The Ag Globe TrotterDr. Dave M. Kohl
Welcome to the weekly edition of The Ag Globe Trotter by Dr. Dave Kohl.
Throughout the decades, I have worked very closely with our good friends to the north. Speeches, seminars, collaborative research and consultation with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Farm Management Canada, Farm Credit Canada and other groups have been a highlight for me as an educator.
An outstanding study by Farm Management Canada was just released linking the relationship of farm business management practices to farmers’ and ranchers’ mental health. They provided permission to share some of the highlights of the study, which is a must read for thought leaders of the agriculture industry. The results were based on a nationwide survey of 1,735 Canadian farmers and 14 focus groups with 113 participants. This was followed by 72 one-on-one interviews with farmers and industry representatives. Some of the highlights may be critical perspectives for crucial conversations as we go throughout the summer.
Twenty-one percent of the farms and ranches in the study indicated that they follow a business plan, while 48% stated that they never or rarely follow a business plan. These results are similar to the surveys conducted each year at The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP) sponsored by Texas A&M University.
The results found that following a written farm business plan contributed to having peace of mind and more effectively coping with the threats, challenges and opportunities in agriculture. However, the results clearly stated that a business plan does not eliminate stress.
Respondents indicated that a business plan allowed them to focus and monitor financials, production and marketing plans. The study pointed out that business plans are not set in concrete and need to be adjusted as the business economics, weather or other events throw curveballs.
The study also found that three out of four Canadian producers were moderately or highly stressed. Workload pressures, lack of time, financial pressures and unpredictable events were the major causes of stress. Women were twice as likely to report higher stress levels along with younger producers that are growing their operations.
The study found that risk management teams and proactive planning were guiding principles in terms of bridging business management and supporting positive mental health. Risk management teams are used by many in the agriculture industry. Team members may include advisors such as lenders, crop or livestock consultants, family members and peers that can help reduce pressure and aid in decision making. Planning is not predicting the future; planning is for identifying possible outcomes. The producers indicated that business planning was critical for communications with lenders, but also for family members, partners, suppliers and community members.
In future columns, we will discuss more results that are important in monitoring the balance, mindset and environment when it seems like we have a surprise around every corner.
Dr. Kohl is Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Finance and Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Kohl has traveled over 8 million miles throughout his professional career and has conducted more than 6,000 workshops and seminars for agricultural groups such as bankers, Farm Credit, FSA and regulators, as well as producer and agribusiness groups. He has published four books and over 1,300 articles on financial and business-related topics in journals, extension and other popular publications.
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