As a result of flooding in the Midwest, the prospect of tariffs and trade wars, and slim profit margins, Iowa farmers face ongoing financial uncertainties.
But farmers who struggle to maintain their standard of living can get a hand from specialists at the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. The ISU’s Farm Financial Planning Program offers farmers individualized counseling, computer modeling and links to other outreach programs.
“What I have them do is put together some financial paperwork, a balance sheet as current as they can have one, and we also take a look at taxes and recent tax filings,” Mark Olsen, one of a half-dozen ISU associates in the Farm Financial Planning Program, said in a prepared statement.
The service, which is free to Iowa farmers, is funded through one of the ISU Extension’s programs, the Agricultural Credit School, and the Iowa Bankers Association. The employees who provide the service have specialized knowledge about agricultural budgeting, according to the ISU Extension’s website.
Olsen and other associates in the program provide personalized, confidential advice.
“A lot of times, we’re talking about alternative scenarios in an existing operation, adding or subtracting animals or crops, or whatever it may be,” he said. “The goal is to find the ‘money makers’ and the ‘money takers.’ ”
At the core of the program is to get farmers to answer some basic questions, according to ISU Extension. These are: What is the farmer’s financial status today, what is the farmer’s ultimate financial goal and what path does the farmer take to achieve that goal?
Charles Brown, another farm financial analyst with ISU Extension, uses what’s called a FINPACK analysis to help struggling farmers. That system, which was developed by the University of Minnesota, takes a broad look at family farm operations, such as their ability to withstand risk as well as liquidity, solvency and ability to turn a profit.
Usually, there isn’t a single magic bullet that fixes a farm’s financial challenges, according to Brown. Rather, it’s multiple tweaks in the operation that require time to put in place.
“It usually isn’t just one big thing that’s going to fix everything on a farm,” Brown said. “It’s lots of little things.”
Those who want to seek help through the program should visit the Farm Financial Planning Programs contact page.
The associates will use the university extension’s multiple resources to help farmers turn things around, according to ISU Extension.
“What I enjoy is when I can get a plan together for a client and a lot of the stress comes off of them, and they find that they can continue farming,” Olsen said.