It seemed like the perfect time to get an off farm job. I’m back at work in farm business management at Northland Community and Technical College. It’s the same job I had 4 years ago. Some familiar faces, a few new faces, and a new office. It feels good to be back.
I wish I could have returned to FBM during better financial times. When I left in 2012, farm finances were strong. Cash flows actually worked the first time you entered numbers. My last year of analysis was 2011, and average rate of return on assets (ROA) was 12.1% in the Red River Valley. In 2015, the ROA dropped to 2.2%. For perspective, in 2015 farmers were borrowing money from the bank around 5%, and getting a return of 2.2%. That is not a sign of good financial health.
It appears the 2016 crop year will be similar to 2015. USDA projected record yields in their August report. That’s great news for production. They also projected the average price of wheat would be $1.19/bu less than 2015, and corn would be down $.45. Soybean prices may be similar to last year, so let’s cross our fingers on that one.
I’ve always been a numbers nerd. I love spending time calculate our farm’s ROA, cost of production, and updating cash flows. Yes, I love numbers. That is not the case for most farmers. Most farmers love being in the field, and dread those necessary office hours.
My job is to try and teach farmers why numbers are so important. Young and old, big and small, nearly every farmer could use a kick in the pants for farm business management. Farmers love bushels, but I argue that numbers are just as important. Is your debt structure appropriate? Is your cost of production in line with your peers? Can you afford that new grain bin? How much can you pay for rent? How about developing a marketing plan? All questions I will help calculate and answer over the next few months.
Farming was much easier back in 2011. The good news is that in 2016 farming is still a great career, and a wonderful industry. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be. And now I get to help farmers become better managers, and better positioned for future. It feels good to be back. You may never love numbers as much as me, but I do hope to make you appreciate and respect the numbers.