July 23, 2024

‘Agriculture is awesome’: Farm finances, conservation focus at Ag Policy Summit

GREENTOWN, Ind. — More than 90 people attended the annual Ag Policy Summit at the Howard County Fairgrounds on July 26.

Topics at the event included expanding conservation opportunities and the challenging financial landscape for farmers.

Don Lamb, director of Indiana State Department of Agriculture, said that Indiana has a strong team of stakeholders who work together to advance the industry.

“Agriculture is awesome, and we don’t talk about that often enough to people outside of agriculture,” Lamb said. “Agriculture is special. It’s all about people, it’s all about planning and it’s all about action.

“That last point — action — is very important. When you leave here today, I hope you call someone and say, ‘What can we do about this?’ Because without action, a lot of the information you hear today will lose its value.”

Finances

During a panel discussion, John Rassi, a certified public accountant with Clifton Larson Allen, said that farm succession planning is crucial for farms.

“I think what people need to understand is that not planning is a plan,” Rassi said. “That may not be a good plan, but not planning will have its result, too.”

He shared three reasons why most farmers don’t start a farm succession plan:

• Farmers don’t know who to trust to help with this planning.

• Farmers are reluctant to give up control of their farm too soon.

• No one, farmers included, wants to think about death.

Natasha Cox, a regional vice president of ag lending for Farm Credit Mid-America, encouraged farmers to think about their farm as a business.

“Think about your farm as a business because that’s really what your farm is,” she said. “Then think about who is going to be on the board of directors of your business. Are the other members of your family farm on your board?

“Do you consider their advice? I think it is a good idea to include outside members on your board — perhaps a banker, an agronomist or someone else who understands what you’re trying to do.”

Managing higher interest rates and other financial risks requires advice and planning, Cox said.

Conservation

Clint Orr, a farmer from rural Clinton County, has been called an innovator and early adapter of conservation projects.

He has worked with The Nature Conservancy on several projects. He shared his story at the event.

“Conservation, really, is farming ugly,” Orr said. “Our farm doesn’t really look like every other farm out there, but everything we do is with the long-term benefit in mind.

“I think everyone would rather be incentivized with a carrot instead of a stick. I think it is always better to be rewarded for innovation. With my personality type, this is what keeps farming interesting and fun.”

Erica Quinlan

Erica Quinlan

Field Editor