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The Management Calendar
Farm Business Management Update, December 2003/January 2004
By Gordon Groover
Selective information available from the Economic Research Service of USDA that might be useful:
- Agricultural Data: Many people involved in agriculture get requests for data or need to locate base data for a talk or to understand market condition. The "Data page" developed by USDA-ERS of USDA (www.ers.usda.gov/data/) has been enhanced to support multiple users. The new, improved page showcases the scope and breadth of data available from ERS in an easy-to-navigate format. An indicators section gives key facts and figures; a calendar of releases lets you know what will become available when. A resource area provides easy access to plugins and readers for working with data, as well as mapping programs, the archive collection, Information Quality Guidelines, and a sign-up for notifications of new releases. The page is also designed to provide quick access to the most popular and to featured ERS data products.
- Agricultural resources and environmental indicators (AREI) database and mapping tool is a web-based tool providing maximum flexibility in data access with the latest, on-the-fly, GIS mapping and database retrieval technologies (http://maps.ers.usda.gov/AgResources/). It is intended to eventually serve as one-stop site access to both primary source and value-added data used to generate summaries, statistics, and graphics in a broad range of ERS publications on agricultural resources and environmental indicators.
Farm business managers should consider putting the following activities on their management calendar for December-January.
- Before the end of the year (calendar tax year fillers) follow up on end-of-year tax management strategies recommended by tax advisor. Additional information can be found in IRS publication 225 Farmer's Tax Guide at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p225.pdf.
- Begin closing out the farm books by collecting information for the farm net worth statement. Around the first of the year, when you need to walk off all that holiday food, take a notepad or the camcorder out for a walk around the farm. Recording number and approximate value of all the farm assets (cattle, tractors, machinery, buildings, inventories of grains and feedstuffs, chemicals, etc.) that can be organized on the asset side of the balance sheet. Be sure to save the notes or, better yet, the recoding in a safe place (safety deposit box or fireproof box) for possible insurance claims. Review your end-of-year bank statements and contact your lender for current listings of your liabilities.
- If you are using cash accounting methods for tax purposes (computerized business records or hand kept), you need to make sure your actual records match the deposit and check dates for all claimed income and expenses.
- Plan to get all tax records summarized and to your tax advisor by February 1, and check with your Virginia Cooperative Extension's farm business management agent on farm-related changes in state and federal taxes. A listing of Virginia tax credits can be found at the following site: http://www.tax.state.va.us/site.cfm?alias=TaxCredit3. Make sure that your tax advisor is aware of these changes.
- Using last year's financial and production records, develop projected budgets, cash flow, and income statements for 2004.
- Depending on the type of farm, begin working on a marketing plan for 2004 by collecting information on prices and world market situations. Be sure to check with your local Farm Service Agency for changes in government programs and signup deadlines.
- Check on crop insurance policies by visiting the Risk Management Agency web site at http://www.rma.usda.gov/ to find an agent and to view the multitude of policies that are available in your area.
- After the first of the year, work on projected budgets and cash flow.
- Closeout and summarize livestock and/or crop records for 2003 noting problems that must be addressed when making cropping, feeding, and breeding decisions during 2004. Compare 2003 records to previous years looking for strengths and weakness.
- Review 2003's crop, hay, and livestock records for labor problems, bottlenecks, and down times. Include all employees in spotting and planning to correct labor bottlenecks. Draw up a labor flow chart listing estimated times and identify employees who will be responsible for major tasks.
- Schedule regular meeting with all workers and family members to discuss work activities as you gear up for the spring push. Make sure all workers feel free to suggest ways to improve efficiency.
Virginia Cooperative Extension