A farm manager wears many hats and deals with a lot of different businesses and tasks in running a farm. Business planning and succession is its own topic (and an important one), but sometimes there are short-term scenarios when farm managers or key personnel are away from the farm because of personal matters, sickness, vacation, or even unexpectedly passing away. These are stressful events, even more so when business and farm obligations start to pile up. Having a comprehensive plan in one place provides a critical resource to anyone needing to step in and temporarily continue these tasks.
We have listed several resources below that are available for use. Consider them prompts and outlines to think through what is needed. Your family, local Extension agent, and other trusted confidants are good resources to help you develop your plan. Once it is complete, make copies and clearly communicate where those are located. A good short-term contingency plan should detail accounts, contacts, obligations, and critical information a farm manager deals with. Some examples of the information detailed would be: (1) tracts of land with corresponding surveys or maps of the property (2) livestock feed/availability, veterinarians, and grazing plans for cattle (3) the location of keys, business documents, and contact information for advisors or partners to the farm.
Several points to consider:
Information related to the farm can frequently change and in a short period of time the information could be out of date. Plans should be reviewed after significant changes on the farm, or at a minimum, reviewed annually. Tax filing time, when you are already reviewing business information, may be a good opportunity to schedule a contingency plan review. Having bad or outdated information could be as detrimental as having no information at all.
Some information can be highly sensitive such as bank accounts, passwords, and other confidential data. This information can be critical to communicate because a family member trying to figure out passwords, or resetting accounts could be a long, frustrating process. There are safe & secure options to digitally store sensitive information or physical lists may be kept in a secure location.
Having multiple copies of the plan is advised and distributing those to any relevant personnel. In addition, one central copy could help ensure availability. Depending on your relationship with each, consider informing your banker, lawyer, neighbor, etc. of your operation’s contingency plans.
Short-term planning is part of a larger discussion of operational risk and transition planning. Having a strategy to transfer relationships and responsibilities according to an owner’s wishes should not be ignored. Succession planning resources are often available through your local Extension office. We encourage you to reach out to a trusted advisor. Adequate short and long-term planning can help farms sustain their operation into the future.
- Short-Term Operating Plan for farms and ranches https://extension.missouri.edu/media/wysiwyg/Extensiondata/Pub/pdf/manuals/m00202.pdf. Primarily hand-written worksheet used to document important aspects of the business
- AgPlan https://agplan.umn.edu Business planning website run through the Center for Farm Financial Management. It is free to use AgPlan, and once logged in you would select ‘Short-Term Operating Plan.’
- Code Red “Contingency Planning for Your Family and Farm Operation” https://ag.purdue.edu/department/agecon/fambiz/_docs/leadership-succession-planning/code-red.pdf Microsoft Excel workbook can be printed, shared virtually, or distributed through thumb-drives.
Burkett, Kevin, and Scott Mickey. “Short-Term Contingency Plans for Southern Producers“. Southern Ag Today 2(42.3). October 12, 2022. Permalink