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Farm Management Minute: Best Secret on the Prairie

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As an instructor with the SD Center of Farm/Ranch Management (SDCFRM) program, I am not sure I am proud of the title of this article. In the past few months, I have signed up a number of new participants and, after working with them the first day, this is what I hear-"This program is the best thing that I could have found for my operation!" Hearing these words again, just last week, has driven home the idea that the Farm/Ranch Management program, based out of Mitchell Technical Institute, is the best secret on the prairie! So, I want to break that trend. We want everyone to know what we do for the producers we work with. I was under the assumption the articles that our instructors write were telling our story. Obviously, we were wrong so today I wish to inform you of all the things the Farm/Ranch Management Program has to offer.

The objective of the SDCFRM is to provide farmers a better understanding of the business and financial aspects of their farm operation. This is delivered one-on-one at your farm office, kitchen table, or wherever you want to meet. The program also stresses confidentiality.

The Center does individualized instruction on computerized accounting systems, goal setting, and keeping accurate production and financial records. Instructors meet with our students monthly at their operation and are always just a phone call away. Assistance with cash flows, cost of production, crop/livestock budgets and calculating breakeven prices are just a few of the things instructors can help the client with. At the end of the year, an analysis is run on the whole farm and individual enterprises to help determine the success of the goals set for the past year, and to help set goals for the coming year. SDCFRM also assists the operators explore strategies to reduce risk, along with helping for tax preparation and annual renewal meetings with the bank. In fact, bankers love us as it makes their job so much easier!

So, what is the outcome if a farmer/rancher enrolls with the Center? First, the producer is making a commitment of time-to work with an instructor and do monthly accounting-but from that commitment the benefits are many. The balance sheets, cash flows, and income statements required by the financial institutes are more accurate. Bankers tend to be more generous with producers that bring in accurate numbers. Preparing for pre-tax meetings or tax time, in general, takes less time, which can sometimes lead to less expense at the accountant's office. Identifying strengths and weaknesses of the operation is another benefit. If an enterprise loses money every year, should it be continued? SDCFRM helps identify the profit/loss of those enterprises. Instructors also share information that has been acquired through their connections with industry, or any other knowledge that may help an individual operation. Sometimes, it is just helpful to use our staff as a sounding board!

SDCFRM currently has three instructors across the state but would love to expand to more if the need is there. The Farm Business Management program has been a part of SD agriculture, at a variety of schools, for about 30 years. The SDCFRM program at MTI is the last program left in the state, and has grown tremendously in the past few years. As an instructor, I would like to see it continue as I know the benefits it has given many producers in those 30 years.

If anything in this article has peaked your interest, give our staff a call. If you are still not sure it is for you, I know a few "students" that would be willing to share why it may be an answer to your prayers. To contact the SDCFRM office or any of our instructors, call 1-800-684-1969 or email us at sdcfrm@mitchelltech.edu.