Ag panel offers advice to young producers

Farm Forum

Communication and planning for the future is key, experienced members of the ag community told the next generation of ranchers and farmers at the Young Farmers and Ranchers Winter Conference during a discussion panel.

The conference, which was held at the Ramkota Hotel in Aberdeen, is a South Dakota Farm Bureau program designed to provide young people, ages 18-35, with opportunities to increase their knowledge, develop leadership skills and provide a positive impact to agriculture as a whole.

Young farmers and ranchers gathered to ask questions to an experienced panel about transitioning farming operations through generations, financial and legal advice, and how to handle the intricate business of farming and ranching.

Panelists included:

• Alan Hojer, a cattle producer from Lake Preston.

• Michelle Olson, an agricultural accounting specialist from Aberdeen.

• Todd Wilkinson, an agricultural attorney from De Smet.

• Nate Franzen, an agricultural lead finance officer from Yankton.

• Larry Klumb, a transitioning producer from Ethan.

• Holly Spangler, a producer from Marietta, Ill.

Klumb spoke about his experiences transitioning the company he successfully built over to his children.

“There’s a young way and an older way, so it’s a compromise,” he said. After a small health scare, Klumb looked into handing the business over to his children.

Along with that can come challenges, panelists agreed. It can be much easier if plans are communicated throughout the family and planned ahead, including retirement.

“For us, our vision is to plan the operation to be large enough so that when we get to that point one day, it will be built in already,” Hojer said. “The key is funneling resources so it can handle two careers right now but then also a retirement down the road.”

Wilkinson, who handles legalities within the agriculture business but is also a cattle producer himself, shared the importance of planning retirement in the budget ahead of time.

“I deal with transitions a lot. As we see operations transition, I really encourage that they put a number out there so it is a budgeted item. It seems to make the non-farming siblings appreciate that, too,” Wilkinson said. He also noted the importance of communication in regard to handling operations and businesses, especially as people grow older. He shared his past experiences with families who have had disagreements over wills or trusts because they found out about them after a person had already died.

Panel members also discussed finances with the up-and-comers.

Franzen, a finance officer at First Dakota National Bank in Yankton, shared the importance of doing yearly assessments, looking back at the previous year and making accommodations to plan for the future.

“From the banker’s chair, we get to see a lot of businesses, and we find that the businesses that take time annually to analyze themselves and set goals for the future are a lot better prepared,” he said.

Olson shared her financial expertise in discussing taxes and property in regard to corporations and keeping the farmland separate.

Ending the discussion, panelists were asked about key practices farmers and ranchers should use and how to manage quality of life while in the business.

Build a strong team of people that are going to be positive influences, whether it be the banker, accountant, or veterinarian, Hojer said.

Franzen added that identifying a strong group of people and staying in close contact with them is important, as well as strategic planning for the business.

Wilkinson said that older generations should be kept in mind when considering spending.

“There’s a difference in perceptions generationally and I see it,” Wilkinson said, reminding them to think twice before buying new cars or taking vacations, when older generations may consider it to be reckless spending.

Olson shared the importance of family and quality of life, balancing farming and watching children grow up.

“I think you guys have the best life you could have. You get to be with your family and do what you want to do,” she said. “You may miss a ball game here and there, but when your kids grow up, they’re the best people you have.”

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