‘Farm teams’ of professionals more important then ever

The two-day conference focused on professionals and resources to support the farm business

The days when you could do it all are gone.

That’s the message farmers took home after a two-day conference here focused on building a ‘farm team’ of professionals.

Every business needs the input and expertise of professionals like accountants and financial planners, lawyers and lenders, and farm businesses aren’t any different, said organizers of the fourth annual Manitoba Young and Beginning Farmers conference.

This year’s focus was on creating the advisory teams farms need, and knowing where to find the expertise needed to run what are evermore complicated family businesses, said Wanda McFadyen, operations co-ordinator with Keystone Agricultural Producers’ who works with the farm organization’s Young Farmers’ subcommittee.

“I think we’ve always had these farm teams. They’ve been there in different capacities,” she said.

But farmers who are still inclined to say they’d “rather be out on the tractor” need these teams of professionals more than ever.

“There’s a comfort level in knowing there’s accountants there to help, lawyers to talk to, financial managers, farm safety specialists,” McFadyen said. “These resources are there to help us so let’s not try and do it all ourselves.

“We want to empower the young farmers of the province to use the resources available that then allow them to do what they love to do.”

Professionals’ advice and expertise can help make those tough decisions and avoid the pitfalls of bad ones, said panellists who represent the types of advisers who can make up that farm team.

Boyd Bagnall, a lender with Austin Credit Union during a panel discussion, said a typical case where advisers can make all the difference arises when it comes time to inherit and divide assets. Issues arising from demands from non-farming siblings are common, he said, adding that a typical case is a father and son farming together, expanding the land base and accumulating assets over the years, only to have a non-farming sibling demand their share of the inheritance on the death of the father.

“Now what? I wish I could say this is a unique case, but we see this a lot,” he said.

“In a worst-case scenario, nothing was dealt with and you’ve got to start selling stuff (to pay out the other sibling).

“In a best-case scenario, this would have been dealt with already.

“A lawyer would have set up a partnership agreement and wills detailing what happens on the event of death. An accountant is managing the tax position on the partnership and perhaps they’d decided at some point they should be incorporating. Financial planners set up an insurance plan so that when the father died the brother gets the inheritance and the other son gets to keep the farm.”

That is just one of many potential solutions, but having a team of advisers in place can help you find one that works for you, Bagnall said.

“As agriculture grows and evolves we continue to grow and evolve with it,” he said. “We’re committed to being part of your management team and coming up with these kinds of solutions.”

Other issues farmers are increasingly dealing with are related to matters such as safety and human resource management. Sessions focused on available resources such as the recently released Safety and Health Guide for Farmers and the Human Resource Management for Farm Business developed to help farmers with hiring and retention strategies for employing the non-family staffers more farms now need to operate. Both guides are available at all Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development offices.

Equipping young farmers with the best managerial tools possible has become evermore critical as their age cohort continues to shrink.

According to the recently released 2011 Census of Agriculture farmers over 55 now make up nearly half of all farm operators (48.2 per cent.), a percentage sharply higher than the one in three of the same age in the rest of Canada’s self-employed labour force.

Manitoba, which has 7.6 per cent of all the farmers in the country, mirrors the national trend, with just 8.8 per cent of its farm operators under the age of 35 and 45.3 per cent over 55.

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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