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The Executive Program For Agricultural Producers

Membership: Approximately 2,000 graduates to date

Years Since Founding: 27

Program Focus: Education and advocacy

Navigating the ups and downs of agriculture today requires more than just knowledge of your crops and production practices. It requires strategic management and business skills to weather price fluctuations, changes in consumer demand and unexpected yields. For the past 25 years, The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP) has taught farmers and ranchers complex business strategy and management skills that help them remain successful no matter what the market brings. Topics such as public relations, merger/acquisition finances, niche markets, consumer trends and leadership skills are covered in the seven-day course that fills to capacity each year.

"Many extension programs are about education tools and strategy, but TEPAP is also about advocacy," says Mark Welch, TEPAP program director. "Producers need to be promoting what they do well, and recognizing that their public image and the contributions they make economically to their local communities matter. So we talk about a range of critical business management and public relations topics – more in-depth than you get in extension programs."

TEPAP draws business-oriented commercial farmers and ranchers to learn about business management for the agricultural industry. "TEPAP's goal is to help attendees become better strategic managers of their agricultural operations, from human resources and marketing to understanding the impacts of global geopolitics," says Danny Klinefelter, founder and former executive director of the organization. "We hope our participants arrive with open minds, establish long-lasting networks while they're here, and implement strategic changes once they're back home."

We hope our participants arrive with open minds, establish long-lasting networks while they're here, and implement strategic changes once they're back home.

Farm Credit's National Contributions Program supports TEPAP, funding that helps TEPAP attract and compensate top-tier faculty from around the country to teach the vast and complex curricula. "We appreciate so much the sponsorship we get," Mark says. "Farm Credit's funding helps us be able to pay for the faculty to not only deliver their course, but also stay for an evening session of roundtable discussions with the attendees. That discussion time is very informative and a huge benefit for attendees to get a deeper understanding of the topic and how it relates to their operation."

The participants are eager to learn how to take responsibility for their business, not just react to what's going on around them. TEPAP helps its participants identify trends and steps to take that will offset the negative impact of factors out of the producers' control, such as price fluctuations or weather. Mark recalls a recent graduate commenting on the benefits of the TEPAP program for his operation, "He said when lower commodity prices hit, having the knowledge he gained at TEPAP was exactly what he needed so he could focus not on how much he was losing, but on making good decisions that enabled his operation to survive the market."