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Friday, October 13, 2017

What is a Fair Farm Rental Agreement?

By David Bau, Extension Educator

Landlords, Farmers, Agri-Business Professionals should make plans to attend one of the informative meetings being held across Central and Southern Minnesota.  These free meetings are being provided by the University of Minnesota Extension.  Farmer profits are low or negative and farm land rental rates declined slightly while commodity prices have decreased significantly. Determining a fair profitable farm rental agreement is a challenge in today’s economy with recent record corn and soybean prices and record farm land values as recently as 2012 but commodity prices continued to decline since then.

Negotiating a fair rental agreement that satisfies the land owner and the farmer is a challenge.  David Bau and Nathan Hulinsky, Extension Educators in Ag Business Management, will provide several ways; by examples, factsheets and worksheets to determine a fair farm land rental rate for both parties.

Topics covered at the meetings will include local historic and projected farmland rental rate trends, current farm land values and sales, a worksheet that will help determine a fair rental agreement.  Input costs for 2018 will be presented along with current 2018 corn and soybean prices.  Worksheets will examine 2018 costs and what is affordable rent that a farmer will be able to pay in 2018, the rate of return to the landlord at current market values and examine flexible rental agreements.

Make plans to attend one of these forty-two meetings now.  Attendees will receive several informative worksheets and factsheets that will help to determine what is a fair 2018 farm land rental rate is.

The meetings will be held in Ada, Albert Lea, Alexandria, Albert Lea, Benson, Blue Earth,   Buffalo, Caledonia, Chaska, Clearbook, Cold Springs, Cologne, Crookston, Elko New Market, Faribault, Farmington, Foley, Gaylord, Hutchinson, Jordan, Le Center, Litchfield, Little Falls, Long Prairie, Madison, Mankato, Grygla, Olivia, Owatonna, Pipestone, Preston, Red Lake Falls, Rochester, St. Charles, St. Peter, Slayton, Sleepy Eye, Waseca, Willmar, and Worthington starting in Slayton on November 3, 2017 and ending in Pipestone on December 19, 2017.  Check out the Agricultural Business Management calendar on web at: for specific times and locations.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What Direction will 2018 Farmland Rent Go? Stay the Same? Up? or Down?

By David Bau, Extension Educator

Each year I put together tables listing actual farmland rental rates by county from Adult Farm Management Records.  Unfortunately farmers and landlords are starting to negotiate 2018 farmland rental rates and the last actual numbers available are for 2016 so I am forced to estimate figures for 2017 and 2018.  When I did this last year I used an estimate of a 10% decline and the actual figure came in at 2.5% decline statewide.  For 2017 I heard many times that rents were down, although some rents went up and some remained the same, in table 1 below I estimated a 2.5% decline in 2017 from 2016.

But what direction should 2018 farmland rental rates go?  How do I determine an estimate for 2018 farmland rental rates?

Should they stay the same? 
Landlord property taxes continue to increase. While the state legislature help with some of the school referendum costs they still increase taxes.  If rents stay the same, a landlord’s income will go down if taxes increase and if taxes are not increasing the revenue to the landlord will remain constant, when they have grown accustomed to significant increases since 2007.

Should they go up?
Landlord expenses increase as property taxes increase and they want to pass this cost increase onto the farmer and increase the rental rate.  Another example might be where there has been a long term lease in place where the rental rate has not changed for many years and this rate might be considered low today and due for an increase.

Should they go down?
Farmers have experienced decreasing corn and soybean prices since record high prices in
2012 for corn and 2013 for soybeans and current prices offered for 2018 corn and beans are below what farmers sold their grain for in 2007, when rents were $125 per acre.  Average production budgets for 2018 indicate losses for farmers if rents are above $122 per acre.

With the average rents in Table 1 in 2016 averaging $212 per acre, to go down to $122 per acre would be over 42% reduction in average rents.  The average Southwestern Minnesota corn farmer has lost money for three consecutive years and soybeans lost money in 2014 and 2015 and made money in 2016.  The results for 2017 corn and soybeans look to be negative again.

So you could make an argument for all three scenarios, but looking at the economics for corn and soybean production in 2018 using 180 bushels per acre, yield and $3.25 price per bushel, for corn and 50 bushel yield and $9.00 price for soybeans, income would be $585 for corn per acre and $450 for soybeans. With average cost projected to be $511 for corn and $281 for soybeans before rent and labor, this would leave $74 per acre for corn and $169 per acre for soybeans to be shared between the landlord as rent and the farmer and income. This would be an average of $122 per acre to be shared.

So I projected a 2.5% decline in rental rates from 2017 to 2018 for figures listed in Table 1.

But from earlier examples 2018 farmland rates could go down by over 42% or increase from 2016 rates depending on the individual situations.  It will be a very challenging year for both the landlord and farmer to determine where the 2018 farmland rental rate should be.

2016 ARC-CO Payments for Minnesota

By Curtis Mahnken and Bob Craven, Center for Farm Financial Management, Applied Economics

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) recently released 2016 county yields for corn, soybeans and wheat. These yields along with the marketing-year-average (MYA) prices which were released in September provide the information needed to calculate Agricultural Risk Coverage-County (ARC-CO) payments. These payments will be made in October 2017.

ARC-CO triggers a payment based on a crop’s base acres if the actual county revenue for that crop is less than 86% of the “benchmark” revenue. For corn, the MYA price (Table 1) is almost 30% lower than the benchmark price. Payments will be made in counties where the 2016 yield is up to 22% above the county benchmark yield. For wheat, payments will be triggered in counties where their yields are up to 48% above the benchmark yield.

Table 2 includes the payments per base acre by county for corn and wheat. These numbers have been adjusted to reflect the 6.8% reduction for budget sequestration. For soybeans, there are only two counties in Minnesota that will receive ARC-CO payments, Kittson ($12) and Lake of the Woods ($19).

The variability in payments between counties are a result of differences in the 2016 crop yield compared to the county benchmark that is based on 2011-2015 yields. There is significant variation not only in the 2016 yields but also in the benchmark yields between the counties. Counties with a high yield compared to their benchmark will not receive payments.

To calculate the payment for a farm, multiply the base acres by the payment for that county. A farm in Waseca County would receive $29 per base acre for corn. With a 300 acre corn base the payment would be 300 x $29 = $8,700.

Monday, October 2, 2017

New Opportunities for Minnesota Beginning Farmers and Farm Asset Owners Who Want to Help Them

By Don Nitchie, Extension Educator

Beginning in 2018, there are two new opportunities available which can be very helpful to beginning farmers in Minnesota. These programs are the Beginning Farmer Incentive Credit for existing farm asset owners who rent or sell assets to beginning farmers and the Beginning Farmer Management Credit for the beginning farmer enrolled in an approved farm business management program. These tax credits can reduce an individual’s Minnesota income tax. The programs were created by the Minnesota Legislature during the 2017 Special Session. According to MDA, current legislation funds these programs through 2023.

According to the Minnesota Department of Revenue posting of June 6, 2017, the beginning farmer incentive credit is a tax credit for owners of agricultural assets. Such assets may be land, livestock, facilities, or machinery located in Minnesota. The assets must be sold or rented to a beginning farmer who is not a family member of the asset owner, as defined in the Internal Revenue Code. Seven eligibility requirements are listed for beginning farmers and are listed below. The credit equals 5% of the sale price of the asset (up to $32,000), 10% of the gross cash rental income in each of the first three years of a rental agreement (up to $7,000 per year), or 15% of the cash equivalent of the gross rental income of the first three years of a share-rent agreement (up to $15,000 per year). If the amount of the credit exceeds tax liability, the excess may be carried forward 15 years. Equipment dealers do not qualify for the credit. The total value of credits allocated by the Rural Finance Authority is capped at $5 million for tax year 2018 and $6 million per year in later years. Certificates for the credit will be issued on a first-come first-served basis, but with preference for some re-certifications. The beginning Farmer will need to participate in a farm business management education program.

The beginning farmer management credit is equal to 100% of the cost of participating in a financial management program approved by the Minnesota Rural Finance Authority (up to $1,500 per year). The credit can be taken for three years directly reducing Minnesota Income tax due for the beginning farmer. If the amount of the credit exceeds tax liability, the excess may be carried forward three years.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Make Time for Planning

By Betty Berning, Extension Educator

There is always a lot to do and it is easy to wonder where time goes.  In the midst of milking cows and making hay, management activities, like working on a transition plan for the farm or writing up an animal welfare policy, are frequently set aside.  That is why it is so important to MAKE time on a regular basis (ideally weekly) to work on these strategic activities.  Just like an exercise program, if you don’t make time for these items, activities that are more urgent will consume your time.  It takes discipline to commit to a regular time to work on management activities.

Management of your business is important.  By carving out time to regularly work on your business’ strategy and goals, you set the course for your farm and can proactively respond to changes.  This can help your farm to survive in the future.

One management task I suggest beginning with is a business plan.  Does your farm have a business plan?  I recommend that every farm have a business plan, especially those that are new, expanding, or making major changes. 

A business plan is simply a statement of business goals and a roadmap to how those goals will be achieved.  Think of it as a blueprint for your farm.  It sets the direction of where your business is headed in the future. 

By creating this plan, you can effectively communicate what your farm is about to others. Do you farm with other family members?  A business plan can help all of you discuss and align on goals for your farm.  Do you work with a lender?  You farm’s plan can be shared with your lender to help him/her understand your farm’s vision and goals.

There are several sections to a business plan:  executive summary, business description, production management, personnel management, marketing management and financial management.  It takes time to write your first plan.  After you have a plan in place, though, it becomes a living document that you can use.  If you want to make changes to it, it is easy to update.  Because it’s an important piece of YOUR farm’s business, I strongly suggest that you (or your leadership team) write this document.  You know your business best and can best describe its goals.  A brief synopsis of each section follows:

  • ·         Executive Summary:  I like to think of this as the bow on a present.  It wraps everything up and presents it in an easy to understand format.  Often times this may be the only section that is read.  It is here that you’ll want to summarize your business and its goals. 
  • ·         Business description:  This is a great place to start.  Many people find this to be the easiest section to write because you simply write about your farm.  For example, you may write about the size of your farm, where it’s located, what you produce, your ownership, or your history.   Think about what you’d want someone to know about your farm as you write this section.
  • ·         Production management:  Some people call this operations management.  This is the nuts and bolts of how you run your farm!  In this section, you describe what you produce and how you produce it. 
  • ·         Personnel management:  Here you describe the organizational structure of your farm.  You may be laughing, thinking, it’s just me!  That’s okay.  This section will be short for you, but it’s good to write that you are the sole proprietor and list any help that you have.  If you have a profitability team or advisory committee, include them, too.  For larger farms, list your employees.  Describe the different jobs on the farm and each person’s responsibilities. 
  • ·         Marketing management:  This section can be about how you sell your grain or milk, or if you sell products directly off your farm, it might be your plan for how you effectively sell these products.  For most dairy farms, this is the place to write about whom you sell your milk to and your selling strategy.  You can also include an analysis of market trends or describe a competitive advantage (e.g. being organic or grass-fed) that your dairy may possess.
  • ·         Financial management:  If you are creating your plan because you’d like to request a loan from your lender, this is the section for you.  Here you’ll want to include financial history, financial projections, financial statements, and your capital request.  It may also be helpful to include benchmarks against other dairies that are similar to yours.  It is here that you can illustrate if your farm can financially handle an expansion or change.

All of this may seem overwhelming.  There is a great tool available from the Center for Farm Financial Management at University of Minnesota called AgPlan (  This tool will help you create your own business plan for your farm.  There are tutorials and resources available that provide in-depth detail on each of these sections.  It can help you determine what you want to include in your plan!  It also allows you to share your plan with others, so that you can edit it between family members and business partners.

By completing a business plan, you begin to shape your farm’s strategy.  This exercise will help you identify where to spend your management activity time. Take time every week to work on becoming a better manager.  With discipline, you will find the time to do this and your farm will benefit!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

2017 Agricultural Tax Issues Course
Locations and dates for
Agricultural Tax Issues Course

University of Minnesota Extension is offering an agricultural tax school in late September and early October.  This course targets income tax professionals that work with farmers.  Additionally, this course will benefit agricultural professionals such as agricultural lenders and farm management instructors. The agricultural tax school will be offered in five locations and the course has been approved for eight hours of continuing professional education.

Locations and dates for Agricultural Tax Issues Course:

St. Cloud, Minnesota
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
The Tuscan Center
3333 West Division St., Suite 116
St. Cloud, MN 56301

Rochester, Minnesota
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Kahler Apache Hotel and Water Park
1517 16th St. SW
Rochester, MN 55902

Marshall, Minnesota
Thursday, September 28, 2017
Ramada Inn Conference Center
1500 East College Dr.
Marshall, MN 56258

Crookston, Minnesota
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Crookston Inn
2200 University Ave.
Crookston, MN 56716

Fergus Falls, Minnesota
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Bigwood Event Center
925 Western Ave.
Fergus Falls, MN 56537

This course targets income tax professionals that work with farmers.  Additionally, this course will benefit agricultural professionals such as agricultural lenders and farm management instructors.

Course Topics:
1.      Legislative Update
a.       Information reporting
b.      Income tax basis
c.       Due dates of tax returns
d.      Table of expiration dates
2.      Miscellaneous Agricultural Tax Issues
a.       Livestock transactions
b.      Form 1099-MISC
c.       Net investment income tax
d.      Inherited property
e.       Oil and gas payments and deductions
f.        Repairs
g.      Revoking a CCC loan election
h.      Marketing gain on CCC loans
i.        Going out of business
j.        Farm casualty gains and losses
k.      Casualty repair costs
l.        Children of farmers and the “Kiddie” tax
m.    4-H and FFA members
n.      Safe harbors for farmers
3.      Income Issues
a.       Commodity futures and options contracts
b.      Deferred payment contract losses
4.      Farm Employees
a.       Employee vs. independent contractor
b.      Payment of wages with commodities
c.       Employer-provided meals and lodging
d.      H-2A agricultural workers
5.      Self-employed tax and social security benefits
a.       Interaction of self-employment tax and social security benefits
b.      Farm optional method for computing self-employment earnings
c.       Self-employment tax on land rented to an entity
6.      Depreciation and I.R.C. Section 179
a.       Depreciation and section 179 expensing
b.      Related parties and depreciation
c.       Irrigation systems and water wells
d.      I.R.C. section 179 recapture
7.      Deduction Issues
a.       Prepaid farm expenses and deposits
b.      Prepaid expenses: change of plans
c.       Promissory note to supplier
d.      Deducting interest on loans secured by the residence
e.       Lease vs. purchase of equipment
f.        Improvements installed by lessee
g.      Demolition of a farmstead
h.      Deducting cost of growing crops purchased with land
8.      Farm-related Income Reported on Form 4797
a.       Depreciation recapture
b.      Depreciation recapture from assets received as a gift
c.       Net I.R.C. Section 1231 loss
9.      Like-kind exchanges
a.       Like-kind exchange of equipment
b.      Like-kind exchange of livestock
c.       Depreciation of cars, vans and trucks
d.      Like-kind exchange tenancy-in-common
e.       Like-kind exchange of Conservation Easements
10.  Rulings and Cases

Registration: 7:30 a.m. – 8:00 a.m.
Class:  8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (with a one-hour break for lunch**)
** Lunch will be provided as part of the course (This is a change from previous years).

The fee for this 8-hour course is $180.00 and includes refreshments and course materials.

Participants will receive the 2017 Agricultural Tax Issues book authored by Philip E. Harris, Professor Emeritus from the University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension.

By attending this course, you will earn:
·         8 Federal Tax update credit hours*

Rob Holcomb, EA, Extension Educator in Agricultural Business Management, University of Minnesota Extension

Nathan Hulinsky, Extension Educator in Agricultural Business Management, University of Minnesota Extension.

Registration for the agricultural tax course will be conducted through the University of Minnesota College of Continuing Education.  Below is a link that may be used to register for each of the respective locations.  The deadline for registration is Friday, September 8, 2017.  For more information or questions, please contact Rob Holcomb at or by calling 507-337-2807.

Or you may copy and paste the following web link into your email browser.

*This course has been approved by the IRS Registered Preparer Office. The University of Minnesota College of Continuing Education is an Approved Continuing Education Provider.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Your Ability to have a Critical Conversation is Important to Your Long Term Farm Business Success

By Don Nitchie, Extension Educator

Successful farm management today, often depends on your ability to discuss important items “beyond and between the numbers”, in a constructive way.  Often these discussions are about pivotal points in history for your farm business or careers.  Sometimes you may be struggling with or even attempting to have a badly needed “critical conversation” about a significant decision that has to be made or implemented.  This maybe with a business partner, spouse, other family members, a landlord, son or daughter.

While many Minnesota farms are on average holding up well financially in these tight profit margin times—there are some stress points on some farms. Some critical conversations are necessary on the best of farms  for example if;  liquidity is weakening more than average the last few years and profitability has been weak across enterprises and the whole farm for the last few years. This probably has resulted in a weakening of Net Worth and maybe over-expenditure on family living in some cases.  If this situation is not being acknowledged-a discussion of the impact of continued current trends plus ways to improve the situation needs to occur-soon. The farm manager should ideally seek out discussion and consultation before they are forced to by someone else such as their lender.

For pivotal business decision-making that is dependent on or involves others, you need to assess what you need to do to make the impending “critical discussion” productive and hopefully successful.  You may have been avoiding discussion because it will not be a comfortable situation-or you may have to deliver bad news in the process.  Whatever the case, you probably realize procrastinating will only make it worse.  Examples of critical conversations can be; informing others (partners, family or banker) of farm financial conditions; rental discussions with landlords; farm transition needs/realities with family members—as well as many others.

There are several books and self-help guides probably written on this topic.  Many guidelines and tips are very good but, often easier said than done.  I will offer some here that I have found to be helpful to me personally and professionally.  This is after attending numerous trainings myself as well as working with many students, producers and employees over the years.  I hope you find some of these helpful.  I am not an expert in this area but, have some practical experience.

  1. Try to minimize the emotion in the conversation. Talk to a neutral 3rd party in confidence first if you feel a lot of stored up anger, regret, disappointment or you feel taken advantage of. Work out some of your emotions first.  When you meet, it certainly would be accurate to let the other party know how you have felt but, doing it under control will likely lead to better outcomes for you and all concerned.  If someone does get emotional—let it happen as those feelings are probably very real, acknowledge their feeling for what they are—then attempt to bring it back to the real decision at hand.  Set the tone by using a calm and quiet voice.
  2. Try to pick the right time for the conversation—maybe let them know ahead of time or even schedule it in advance.  It is maybe OK to let them know a general topic but, save the real content for the actual conversation.  Don’t procrastinate though, just because you anticipate the conversation will be uncomfortable—or someone will get emotional.
  3. Make a very brief list of your expectations of necessary items to discuss before you meet. When you meet ask the other conversation participant to state their expectations for the discussion—then list yours.  Ask if you both agree these are the correct topics.  Set a tone for mutual respect.
  4. Prepare yourself to be satisfied with shorter term or interim discussion points—where you can maybe more easily find common ground or understanding. “Don’t try to solve world peace in one meeting”.
  5. At the end of discussions, affirm what you have heard, as a way to conclude. So, what I heard is “we both agree on……. But, we disagree on……….”.  Be careful to not put words in someone else’s mouth.  It is OK to ask the other party to clarify a point you may not agree with by asking; “Could you help me understand…or could you clarify….”? You may find out you may not have understood their reasoning; there may be information you were not aware of or, their information maybe primarily a feeling versus fact.

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