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Meeting with UFARM Land Manager

You’ve made the decision to engage the help of a Land Management Company to aid you in your farm ownership needs. What happens next?

Fortunately, while the decision to turn to a land manager can be initially difficult, it is good to know that the ultimate goal of a land manager coincides with your own goals, with the overarching purpose of making your land as profitable as possible.

Owning a farm or ranch is an investment that comes with a lot of responsibilities, and can become overwhelming to even seasoned owners. This is especially true in the cases of non-farm owners, who may find themselves in the position after inheriting farm or ranch land from their deceased parents.

For the absentee or non-farm owner, spending large amounts of time arranging leases, supervising tenants, and managing farm property is simply not feasible, and many feel out of their depth as they struggle to make all the decisions that need to be made.

It is for these reasons that landowners across the state have turned to United Farm and Ranch Management (UFARM) to help them oversee and implement a management plan for their land for over 80 years.

The experienced land managers at UFARM begin by preparing a detailed inventory of all assets involved, following a thorough check-in process to itemize specific details of your property, including FSA aerial photos, NRCS soil maps, previous crop history, and a full list of buildings and structures on the property.

Then, insurance plans and options are reviewed to determine if the site has adequate coverage and the best rates. Along with insurance, property tax valuations are reviewed and compared with other properties to ensure that assessments are fair.

At this point, your UFARM land manager prepares a report, detailing his recommendations for your land’s best use and outlining ways to meet your ownership and investment goals.

Your land manager also endeavors to identify any potential problems that may exist, and make recommendations for remedying those problems through various improvements.

You may rely on UFARM to:

  • Make recommendations regarding lease options
  • Locate the best qualified operating personnel
  • Negotiate lease agreements
  • Manage and maintain homes, buildings, and other improvements
  • Develop a comprehensive operating plan covering crop or grassland rotations, tillage practices, chemical applications, etc., which are beneficial for the long-term value of the property
  • Supervise crop programs and conservation measures
  • Manage crop and livestock sales
  • Advise and oversee capital improvements
  • Facilitate participation in and compliance with government programs

While there are many more day-to-day tasks than just those listed, UFARM strives to do whatever needs to be done to work on your behalf and to make your operation sustainable and income-producing.

UFARM land managers pride themselves on keeping you up-to-date and informed about any decisions that need to be made, and to make sure those decisions have your approval. We always make sure to keep our level of involvement at your sole discretion.

An area where a land manager can be especially helpful is when arranging tenant leases—especially true when family is involved. In a perfect world, everyone would rely on a handshake agreement. However, it is best business practice to have a written lease prepared by a neutral third party to ensure both parties involved are satisfied and clear on the lease terms. UFARM land managers can prepare a number of different types of leases, and locate the best operator for the job.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is UFARM’s attention to the details that make such dramatic differences in profitability. We strive to keep up-to-date on the latest advances in marketing, science, government programs, technology, and equipment in order to help your farm continually improve.

Through frequent visits to your property, UFARM land managers provide you with timely reports that outline the status of your operation. We also are happy to take care of bills that need to be paid, and carefully review invoices for accuracy beforehand. Transaction journals are sent quarterly, itemizing farm income and expense in a clear, understandable way.

Most importantly, you can trust a UFARM land manager to always keep your goals in mind and your best interests at heart.  We are proud of our 85 year track record, and are eager to serve our clients for many more years to come. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time with your questions or concerns—we are happy to be of service to you.


Randy in field-cropped

Farmers across the Midwest are in the thick of harvest activity, and the weather has been favorable enough in Nebraska over the last week for producers to make good progress in the fields. It’s a busy time of year, and no exception for land managers, who are also working harvest hours for their clients. We checked in with one of our own land managers here at UFARM for an update on his harvest activities:

“I’ve been out in the country doing farm visits to see how harvest is progressing. While doing the visits, I’m making sure that the grain is getting to the right elevators if we have grain contracted, checking on the moisture content of the grain, and also getting a feel for what the expected yields might be on that farm.”

Strong winds swept through the state Sunday evening and all day Monday, when northeast parts of the state were in a red flag wind warning. Producers and farm managers were on the lookout for green snap on their corn as a result of the high sustained winds and the few very strong gusts. Any damage sustained may be turned into insurance, if necessary.

UFARM land managers are also undertaking much of the paperwork required for various farm programs, as well as the more basic accounting that must take place at the end of the growing season.

“In my area there are wheat acres that are being drilled and I’m in the process of getting those acres and plant dates from the tenants for Federal Crop Insurance reporting. There are always invoices that are being sent to the offices to finish out the expenses that were incurred during the growing season. Those need to be approved and paid. [Over the last month,] we finished up enrolling our farms in the most recent farm programs (ARC/PLC). We’re currently in the process of getting AGI’s (adjusted gross incomes) forms from the owners that have a share of any government payments that are to be paid.”

For many producers, enlisting the help of a land manager to take on these types of tasks provides peace of mind and takes away some of the workload, especially during busy times of year when they are needed in the field. Other landowners, who may rent out their ground, might have other full time jobs and simply don’t have the time to dedicate to these extra duties. Farm managers step in at this point to lend a hand.

Farm managers also help landowners look ahead to the coming growing season.

“As the crops get harvested and sales of the grains come into our offices we will be budgeting for the next calendar year to cover the input costs that will be needed for that year. For some owners the balance of the funds will be disbursed this fall and for some it will be in the spring.”

UFARM land managers are also dedicated to staying sharp and up-to-date with the latest educational opportunities available to them. They are ready to help clients interested in buying and selling land as well.

“This morning I just finished doing continuing education that is required by the Nebraska Real Estate Commission. The Commission requires licensee’s to have at least 18 hours of continuing education every two years.”

At UFARM, we strive to do our best for your farming operation. If you’re feeling the stress of harvest, and interested in delegating some of your necessary tasks to a qualified person, please don’t hesitate to contact UFARM for a free consultation at your convenience.

UFARM offers a full range of Nebraska land management services, including real estate sales, rural property appraisals, consultations and crop insurance. UFARM has operated in Nebraska since the early 1930’s. Contact us today!

 

Key Qualities Land Manager Should HaveA successful farm used to be judged by good yields, well-maintained fields and machinery, and timely planting and harvesting. With the burgeoning land and commodity values that characterized the first decade of the 21st century, coupled with advances in risk management and an often volatile grain market, it is clear that the skills necessary for agriculture success are often the ones that go on behind the scenes. What are the skills that a successful farm manager must possess in 2014 and beyond?

The Purdue University Ag Extension compiled a self-assessment checklist to help farmers and farm managers gauge their efforts on a number of crucial business management fronts. The first area explored deals with production management. Production management is typically described as the hands-on aspect of farm management. Managers who are well-acquainted with the processes of crop production are in a better position to achieve the goal of successful production management: To have a cost of production that is lower than the industry average. With this key aspect in mind, successful farm managers seek to stay on top of the latest technology for their particular operation, know their machinery, and focus on making their farm run efficiently at every stage of production.

The next area is in procurement and selling. Procurement deals with the purchase of needed inputs; selling with the selling and delivery of the product. Smart procurement and selling practices are critical to farm management success, and involve more than simply buying low and selling high. Seeking and getting good marketing advice, where to price products, when and how to deliver, and risks taken to enhance price are all necessary things to take into consideration.

Successful farm managers also need to be mindful of their financial management practices. Financial management involves where funds will be obtained and how they will be used. It is important for farm managers to have a good understanding of the concepts of leverage, interest rates, the rate of return on assets and equity, and the cost of debt and equity capital. Along with this, good financial farm managers also understand and utilize good tax management strategies, as well as the use of insurance to protect against financial losses.

Finally, successful farm managers have a good grasp of the risk management tools available to them. Farming involves a lot of risk; in addition to the price variability of commodities, the farm manager also faces production risks, financial risks, and legal risks as well. To combat them, successful farm managers take advantage of futures price contracts and options, crop insurance, and health, life, and liability insurance. In addition to this, farm managers must have a contingency plan, and be aware of world market trends that are occurring in the industry.

In addition to assessing these skills, it’s also important to re-visit them from time to time, to see if they are being used effectively. If you’re concerned about the proper management of your farm, contact UFARM, and they can help you assess your operation so that you are operating it to its highest potential. UFARM offers a full range of Nebraska land management services, including real estate sales, rural property appraisals, consultations and crop insurance. UFARM has operated in Nebraska since the early 1930’s. Contact us today!

Source consulted:  Boehlje, Michael, Craig Dobbins, and Alan Miller. “Are Your Farm Business Management Skills Ready for the 21st Century?” Purdue University Dept. of Agriculture Economics. Purdue University Ag Extension. Web. 04 Dec. 2014.

Meeting with UFARM Land ManagerOwning a farm or ranch is an investment with a unique responsibility. As a steward of the land, natural resources are under your control. Your financial contribution as a landowner also has the potential to allow a tenant operator to maintain a farm lifestyle. With land investor participation, farmer operators can rent at least some of the land they farm. Because of the high capital involved in both land and equipment, many young farmers in particular depend upon the availability of rented land.

Arranging leases, supervising tenants, and managing accumulated or inherited farm property is more time consuming than most non-farm residents anticipate. The string of decisions that must be constantly made often poses problems for the absentee owner. A popular solution is to depend upon a qualified land management team to implement a managerial plan to oversee an income-producing operation and to preserve the property’s resources. When selecting a management partner, consider proximity to the managed property, this helps ensure that visits are made to the property on a consistent basis.

Once a management agreement is signed, the land management company prepares an inventory of all assets involved. The land manager goes through a check-in process to itemize specific details of the property. This inventory includes FSA aerial photos, NRCS soil maps, previous crop history, and a complete listing of buildings or structures.

Insurance is reviewed at this time to determine that the site has adequate coverage at the best rate. Property tax valuations are also reviewed, and compared with other properties to determine that the farm is not being unfairly assessed.

A report is prepared which includes recommendations for the land’s best use to meet the landowner’s ownership and investment goals. Rely on your farm manager to do the following for you:

  • Make recommendations regarding lease options
  • Locate the best qualified operating personnel
  • Negotiate and prepare lease agreements
  • Manage and maintain homes, buildings, and other improvements
  • Develop a comprehensive operating plan covering crop or grassland rotations, tillage practices, chemical applications, etc., which are beneficial for the long-term value of the property
  • Supervise crop programs and conservation measures
  • Manage crop and livestock sales
  • Advise and oversee capital improvements
  • Facilitate participation in and compliance with government programs

There are far too many day-to-day responsibilities to itemize, but whatever needs to be done or whenever an opportunity arises, your land manager will work on your behalf. They have the experience and education to manage production inputs and improve margins that will make the operation profitable and sustainable.

Remember to choose a farm management company that lets the landowner choose their level of involvement. As an owner you want to make sure you are kept up-to-date, are informed of decisions made, and are asked for approval when necessary.

When looking for experienced land management, make sure to consult with the professionals at UFARM to help you get the most from your investment. United Farm and Ranch Management (UFARM) is a Nebraska-based company devoted to meeting landowners’ needs. UFARM offers a full range of Nebraska land management services, including real estate sales, rural property appraisals, consultations and crop insurance. UFARM has operated in Nebraska since the early 1930’s. Contact Us.

Successful landowners know what it takes to build and maintain good working relationships with the producers who farm their land. With the high land values and cash rental rates of the last decade, it’s even more important for both landowners and tenants to go into their business relationship with clear goals and a well-defined agreement for how best to manage the farmland.

In many cases, today’s landlords are increasingly turning to professional farm management companies to help them navigate the decisions that need to be made regarding their farmland. Two main reasons account for this change. One is that agriculture is becoming more complicated and volatile. Anyone farming in the last decade, with its rapidly burgeoning land values and commodity prices, can attest to this. Another reason is that many of today’s landowners don’t have close ties to the farm. This may be the result of farmland being passed down to non-farming children or grandchildren, the landowner not being geographically close to the land, or the landowner acquiring the land as an investment, without any prior farming knowledge.

Landlord-tenant relationshipsWhatever the case, many landowners feel they lack the knowledge to farm the ground themselves, or to find someone who is both competent and trustworthy to farm their ground, and so they turn to the expertise of experienced professional land managers to do this for them.

One of the most important decisions that farm managers help their clients make is who to farm the land. Farm managers strive to take into account each client’s circumstances, gathering the pertinent information needed in each instance to make the right decisions. They ask many questions, finding out if the land has been rented to relatives or neighbors, and if the client would like to see that continue or not. Often, there are prevailing family concerns that need to be taken into account, and farm managers have experience when it comes to these often delicate situations.

Open, candid communication is the foundational component to successful relationships. This is especially true for landlords and tenants. A professional farm manager can be an effective liaison between landowner and farmer, securing a mutually beneficial arrangement for both parties. In many instances, an impartial third party negotiator is all it takes to encourage a positive landlord/tenant bond.

When it comes to landlord/tenant relationships, it’s important to negotiate a lease that is agreeable to everyone. Farm managers are knowledgeable about different type of leases. For instance, leases that share the profit and risk, known as flexible lease agreements, are becoming more commonplace. A flexible land lease agreement is an agreement in which the rent is not paid until the after the crop is harvested. The final rate is then based upon the actual prices and yields attained in a year, rather than a set rate. This type of lease may be a good fit for both parties, and will further promote a healthy and open business partnership.

Are you a landowner? Are you striving to get the most out of your farm? Let UFARM help you determine which strategies are a good fit for you, your tenants, and your valuable land asset.

Sacramento RiverNebraska is known for its Cornhuskers, but perhaps a more likely mascot would be the Irrigators? According to the results of the 2007 Census of Agriculture, Nebraska is ranked first in the entire nation for total irrigated acres, even falling ahead of the state of California. The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years, and while the newest 2012 numbers are yet to be released, other statistics corroborate this agriculture trend in irrigation.

Specifically, areas in the north and northeast portions of Nebraska have seen the most irrigated acres expansion, where fewer restrictions have been in place up until the last year or two. Antelope and Holt Counties are ranked one and two, respectively, in their expansion of irrigated acres since 2008. Nebraska’s irrigation expansion makes sense, since our state just happens to lie on top of one of the largest freshwater seas in the nation, the Ogallala Aquifer. Combined with higher commodity prices and land values, producers have sought to expand their crop ground.

Some, however, aren’t as optimistic when it comes to water management in our state. Drought concerns, especially after the 2012 growing season, coupled with the news that certain areas of the state are being classified as over appropriated when it comes to the water supply, are keeping area farmers keenly attuned to all things water-related. When an area is deemed over appropriated, it means that the water demands on the area aren’t sustainable with existing supply. This is when the state’s Natural Resource Districts put restrictions on new applications for irrigated acres, transfers, and supplemental irrigation wells, as the Lower Elkhorn NRD board voted to do in November. The board did provide one caveat: It will grant up to 10 acres per project for those who want to complete a full circle for a pivot, up to 400 acres total, this according to Farm Journal Editor Nate Birt, on agweb.com.

While we have a collective interest in maintaining good stewardship of our water resources, it’s also in our state’s economic interest to provide farmers the opportunity to make the most of their land, and the ability to irrigate helps not only them, but the Nebraska as a whole. A study by the Nebraska Farm Bureau found that irrigation helped both the state jobs outlook and the economy in 2012. More specifically, the study found that farmers’ ability to irrigate their crops contributed $11 billion to the economy that same year.

Regarding the important findings of the study, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson explained, “The major take away from the study is that water used for irrigation in agriculture plays a critical role in the state’s economy, whether it’s direct financial benefit or helping protect Nebraska jobs. Given that reality it’s critical we as a state continue to recognize its importance as we talk about future management of our state’s water resources and the role of irrigation in Nebraska agriculture.”

Potential limits on the amount of water producers are allowed to put onto the ground are putting pressure on farmers to become ever more efficient with their irrigation systems. Farmers are researching the best practices for irrigating their crops, whether it’s being smarter about when and how to apply water, to investing in the latest irrigation technology, such as soil moisture probes and variable rate pivots, to help them irrigate as efficiently as possible.

Meeting the needs of our own land and preserving our state’s natural resources is a delicate balancing act. Don’t go it alone—let UFARM help you make the best decisions for your land in light of changing demands.

Sources: (“Study Showed Irrigation Protected Jobs, Fueled Nebraska Economy in 2012.” Nebraska Farm Bureau. 23 Jul. 2013. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.)

(Birt, Nate. “Nebraska Water Woes.” Farm Journal. Agweb.com. 20 Nov. 2013. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.)

corn chart

Courtesy of USDA

Nebraska landowners and farmers are always on the lookout for trends and forecasts of what they can expect for weather, commodity prices, and farmland values. The prospect of rising interest rates and lower commodity prices have many wondering if the high land value they’ve grown accustomed to over the last ten years is about to change.

Opinions vary, but many analysts agree that, for now, farmland values have reached their zenith. While most don’t expect there to be a bubble burst, it is generally agreed that the going rate for acres won’t continue to rise, and may have reached a plateau for the time being.

According to Iowa State Economics professor Michael Duffy, “It’s going to be more akin to a tire that gets a nail in it, a slow letdown,” he says. “A lot of it will depend if commodity prices stay in this downward trajectory or they flatten out.”

Grain prices tend to cycle from high-profit to low-profit. Corn prices have averaged $4.77 a bushel between 2006-2012, which is likely a new plateau in comparison to what they were prior to 2006. While the recent USDA report held bullish reports for corn, the corn price could still drop lower should the 2014 crop yield higher than average, resulting in the possible lowering of land values. In turn, should grain prices remain lower or recede, farmers will have less net cash income—a major driver of farmland values.

On the other end of the opinion spectrum is Terry Kastens, an agricultural economist at Kansas State University. He contends that “U.S. farmland values are at a ‘tipping point’ and could fall as much as 10 percent in 2014 as commodity prices flatten out.”

After a somewhat surprising USDA farm report on January 10th, that reported more bullish than expected corn bushels, it would seem that Duffy’s statement is more accurate, and that a leveling off of commodity prices might sustain current farmland values.

In Nebraska, farmland values rose 13 percent in the third quarter, according to the Kansas City Federal Reserve branch, whose area includes Nebraska. Some agricultural bankers said these figures, while still an increase, illustrate a moderating of prices from other recent values.

With so many variables at play, it is next to impossible to predict with certainty what Nebraska farmland values will do next, but the broader context seems to support a slow-down when it comes to money for farm acres.  In the meantime, the 2014 growing season and subsequent yields for the new crop will further determine if farmland values will continue to moderate in our state.

Let the land management professionals at UFARM help you stay on top of all the latest business and marketing trends for your farmland.  Contact United Farm and Ranch Management today.

Sources: (Martin, Andrew. “Iowa Farmland Values Hit a Record High.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg Businessweek. 12 Dec 2013. Web. 31 Jan. 2014.) (Schafer, Sara. “3 Reasons Farmland Values Could Head South.” Agweb.com. Agweb.com, 21 Nov. 2013. Web. 31, Jan. 2014.) (Hubbard, Russell. “Farmland Values Increase for Nebraska, Iowa in Quarter.” Omaha.com. 25 Jan. 2014. Web. 31 Jan. 2014.)

Just as the old adage, “A woman’s work is never done,” rings true, so too could one say this about farmers. With Nebraska farmers at or approaching the midway point of the 2013 harvest, most have already thought ahead to the ways they will manage their fields after the crops are out and before winter sets in. There is a wide array of tilling practices across the state, and even among smaller geographical areas. It seems that tilling practices are as individual as farmers themselves, and many factors influence where a farmer will be on the tilling/no-tilling spectrum.

There are two main factors all producers take into account when it comes to tillage decisions. One is soil type, and the other is soil moisture. As such, fall tillage practices vary from operation to operation, and even within operations, since one must consider the soil characteristics of each individual piece of ground. Weather conditions also have a considerable effect on how producers deal with fall tillage of their land.

Fall Tillage

Many farmers think that fall tillage is better than spring tillage, since the soil moisture profile is usually more suitable. Generally, less moisture in the ground during fall tillage leads to less soil compaction, more efficient soil fracturing, less smearing of soil, and less large soil clods, resulting in better soil quality and yields. Experts stress that staying off of wet soils has a tremendous effect on soil structure, as very wet soils compact very easily, in turn affecting yields down the line.

There are many different ways farmers till as well, and these practices also depend upon the type of ground with which they are dealing. There are certain advantages and disadvantages associated with these various forms of tilling, including their effects on soil erosion, moisture loss, fuel  and labor costs, soil structure and temperature, compaction, and dependence on herbicides. This chart illustrates the major advantages and disadvantages associated with the major tilling systems: http://cropwatch.unl.edu/web/tillage/advdisadv.

Many farmers also have livestock to consider, and tilling before putting out livestock to graze the stubble is, of course, not an option. More and more farmers are relying on cover crops to supplement their livestock during the fall and winter months, as well as to control soil profiles, add nitrogen, control erosion, and prevent runoff. Many producers find that not only do cover crops provide excellent forage for their cattle, but they also help soil to retain nutrients and moisture in the long run. Of course, large-scale grazing  of cattle can lead to soil compaction, so farmers must take into consideration both the pros and cons of putting their livestock out on various fields.

Farmers and livestock producers are continually making decisions about what is best for their operations, and realize that just because the crops are out does not mean that work stops until spring planting.

To learn more about how land tillage practices affect the long-term value of your farm, set up a free consultation with one of our experienced farm mangers.