From the Fields: How Would You Rate Your Ag Customers as Business Managers?

By Jeff Wilke, Denmark State Bank

As the calendar turns to 2022, there is no shortage of old and new challenges facing the ag customers we work with — continued high feed prices, escalating crop input costs, supply chain delays, labor shortages, etc. In order to weather the storm of this next round of challenges and future storms, it has never been more important for farmers to be good business managers.

That being said, the question I pose is — How would you rate the farmers you work with as business managers? This may be a subjective process in many ways. However, there are objective standards to consider when rating a farmer’s management skills or Business IQ, as Dr. David M. Kohl, Professor Emeritus, Ag & Applied Economics at Virginia Tech, calls it.

Per Dr. Kohl, Business IQ contains for cornerstones — Planning, Strategizing, Executing & Monitoring. From Dr. Kohl’s findings, ag producers with high management skills have plans for all areas of their farm operation, using those plans to prioritize their strategies; then executing those strategies using sound data, objectivity and intuition; and finally, and just as importantly, periodically monitoring the results.

From these cornerstones, Dr. Kohl has developed a Score Card that analyzes 15 management factors specific to ag producers. The Score Card can be found by doing a search for “Dr. David Kohl Business IQ”.

The factor getting the most attention is “Knows Cost of Production”. Other factors include creating goals, keeping a solid internal record keeping system, maintaining a modest lifestyle, continuously attending agricultural seminars/courses, and maintaining certain attitudes. Farmers who have many of the factors addressed in writing score much higher than those who have nothing documented.

In order to continue to build on their management skills, Dr. Kohl recommends that a farmer reexamine/re-score their Business IQ annually to see where progress has been made and where progress still needs to be made.

The bottom line is that a farmer that has strong management skills/Business IQ can navigate through challenging times (“weather the storms”) by keeping a close watch on their ability to plan, strategize, execute, and monitor the various aspects of their farm business.

Coming up on January 4, 2022, ag bankers have the opportunity to hear directly from Dr. Kohl as he shares his outlook for 2022 and beyond. Be sure to check out the Midwest Economic Forecast Forum, and you can even invite your ag customers to join your group to hear directly from Dr. Kohl as well. The session will be recorded and available for two weeks, so even in January 4 doesn’t work for you or your clients, check it out online.

Happy Holidays.

Wilke is Vice President, Agribusiness Lender at Denmark State Bank and serves on the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board.