On February 25, the University of Georgia will combine its considerable resources in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Extension, and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to host the first Farm Business Education Conference at the UGA-Tifton Campus Conference Center.
According to Heather Sharpe, an SBDC Business Consultant located in Albany, the conference has been organized in response to increasing demand from farmers for assistance to “run their farm like a business.”
“Despite being in business for years, sometimes decades, many farmers feel an increasing desire to upgrade their business systems,” Sharpe said. “Additionally, increased regulations in lending have required farmers to develop formal business plans and financial projections in order to secure operational loans that were once secured with a handshake. Most farmers are unaware that SBDC can assist them in this process or that Extension and CAES offer a wealth of financial resources for agribusiness.”
Although most outside of rural America may not realize it, farmers are the ultimate small business owners. They don’t just wear many hats: They wear all the hats—from production to marketing to human resources, the list goes on. Whether someone is new to farming or grew up on the family farm, the amount of timely information and smart decision-making required to run a farm business successfully can be overwhelming.
To help lessen the weight of that responsibilities, the Farm Business Education Conference has been designed to provide farmers with a variety of tools and resources to optimize their operations. Topics at the one-day conference include planning cash flow, using enterprise budgets to analyze costs, market strategies, working with lenders, human resources, and even a guide to exporting. In addition to UGA experts, speakers will also come from the Georgia Department of Agriculture, private lenders and local farms.
The conference program is organized into three general sessions and three breakout sessions during the day. The breakout sessions will each have individual classes tailored for row-crop farmers, value-added enterprises or small commercial operations. However, participants will be allowed to attend any session depending upon their interests.
With the average age of the American farmer at 57, there will also be information that addresses the important issue of transferring farm operations to younger generations.
“Younger farmers have been reaching out for support on transitions and want to acquire both the business and farming knowledge required to be successful,” said Sharpe.
For farmers new and old, there’s never been a more important time to sharpen their pencils and hone their business skills. The USDA Economic Research Service estimates 2015 net farm income at $55.9 billion, down 38 percent from 2014 and 55 percent from 2013. Overall profitability for farmers last year was the lowest since 2002, and forecasts for commodities in the short-term don’t look promising. While this down cycle may create opportunities for land acquisition for young farmers, they’ll need ever tool available to manage narrow margins and take advantage during the next upswing.
Registration price is $69. The conference will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the UGA-Tifton Campus Conference Center. Lunch is included.
For more information, visit the Farm Business Education Conference Website.