The NDSU Langdon Research Extension Center (LREC) recently welcomed a new face to their outstanding staff in their efforts to provide the best information and services to Cavalier County producers. Jeremiah Halley of Lake Region State College will be working with producers in the area to ensure their farms can thrive through accurate record keeping.
By Melissa Anderson
Halley has been with LRSC as a Farm Management instructor for two years, and prior to that he worked as an ag lender. Making the switch was an easy choice for Halley as he enjoys being a farm business management instructor primarily because he likes helping producers achieve their goals.
“We often focus on improving the farm’s record keeping system and from there look at the financial strengths and weaknesses of the farm utilizing FINPACK. This software provides an accrual adjusted analysis and enterprising,” Halley said.
Halley meets with producers one on one, either at his LREC office or right on the farm, and provides instruction or assistance in different areas. Halley shared that one of the great things about the program is being able to make the sessions specific to what each producer wants to improve.
“The new producer usually is looking at establishing a record keeping system, and we spend time getting them setup to use software such as Quicken. We have a chart of accounts template so they can get up and running fast, and then we can spend more time focusing on other areas like cash flows,” Halley stated. “Current producers might be looking to improve their grain marketing so we could focus on enterprising each crop they are raising.”
Another aspect of Halley’s work is assisting retiring producers as they look ahead to the future of their farm. Halley explained that this type of producer is often thinking about succession planning.
“I can help review some different options for tax management or transitioning the farm,” Halley shared.
The ultimate goal that Halley has when working with producers is to determine the cost of production for each commodity and using that information to establish or improve a marketing plan. Halley feels it’s important for each producer to try and complete an enterprise analysis whether it be crops or livestock.
“Overhead costs vary greatly for each operation, and direct costs like seed, chemical, and fertilizer often get the most focus,” Halley said.
Producers enrolled in the Farmer Business Management (FBM) program can review a RankEm report to see how they stack up against similar operations. One of the items that producers really like to review, according to Halley, is total machinery investment per acre.
“They feel pretty good if they have managed costs well or maybe reducing machinery costs becomes a new goal. It’s valuable for every operation to have several years of data and review the trends,” Halley stated.
The main reason producers should seek Halley out for assistance is if they are looking for opportunities to increase profits. The FBM program provides many different tools to help producers achieve those goals. Some examples Halley provided include: a marketing planner spreadsheet for crop marketing, a tax planner for estimating tax liability, and benchmarking that allows the producer to compare their costs/ratios to similar farms across the region or state.
Each individual producer will have goals that are usually quite specific to their own operation. Some may be more business orientated, where producers look towards expansion of the operation, to introducing another family member to the business. Other goals may be looking at where the operation is today and where would they would like to see it in the future. Or sometimes the goal is as simple as enjoying a sustainable rural lifestyle as a 4th generation farmer.
“Goals are best accomplished with quality records and using that information to make informed business decisions,” Halley said.
The FMB program uses those same records to identify strengths and/or weaknesses of the operation. Halley will review all of this information with a producer so they are able to develop a cash flow for the following year. In years where tough decisions need to be made following poor harvest or loss of markets, Halley assists producers by reviewing different options that are available.
“It’s really a matter of helping the producer work through the numbers to see if things, like a reduction in rented land, makes sense. Often an underperforming rented farm has a positive return to overhead. It might seem like it is a good idea to drop a rented farm, but maybe the numbers tell a different story. Every situation is very unique,” Halley stated.
Prior to meeting with Halley, he encourages producers to think about what they want to improve. Producers also need to have their financials such as bank statements, loan information, and any income/expense records available.
“I always joke with producers that they need a shoe box to keep all those miscellaneous statements that come in the mail,” Halley shared.
Halley looks forward to assisting Cavalier County area producers and can be reached at 701-256-2582 or via email at Jeremiah.Halley@lrsc.edu.