adjustments happening in agriculture today.
One critical aspect of this economic downturn in agriculture is the possibility of increased risk with larger farms.
Depending on the account and institution, the loan process and review can vary. Most often, a producer’s first point of contact is the loan officer.
Well, it is time once again to visit family living cost for farm and ranch businesses.
From my recent discussions with agricultural lenders, it appears that some producers may be playing a sort of “shell game” in order to meet expenses and service debt.
I recently completed my 27th year of teaching at the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University.
By now, the economic reset has exposed various financial and management flaws of many agricultural businesses.
Recently, my travels have been dominated by banking and lending conferences.
In the emotionally charged era of the economic downturn, interesting exchanges occur between lender and borrower.
First, is Great Britain’s vote to exit the European Union a surprise? Two days before the vote, I was in Spearfish, South Dakota, at a banking school where I told a banker the “Brexit” was unlikely.
Wow! It is hard to believe that 2016 is almost halfway through! It certainly seems that time passes more quickly the older one grows. As a type of review, let’s examine some of the points and perspectives emerging across agriculture from the first six months of 2016.
Should I cash out my retirement account? At a recent women’s conference on agriculture, I encountered this question in several forms as people look for additional income.
Recently, I traveled outside the borders of the United States and a major question posed by farmers and bureaucrats was whether American farmers are still dependent on government support programs.
Recently, I enjoyed another trip to the neighbors of the north to conduct seminars and individual meetings with some of the top agricultural businesses of Canada. Each time I travel outside the borders of the United States, I find unique and valuable perspectives on agriculture, business and life, in general. This trip was no exception.
On a recent webcast for agricultural lenders, I received an interesting question, “Is there any hope for reduction of crop input costs including cash rent expense?” Well, this certainly is pertinent for today’s economic times.
As American agriculture continues to be challenged economically, the phrase, “willingness to repay” has begun to appear more frequently.
In today’s world of advanced technology, personal touch or the human component of business is neglected in some situations.
Now that interest rates have increased, many producers want to know whether they should fix interest rates on their loans or continue on with a variable rate. Here are five considerations when making that choice for your farm loan.
In my seminar audiences, there are usually several members of the Baby Boomer generation. Many are farmers while others are lenders, agribusiness professionals, educators, or spouses.
During the great commodity super cycle, “high prices cured high prices,” as the saying goes.
Many people know I am avid basketball player and fan, which often leads to questions regarding upcoming tournaments or players, alongside the usual economic and agricultural inquiries. Believe it or not, many times these questions serve as my inspiration, in one form or another. As they may prove valuable for you as well, below are a few questions and answers from my travels.
Well, the U.S. has entered the political season with primaries and debates leading up to the nationwide November elections. Recently, I spoke in Minnesota, Indiana and North Carolina. For these sessions, I conducted a town-hall format with a focus on general issues of concern.
A lender recently shared with me the true story of a struggling producer. Unfortunately, this producer made matters worse by passionately saying something of the like to his lender, “I do not want to hear about cutting family living expenses! This is my family and my business.”
Recently, a Kansas producer of the Baby Boomer generation asked me, “Hey Doc! When will economics stabilize?”
Previously, we examined some ways, as suggested by producers, to tackle the challenge of cutting costs. Many leading agricultural experts suggest costs must be reduced by $100 per acre, or by 10-30% over the economic reset period.
The current economic reset is in full gear with commodity prices retracting in the crop and livestock sectors and of course, the energy field as well. Along with others experts, I concur that a cost-cutting strategy needs to be the top priority for producers.
As the “road warrior,” I once again earned my title on a 1,599-mile, one-week, extended car tour across five states in Midwest region of the U.S. During this road trip, the windshield appraisal of economic conditions confirmed the discussions in seminars and meetings over the past few months.
Over the weekend, I received four calls from producers. Unfortunately, I believe they are indicative of the state of the state of today’s agricultural economy.
International trade risk is one of the top issues facing the agriculture industry today.
Groundhog Day is often a turning point, promising the return of longer, warmer days. However, this day can be significant in business, as well.
Previously, we analyzed the factors often used to gain future insight on the U.S. economy. Today, it is important to note that the leading economic indicators show concerning signs of a slowing or contracting U.S. economy. Specifically, manufacturing, energy and other basic industries will see the slowdown first. However, regardless of the industry, a recession in the U.S. would create widespread impact.
Recently, a cattle feeder from Kansas asked me to summarize the state of the state of the U.S. economy. In order to answer this question well, we have to examine the numbers. Several indicators can provide a glimpse of the future health and wealth of the U.S. economy.
In my recent travels, I continue to encounter the question, “Hey Doc, why haven’t land values dropped?” Well, this is a serious question for many connected to the agriculture industry.
Welcome to 2016! This year, we will embark on an economic journey that will be quite different than the previous 15 years. The following are some perspectives and variables that will influence the economic fortunes of agriculture moving forward.
This final column of 2015 is devoted to the first 15 years of the 21st century in agriculture and rural America.
If reading farm magazines or attending agricultural seminars, you have probably seen several financial benchmarks for cuts in per acre cost. Yes, along with other academics and consultants, I suggest significantly decreasing your per acre cost is a good measure with which to face the economic downturn.
Recently, I delivered an economic outlook for the agricultural industry at an organization’s combined board and staff planning conference. After my presentation, a participant asked, “Is it good to be a farmer?”
Since 2000, many young people have been lured into agriculture believing the industry to be one of record profits and capital appreciation. Now, economic reality has set in which can test the mettle of even the hardened agricultural veteran.
The great commodity super cycle is now unraveling and the economic reset is in place.
The agriculture industry is not the only facet of the economy that faces trials and tribulations of business dysfunction and changing trends.
Now in the final quarter of 2015, my travels and lectures continue to connect me with various lender, producer and agribusiness groups.
The lagged relationship between returns and cash rents still exists.
The other day, a participant in one of my teaching forums asked me to switch perspectives. He stated that I normally discuss the best management practices, but he was interested in knowing the worst. Well, that is an interesting twist!
To avoid losses on 2016 corn and soybeans, ag economist Gary Schnitkey, University of Illinois, recommends growers cut $100 per acre. This suggestion has garnered some questions, and Schnitkey has some answers.
One of my recent trips was to South Carolina’s Clemson University to lecture at the 32nd annual Southeastern Agricultural Lender School. This is one of the few lending schools in the country that combines bankers, Farm Credit, Farm Service Agency, academics and various agribusinesses at the same school. This is unique and extremely valuable because it brings together a broad perspective of viewpoints and solutions. This broad perspective will be vital in working through the economic challenges and opportunities over the next few years.
On a recent webcast for lenders, I hosted over 1,000 participants. Only once have I had such a large webcast audience. I believe this is a positive result of changing times and transitions. On this well-attended webcast, one of the participants asked me an interesting question about risk management.
The other day, I was asked how a producer can best determine cost. The question was posed in a dairy industry setting. However, it is also appropriate for the grain and row-crop sectors, which appear to be heading for an economic reset, post the great commodity super cycle.
My summer schedule is full with banking and lending schools that focus on subjects ranging from agriculture to small business to interpreting domestic and global economics.
Economic health and viability are at the forefront for many involved in today’s agriculture industry. While some may prefer to just eat ice cream and hope for improved opportunities, proactive management strategies will be required for success.
This time of year, I conduct many ag banking and lending schools. Agriculture is in a time of transition that will affect assets, operations and people. The ag lending industry, however, is also in a time of significant transition. Similar to agriculture, the careful management of this transition will be critical; especially, as some segments of agriculture enter turbulent economic times.
I can hardly believe we are already into the second half of 2015! So far, we have seen a severe winter followed by droughts and floods which all showcase Mother Nature as a primetime economic player yet again.
My last column highlighted the time period of 2007 to 2012 as an aberration of profits for grain producers; noting post and prior time periods exhibit more normal profits. The data I used in my previous article was from the Center for Farm Financial Management’s data system, FINBIN. In order to better understand ways to survive this economic downturn, we need to once again examine FINBIN’s excellent data.
We have a great resource in University of Minnesota’s FINBIN data that Bob Craven’s team gathers along with the diligent work done by farm management teams in analyzing and summarizing the results. That data provides some perspective on how financial results have dramatically changed since the go-go years of 2007 to 2012 for the grain industry.
The deadly H5N2 virus, or avian flu virus (bird flu), was first detected Minnesota in early March, and after peaking in early May, has now declined considerably. As of June 15, there had been no new cases of the avian flu reported in Minnesota in the past ten days.
The last column focused on global trade risk as one of the biggest risks in many segments of agriculture.
After I addressed a corn and soybean conference in Madison, Wis., this spring, a good friend, Sam Miller of the Bank of Montréal, made an interesting comment. Sam knows how to cut to the chase, and he stated that after listening to me speak that morning, he had concluded that the number one risk facing agriculture is international trade, because many facets of the agriculture industry are internationally interconnected.
Storm clouds are building as American agriculture, specifically the grain sector, is entering phase one of the post-commodity super cycle downturn. One of the first signs of a downturn is buildup of machinery and equipment inventory on dealership lots.
Today’s uncertain world rewards innovation, says Mark Drabenstott, a global economist, Federal Reserve 25-year veteran, and recognized thought leader on regional development and digital commerce. Today he’s executive chairman of MarketSquare, “which connects businesses globally for digital commerce, swifter delivery and smarter decisions,” he says.
The following question was asked of me on the speaking trail this past winter: If you look back five years, what would you have said then compared to where we are today?
If Emily Hirsch Cooper had graduated from college 15 years ago, she believes she wouldn’t have pursued the same opportunities in production agriculture that she has today.
A trip to speak at a women’s convention in the Quad Cities was a highlight of this winter’s speaking circuit.
Last week we talked about cash flow, sensitivity analyses and liquidity and how those matter when working with your ag lender. This week, lets go over the importance of a business plan, communications and productive assets.
Based on your experience, what are five points of wisdom that can increase our chances of working more effectively with our own lender and being successful?
This year was my 24th year of presenting at TEPAP, The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers, which was envisioned and strategized by Danny Klinefelter of Texas A&M University. This year I was greeted by both Klinefelter and Dick Wittman, the highly respected farm consultant from the Northwest, after a vigorous early morning workout.
Best management practices are hot topics inside and outside of agriculture. Have you ever wondered how you stack up as an agriculture producer?
In my road warrior travels interacting with producers and agribusiness leaders, there is much discussion concerning oil prices and other economic variables that seem to provide a surprise around every corner. A question from one producer was, “How is oil connected to up to 80% of farm and ranch expenses and potential revenue?”
As mentioned in my recent columns concerning family affairs, nonfinancial issues can bring businesses to a standstill, hindering profitability and economic performance. Another area that can bring fireworks to family dynamics is compensation.
In the last column, discussion focused on how lack of communication during a major expansion and failing to ask the tough questions during the business planning process can result in slightly elevated blood pressure and discord in family business. Let’s explore another case in point.
“A Family Affair” reminds me of a song from my era by Sly and the Family Stone. By the way, our basketball team used to warm up to music by the Four Tops, the Temptations, and Sly and the Family Stone, so this article put me in the mood for reminiscing.
Agricultural lenders often use the five Cs of credit as a framework for determining acceptance or denial of a loan request and to evaluate overall risk when they price a loan. The five Cs are cash flow, capital/collateral, conditions, capacity and character. While these five Cs are important criteria for credit, a sixth C is very important in terms of management, which frequently makes a difference in the five Cs of credit.
There has been much discussion in the news concerning the relationship among education level, employment, and income. In a recent seminar, some interesting data was presented concerning these topics. Here are some perspectives.
The agricultural economic transition is creating an interesting emerging trend. Farmland is now starting to turn over at an increasing pace. Older producers at seminars are asking, “Should I sell now at the peak?” Others are seeking individuals to purchase their farms to carry on their legacy because they have no family members who want to carry on the legacy. Still others have children and grandchildren who have inherited the farm and now want to cash in their inheritance while land and asset values are still strong. Let’s conduct a “sniff test” exercise that I went through recently with an individual who wanted to purchase farmland near his operation.
A few weeks ago I was in Ames, Iowa, addressing the Farming for the Future Conference with a very attentive audience of lifelong learners. One of the attendees sent me some very important follow-up questions after the conference. “What components are included in working capital? Is a farm’s operating line of credit one of them? You recommend working capital guidance of at least 33% of gross revenue. Is gross revenue taken from past years or cash flow projections?” I am glad he asked these questions because similar questions are frequently asked by producers.
Recently I was a presenter at the National Agriculture Bankers Conference in Omaha, NE. For 37 years, this has been an annual stop during my Road Warrior travels. This year’s conference had over 750 agriculture bankers and lenders in attendance; the largest event in the past 20 years. To put this in perspective, my first conference in Nashville, TN in 1978 had over 1,900 in attendance, with a peak of 2,100 in Dallas, TX in 1981 just before the farm crisis. Then the farm crisis came, and 500 were in attendance in Kansas City, MO the following year. The agriculture banking world certainly changed over that time period!
In the coming years, there will be ag borrowers who will struggle. There are three specific groups to watch...
The other day I was on a large farm operation during a snowstorm. It was snowing so hard that a satellite GPS would have had difficulty finding me. No, it was not south of Buffalo, New York, although they have had record snows this year.
The last article focused on building a business case for your lender when negative margins occur, which will be likely for some grain producers in 2015. Let’s examine five-steps for returning to positive margins in your agriculture business, in no particular order. Some of these steps can be used to build efficiency in profitable businesses as well.
The reality is setting in that some producers, particularly those in the grain sector, will experience negative margins in 2015, which is something not experienced in many years. How can a producer troubleshoot their business and work with their lender when margins are tight, or even negative?
Everyone has had their fill of football bowl games, and now we are into the college and professional football playoffs, which usually provide some surprises and upsets. This is much like thinking ahead about what to expect in 2015. The following are a few of the thoughts and perspectives that you may want to consider in your planning or conversations with your business partners.
It seems that 2014 is finishing with a furor that one could not have imagined 12 months ago. Oil prices now hovering in the $50 per barrel range with a $60 swing during the year illustrate the volatility to consider in developing projections and planning for 2015. Rapid change in oil price has been a lead indicator of every U.S. recession since 1969. Also, with 80% of all farm and ranch expenses linked in some way to the price of oil, this metric bears watching.
Here are some pointers to help you build confidence in your business financial decision making, which can increase your lender’s confidence in loaning you money.
Whether it is a young farmer or rancher starting from scratch, a growing and expanding business, a business in transition, or a business that is scaling down or exiting, a team approach between the borrower and lender is a vital element for success.
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