New Factsheet on Farm Business Entity Formation and Conservation Payment Limits

UVM Extension has posted a new fact sheet describing the  federal conservation program payment limitations related to different types of farm business entities. The Farm Business Entities and Conservation Payment Limits fact sheet provides an overview of the opportunities and limitations facing  individuals, partnerships and limited liability entities that apply for NRCS conservation programs.

This new fact sheet and other legal education materials related to Vermont’s water quality regulations can be found on the Legal Education and Environmental Regulations web page.

Use Pre-Mortem Analysis to Prevent Project Failure

When you are planning a bold farm diversification or expansion who do you want on your planning team?  An ultra-advocate….”we can do this!” or the devils-advocate… “here is something that  could really go wrong!”.  Consider the premortem analysis process. Don’t wait to complete the  postmortem debrief after the project fails. At that point it is too late. The team can learn from the mistakes but it will be too late to recoup sunk capital, time and possibly relationships that suffer from the failure.The premortem analysis takes an important look at all the factors that can wreck your project. It is a key process to anticipating these risks, fine tuning the plan and building in sufficient contingencies.. Business advisers can facilitate this process or business owners/project leaders can do it within their groups.

Feasibility planning regularly suffers from over-optimism or key leaders that are over-invested in success (at all costs!). The project premortem is an essential step in the planning process. Here is a list of key steps to complete the project premortem

  • Gather key projects members and stakeholders that have already been briefed on the anticipated project goals.
  • Make the announcement “the project has failed”.
  • Team members must  start with the brainstorm first (don’t try to problem solve). Ask participants to list 2-3 the things that caused the failure. Ideally, get people to develop their list independently without group conversation. Create space for all team members to get their perspective into the process.
  • Team leaders and/or the group reviews the premortem symptoms and ranks the highest priority items.
  • Look for ways to strengthen the project plan.

Farming is a risky business and certain farms are challenged to retain profits. At any point in the business planning process it is OK to ask, “is there more evidence pointing to project failure compared to success? Can this be a viable project?”

The premortem perspective will bring your farm planning to a higher level. Forcing projects to fail on paper will improve a manager’s ability to make them work in real life.

 

UVM Extension is Hiring a Farm Business Educator

Job Posting: Extension Farm Business Educator

The University of Vermont Extension seeks a Farm Business Educator to deliver business management education to owners and managers of commercial farms. The position will focus on business analysis, financial planning and outreach education programs.  A Bachelor’s Degree in agriculture, economics or a closely related field and at least 3 years of experience in agricultural development is required.  The University is especially interested in candidates who can contribute to the diversity of the institution and deliver high quality outreach programs to a broad audience. Applicants are encouraged to include in their cover letter information about how they will further this goal. The position is located in Berlin Vermont. This is a grant funded position that starts at 0.80 FTE with the option to increase over time.  For further information or to apply, search for posting # S796PO at our website: www.uvmjobs.com .

Cage Free: Animal Welfare or Omega Emotion

As a farm business adviser it can be very difficult to reconcile a few concepts that impact farm viability and innovation. This Canadian article on fast-food giants converting to cage free eggs does a great job discussing the market and production dynamics at play in food systems:

The Cage Free Trend… (the Globe and Mail)

Back to farm planning topics. First: consumer is king, queen and treasurer, right? Farmers must provide a product to the market that is in demand. Second: price-maker or price taker? Farms that innovate have the opportunity to set prices, at least for a while, until the rest of the suppliers catch up.

Consider an innovation that dazzles the consumer population. But remember that the  98% of the US population that are non-farmers are guided by factors reasonably detached from practical farm matters or even science based attributes. Add a few mega corporations, advocacy groups and social media into the mix and now you have a marketplace. Check out this article: The Cage Free Trend… (the Globe and Mail)

 

Maple Benchmark on TV!

UVM Extension Across the Fence ran a television show on maple business and the Maple Benchmark project. Maple Benchmark: Across the Fence 4/12/16

Reports are coming in that 2016 is a record crop season. Producers are excited about yields but wary about possible price shifts if supply outpaces demand. Tune in to see what maple business owners consider to ensure this great Vermont product reaches your kitchen table.

Click this link to watch the segment: Maple Benchmark: Across the Fence 4/12/16

Grants for Dairy Farms Due February 12th

Apply for Dairy Improvement Grants up to $20,000

With grant funds donated by Commonwealth Dairy and in partnership with the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, Dairy Farmers of AmericaHousing Vermont, and the Massachusetts Housing Investment Corporation, the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program provides grants of up to $20,000 to Vermont dairy farmer members of the St. Albans Co-op and Dairy Farmers of America to make farm improvements. This round of funding is for projects that will improve water quality and help farmers meet new water quality regulations. Application deadline is February 12th

Click this link for application information: Dairy Improvement Grants

Job Posting: Forest Business Educator

Forest Business Educator – Extension
The University of Vermont Extension seeks a Forest Business Outreach Educator to deliver business coaching and business management education to owners and managers of forest products-based businesses. The position will also contribute to forest and agricultural research projects. A Bachelor’s Degree in forestry, natural resources, business administration or a closely related field and at least 3 years of experience in economic development, forest products or business management education is required. The University is especially interested in candidates who can contribute to the diversity of the institution and deliver high quality outreach programs to a broad audience.
The position is located in Rutland or Berlin Vermont. This is a grant funded position. For further information and  to apply with electronic application, resume, cover letter and one page written biography visit our website at this link:   https://www.uvmjobs.com/postings/18409

Winter Farm Business Programs_Sign up Now

UVM Extension Farm Viability is offering several programs for farm managers this winter.

2016 Budget Clinics : UVM Extension Farm Business educators are available to work one-on-one with farmers on their finances. Bring your financial statements, records and questions for this 1 to 1 ½ hour private meeting at a local Extension office. Click the link above for the schedule.

Ag Biz Pro : Ag Biz Pro is the program of choice for farm managers who wish to continue working with an individual adviser after completing a grant funded Farm Viability business planning project. Participants work directly with a farm business adviser within a flexible curriculum to address priority issues facing the business through the preparation of  financial statements, financial analysis and overall business analysis.

Farm Viability Business Planning and Dairy Management Teams : Individualized and team based business planning programs run throughout the entire year. Click the program summary above and download applications from our “Application Materials” page.

Changes to VT Current Use Tax Program

Changes have been made to the Vermont Use Value Appraisal Program (Current Use) that guides the taxation of land and buildings used for agriculture, forestry and conservation.

Click this link for a resource sheet that explains the new changes: Changes in VT Current Use Tax Program _July 2015

Key changes include:

  • A new calculation for the Land Use Change Tax (LUCT) (beginning Oct. 2, 2015)
  • A temporary “easy-out” period in which landowners can remove a parcel, or portion of a parcel, without paying the full LUCT liability (between July 1 and Oct. 1, 2015).
  • A new annual requirement for owners of agricultural lands and buildings to certify in writing on or before September 1 of every year that all enrolled agricultural land and buildings meet the requirements for enrollment at the time of the certification (form will be available in August).
  • Authority given to Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets to direct the Vermont Department of Taxes to remove agricultural land and farm buildings from the Current Use Program when the land or buildings are used by a person who has violated water quality requirements (beginning July 1, 2015).

What Farm Business Advisors are Talking About

This week the UVM Extension Farm Viability program and statewide VT Farm and Forest Viability Program partners got together to discuss current topics impacting farms.

Dennis Kauppila lead a discussion on farm business partnerships. We reviewed an older but still relevant resource guide that leads farm business owners that are setting up a partnership. Click here to download  Michigan State University: Farm Partnership Agreement Worksheet

Food safety is on our minds with the expectation of new federal  produce safety regulations this fall and the existing GAP’s/buyer-based verification programs. Ginger Nickerson explained the different post harvest packing and storage investments that produce growers are making  that can improve product quality in addition to meeting safety requirements. Click this link for a  fact sheet on building open packsheds. If you are thinking bigger, then click this link on renovating old barns .

A business planning meeting would not be complete without a discussion on risk management and crop insurance programs. Jake Jacobs, UVM Extension Crop Insurance Educator, provided an update on whole farm revenue insurance, Margin Protection for Dairy and the NAP program that could be used for maple producers. Click this link for a USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) 2014 Farm Bill Crop Insurance Modifications