Changes Coming to Our Blog

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Welcome to the Agriculture Business blog, formerly Farm Viability. Our work encompasses Farm Viability but is more than just Farm Viability!

We are migrating content from the blog onto our UVM website. Some content, like many of the static resources we offer will be found on our website instead of our blog. Our blog will also be getting a facelift.

Our resources will still be accessible and we will still be posting updates on the blog about specific Ag Biz topics of importance to your farm & forest enterprises.

If there is something you are looking for that you cannot find on our new website, email us with questions.

Farm Transfer Can Happen Outside the Family

By Tony Kitsos, Dairy Business Program Manager

I recently had the opportunity to work with and advise three farm business owners in structuring the transition of their businesses to prospective buyers who were not family members or neighboring farmers. As advisors, we often hit a wall when farmers express to us that there is no “next generation coming along”; that their children and relatives are not interested in becoming farm owners. Many family members state that they have no interest in working that hard for so many hours only to have too little money to show for it. Others say that they just want to follow their own path to success, usually outside of agriculture and the family business. Such was the case for all three of these farm businesses.

Each farm took a couple of years to find a young, knowledgeable and energetic person to bring in to their thriving businesses. They wanted to show them the ropes while they had the energy and health to provide mentorship. Let’s face it… with the way values of farmland, cattle and machinery have risen over the last 20 years, it’s extremely difficult for a young farmer to walk into a bank and borrow enough money to buy the business and then survive through the first two years of operating expenses unless there is plenty of cash to start with. Lenders do not want to see a new farmer fail for lack of cash and equity. The current owner has to make a decision: Do I sell outright to another farmer or bring someone new into the business? The approach is similar to that of a typical transfer – determine a period of time to “get up to speed” on the existing business, another block of time to begin the sure and steady transfer of certain assets to the incoming owner and then an outright purchase at the end of the trial period.

In each case, the owners had set up a combination of asset transfer for revenue increases over a specified schedule. The implicit agreement was: “Make this business better and more profitable over the transition period and it will be good for both of us.” In these scenarios there is mutual benefit from the continued and increased success of the business. Careful attention must be paid to the development of a sound exit strategy – one that covers both parties in case of a falling out or a change of heart. So gather in all of your trusted advisors, lay out a plan, let them shoot holes in it, restructure, and most of all don’t give up. There is a new generation of farmer anxious to get started with the right tools for success.

Support for Farms Applying to Covid-Relief Grants

UVM Extension Farm Viability business advisors are working with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB) Viability network to offer assistance to all farmers with the Vermont Covid Ag Assistance Program . VHCB has an intake form here to request assistance with your grant application.

The deadline for grant applications is October 1, 2020. To learn more about the program visit the website: VT Covid-19 Agricultural Assistance Program

 A number of other programs have emerged to provide funds or support services to farms across Vermont. See the Ag Covid Program Directory below. This document includes several links to grants, FSA payment programs and educational events.

New Grants for Vermont Farm Covid-19 Business Recovery

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets has announced it will begin accepting applications the week of August 17th for the new Agriculture and Working Lands Assistance grants program. This program is designed for non-dairy farmers, poultry/livestock producers and farmers’ markets. Applications will be accepted and awarded on a first come-first served basis until October 1st. VAAFM is hosting online informational webinars for applicants and service provider organization supporting the business owner application process this week and next week. See the VAAFM grants webpage to get application and grant information: Agriculture and Working Lands Assistance grants program.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets is also offering the Dairy Assistance grants program and the Agricultural Fairs grant program that support enterprises that have prior or ongoing income loss or increased costs due to the Covid-19 economic impact. Both programs have online applications available now.

Vermont Small Farm Viability and Conservation Report

UVM Extension has released a report that documents conservation adoption and economic viability on Certified Small Farm Operations. Conservation and Farm Viability on Vermont Small Farms (FBRR035) is available online. This report summarizes responses from over 170 Vermont farms to a 2019 survey. UVM Agricultural Business explores the current situations that business owners face and the major issues moving forward.

UVM Maple Development Webinar Series Starts in August

Photo credit: Mark Isselhardt

University of Vermont maple specialists will host a series of online webinars focused on business decision making and forestry practices. Learn about the best practices to integrate business management and sugarbush management for a thriving maple enterprise that targets profits and forest health.

Session information and registration is now available for sessions on August 5th, August 19th, September 2nd and September 16th. Watch our website for an updated schedule advertising webinar topics for October- December. Register now on the Upcoming Events page at www.maplemanager.org or download the program schedule here: UVM Maple Webinar Schedule

Topics will include: sugarbush leases, rental rates, business planning, tapping practices to optimize yield, tapping red maples, business entity set-up, sap-only enterprises and more. Presenters will include: Abby van den Berg (Research Associate Professor), Mark Isselhardt (Maple Specialist), Mark Cannella (Extension Associate Professor), Chris Lindgren (Forest Business Coordinator), attorneys, foresters and industry specialists.

Northern New England Dairy Webinars from UNH, UMaine, and UVM

By Tony Kitsos

On May 5th and 7th I had the opportunity to represent Vermont as part of the Northern New England Dairy Discussion webinars hosted by the University of New Hampshire’s Elaina Enzien. Extension dairy specialists Peter Erickson, Mike Sciabarrasi, Carl Majewski and Seth Wilner (New Hampshire), Gary Anderson and Rick Kersbergen (Maine) and I offered participants some sound dairy management strategies to help deal with the recent low milk prices and new pricing models. We focused on “right sizing” animal numbers, switching from 3x to 2x milking frequency, ration adjustment and using milk to feed animals on the farm as means to achieve cooperative reduction goals.

Also on the webinars were Catherine DeRonde from Agrimark, and Leon Berthiaume from DFA /St Albans to discuss the two-tier milk pricing model and what producers in each cooperative can expect for the remainder of the summer. Milk market volatility is now being driven by supply and distribution chain challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, with both cooperatives forced to take measures to reduce the flow of milk coming in to their plants.

The series proved to be timely and very popular, with over 140 participants registering for the two-day session. A link to presentation materials and the video recording of the webinars can be found HERE at the UNH website. We plan to continue the series throughout the summer, with the next session being held on Tuesday, June 16th. Find more information and register HERE.

UVM Extension Agricultural Business To Host Weekly Web Forum

For the remainder of April UVM Extension Agricultural Business will host a 30-minute web forum every Thursday at 12:30pm to keep pace with emerging COVID-19 issues faced by farm and forest businesses. Each session will include an update on market situations for our farming sectors and information on hot topics, as well as time for questions and discussion.

 Weekly Focus Topics:

  • April 16th:  SBA Emergency Loan Programs
  • April 23rd:  Cash Flow Triage for Small Business
  • April 30th: Digital Entrepreneurship and Online Marketing

Please register in advance for this web meeting.

Contact Mark.Cannella@uvm.edu to register.

Watch for updates about this series on our blog.

UVM Extension Agricultural Business Educators are available for consultation

If your farm, forest or maple business is under pressure to plan for COVID-19 disruption, our educators are available for business coaching and can assist with locating resources. We can help with critical business decision-making, assessing changes to markets, financial planning and other issues facing your enterprises.

Contact one of our educators by email or leaving a voicemail to make an appointment:

Covid-19 Updates for Ag Businesses

Updated 5/13/20

This page is being updated regularly with resources for agricultural businesses owners operating through the current health crisis.

Vermont Policy Updates

(4/24/20) Governor Scott releases new policy to open today for nurseries, greenhouses, and garden centers, effective Monday April 27th, 2020. See Addendum 11. This announcement, effective April 27th, 2020, allows for in-person customer purchase of seeds, annuals, vegetable seedlings, perennials, herbs, shrubs, trees, and other landscaping and gardening materials from an outdoor retail operation in adherence to the guidelines outlined in Addendum 11.

(4/24/20) Vermont Farmers Markets will be allowed to reopen under the new Farmers Market Guidance released by Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM)

(4/22/20) Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The Vermont Department of Labor is now set-up to accept unemployment claims for “self employed” business owners under PUA. PUA website for Self Employed and online application page

Micro Loan and Grant Programs: Rural VT Farmers Market Grant ($500), American Farmland Trust Grants ($1k max); VT Farm Fund (up to $10k Emergency Loans), FACT Mini-Grant ($500 for livestock and poultry)

US Small Business Administration Emergency Programs

5/4/20 : As of today (5/4) EIDL application webpage opened up today! New PPP applications are being processed. Prepare your PPP applications directly with your local bank/lender.

SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) webpage: Updated fact sheets and applications are posted below. Contact your local bank or lender for information on how to submit an application. Farms, Forest and Maple businesses are eligible for PPP.

PPP for Self Employed (sole proprietor) seeking benefit for themselves. See this article on how to calculate your previous year Schedule F “Net Earnings” from prior year.

(4/15/20) Updated Eligibility Guidelines for PPP, See page 6 for how business owners with no employees will calculate amounts. Where is says “Schedule C Line 31”, farm owners will use “Schedule F Line 34” Click Link Below

What is an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Emergency Advance? 4/22/20 “Farms” will be eligible for the EIDL program in the second relief package. We expect the SBA online application eligibility section to reflect that chance once the program re-opens.

A borrower applying for EIDL can request an advance on the loan of up to $10,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA). See the SBA EIDL Website. Applications are made online with the SBA directly. EIDL “advance” amounts are based on $1,000 per employee, thus a business with 10 or more employees can apply for the $10k max. The actual EIDL Loan can be for up to $2M and has an interest rate of 3.75%

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Application

Small Business Owners Guide US CARES Act: See document download below (includes Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan/Grants) Note: As of 4/24/20, We have confirmation that farm businesses are eligible for the PPP SBA programs. “Farms” (ie. 100% farm production) are also eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). Food processors, value-added, maple syrup producers, nursery and aquaculture are eligble for EIDL. Both these programs feauture “forgivable” portions for certain uses and do not require 100% repayment. See the CARES Act Summary below.

VT Agency of Agriculture Covid-19 Response Page: Submission form to submit your emerging business issues, newsletter sign up and resource links.

VT Agency of Commerce and Community Development Covid Updates: Covid Newsletter Sign Up, Emergency Declaration Guidance, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Submit data on your business losses to inform agencies where support is needed

VT Emergency Management: This site contains the Essential Persons List (subject to change) and it’s relation to Emergency Child Care