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Young producers’ biggest nightmare

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Is ambiguity in your farm's transition plant worrying you? You are not alone!

Engagement with young farmers and ranchers at half-a-dozen multi-day educational events has allowed me to enumerate many of their perspectives about operating agricultural enterprises. Let’s examine what keeps these young producers awake at night. No, this is not the second coming of Freddy Krueger and Friday the 13th!

The usual suspects, such as inflating costs, uncertainty in commodity prices, and weather were frequently mentioned. Others stated that large amounts of debt, the current direction of inflation, and possible increases in interest rates were worrisome.

To everyone’s surprise, the biggest culprit by far was ambiguity in the transition plan, particularly in family businesses. Frustration soared when open discussion was allowed to further elaborate. Many were irritated that a plan had been developed, but parents or grandparents failed to communicate the plan. They felt that they were being held hostage and could not make future plans themselves. Others stated that a transition plan was started, but stalled as urgent matters such as planting, harvesting, and caring for livestock derailed what was important.

Still others are observing many farms being broken up in an effort to treat all siblings equally. Often these smaller farms are sold to larger producers who have the balance sheet and tenure to quickly snatch them up. In some cases, the young producers mentioned that off-farm siblings wanted to cash in after numerous generations of farming rather than continuing the family legacy.

How does one cure this nightmare?

  • Let's be blunt, sometimes the best-case scenario is to leave the family business or strike out on your own.
  • The “drop dead'' exercise can be a motivation for action. Place the names of the stakeholders in a hat and randomly select a name. This person is “dead,” now what do we do? Do not be surprised if the “dead” person attempts to speak.
  • Hire a facilitator to keep the process going, ensure deadlines are met, and to ask the tough questions.
  • Sometimes the nightmare ends when it is too late. The result can be an emotionally draining situation with confusion and discontent amongst family members.

The younger generation encouraged me to write this article as a reminder that sometimes attention needs to be placed on the important, rather than the urgent, and that procrastination is not the answer.

Source: Dr. David Kohlwhich is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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