Written by Tim Cobb, AFM. Cobb is a farmland manager accredited by the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA). His firm, Hatley/Cobb, is the 2018 Farm Manager of the Year.
This last month’s March Madness had many who follow college basketball filling out brackets. In doing this, fans try to find something special about any given team, something to set one apart from the deluge of statistics. History is clear that the programs that rise to the top because of good seeding position or a “Cinderella story” have one thing in common—a cohesive team full of players who know their duties and are willing to take care of each other to win.
The same rings true with farmland management. You must have the right players on the team to ensure lasting income, asset improvement and financial return. Farmland owners know the benefits of having a quality farmer-tenant, a knowledgeable accountant, a keen attorney and a skilled financial professional. But one other team member may be less known and underutilized—the professional farmland manager.
Accredited by the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA), these managers hold vast amounts of market and management knowledge to help an operation ensure lasting success. Attributes of an accredited farm manager include:
- Possesses skills, experience and education to provide land investment analysis and day-to-day operational management for agricultural landowners.
- Understands and interprets complex economic indicators that affect the highest and best use, profitability and sustainability of land.
- Implements sound business principles and manages production inputs and market variables to improve margins.
- Considers all management factors including environmental and government programs and compliance.
The majority of farmland managers grew up in or around farming and personify the necessary connection between absentee landowners and the farming industry. They are qualified to help lead the team and coordinate each effort to ensure issues are resolved and all opportunities are analyzed and carried forward.
Daily, a professional farmland manager handles the following operations:
Business Operations Management
- Uses proven data systems and structure to explain to owners where the farm is financially and the potential progress that can be achieved.
- Couples working knowledge with accounting and financial systems to raise the level of sophistication and delivery of data and investment return.
- Inspects and analyzes annual processes put in place to ensure financial solvency.
- Implements annual budgeting and money management from operations to capital improvements.
Risk Operations Management
- Determines the proper level of insurance for crops or property
- Enrolls in USDA programs, such as the Conservation Reserve Program, ARC, PLC and EQUIP
- Identifies crop marketing strategies, including forward contracting, hedging and basis trades
Production Operations Management
- Manages farm technology, data collection and proper dissemination of information
- Selects crop rotation, which includes choices about seed, fertilizer, weed control and drain tile
- Monitors soil health and productivity through sample analysis
These days in farming, it feels like we are all down a few points late in the second half. However, in farmland ownership, the consistent teams come to life and perform the very best when the odds are stacked against them. Owners need to make sure their teams are prepared to win through any market conditions.