Consulting for the big players
“One of the things, you need to do as consultants is put together teams to provide solutions with these customers. This is definitely what is coming at you with the 270,000 [largest U.S. farms],” Kohl said.
Consulting teams will need to be confidants for these entrepreneurs and sometimes try to slow them down. Kohl contends, “They will need to slow down, and they don’t want to slow down. These folks will be very vulnerable in the next agricultural downturn.”
The idea of interdisciplinary teams as one-stop shops to work with farmers of all sizes was a topic addressed on more than one occasion during the ASAC meeting. It was first discussed in relation to working with livestock operations such as hog producers and dairies. The team approach with professionals of various responsibilities and skills working together also came up for crop production
by consultants working in California, with all its regulatory guidelines, and nationally as ag retailers move toward providing a full-spectrum of services, including financial consulting.
Kohl contends that consultants, providing whatever services, will need to use all their psychological skills in dealing with the new groups of landowners coming into agriculture. There are several emotions that are and will be common with new landowners, and number one is greed.
“I will tell you that greed is alive and well. This grain price super cycle that we’ve had since about the year 2000 has shown us greed,” he said. A consultant can be the one working with the landowner to “bring objectivity into the greed.”
Another significant emotion is anxiety, and Kohl sees this as a good emotion. “What you’ve got to do as a consultant is relate to these people, lay out scenarios, show objectivity and share with them some of the potential risks. Anxiety is one emotion as consultants you can build upon,” he said.
FOCUS ON 270,000 FARMS
Prior to Kohl, Blanchfield noted the farming operations that must be the focus of ag consulting. Using the latest Department of Agriculture numbers, he noted there are 1,344,000 small farms whose operators report they are retired or they had a major occupation other than farming. There also are about 577,000 intermediate farms, or those with sales less than $250,000 but report farming as their major occupation.
And finally there are the approximate 270,000 farms with sales greater than $250,000. Blanchfield pointed out that these 270,000 farms account for 80 percent of the U.S. farm production and owe approximately 60 percent of all farm debt.
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