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Beginning Farmers Discuss Challenges and Recommendations at Farm Credit Panel
With financing from Farm Credit, beginning farmers Shawn and Shane Tiffany run a 15,000 head feed lot, farm 2,500 acres and run 2,500 head of yearlings.

Beginning Farmers Discuss Challenges and Recommendations at Farm Credit Panel

At a recent panel discussion at the Senate Hart Office Building arranged by Farm Credit, four beginning farmers discussed the unique risks and challenges they face, and shared recommendations to help other beginning farmers successfully establish their own operations.

After opening remarks by Sen. Pat Roberts (KS), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI), Ranking Member Senate Agriculture Committee, moderator Peyton Fair, Growing Forward Specialist with Farm Credit Mid-America, led a lively conversation among the four panelists: Adam Ingrao, an Army veteran, urban farmer and Executive Director, Farmer Veteran Coalition of Michigan; Odessa Oldham, a Wyoming rancher and Fresh Perspectives honoree; Quint Pottinger, a Kentucky grain farmer; and Shane Tiffany, a feedlot operator and rancher from Kansas.

The panelists agreed that financial risk combined with increased capital needs, along with access to the needed capital, is one of the most significant risks they face. Building their professional reputations as young farmers is an important step toward being taken seriously by the industry; finding a lender willing to work with beginning farmers is equally important. All four panelists work with their local Farm Credit lending associations.

Being prepared was the panel’s strongest recommendation for other beginning farmers. A comprehensive business plan is essential, and all four panelists rely heavily on their own plans, referring to them often and modifying them to meet changing conditions.

"GreenStone [Farm Credit Services] offered a risk management workshop where I learned about the importance of a business plan and how to lay it out,” said Adam Ingrao. “We developed ours and revisit it often. It’s been invaluable – it’s a living document for us that sets out our guiding principles.”

The panelists also agree that it’s crucial to keep accurate and complete financial and business records in order to understand exactly where the business stands so adjustments can be made to respond to changing operational and market drivers.

“Unfortunately, there’s no single financial cash flow system out there that will work for all types of operations,” says Quint Pottinger. “I developed my own system of interlinked spreadsheets that lets me plug in my actual costs and revenues and then shows the impact of those numbers. It gives me the information I need to roll with the changes that occur.”

These beginning farmers also stressed the importance of ongoing education about finances, the business environment and markets, including global influences in an increasingly connected world. A key means to acquire important lessons is through internships and mentorships, with several panelists having benefited from such one-on-one relationships, and now offering their own insights to others entering the industry.

Odessa Oldham provided a summary of advice from the panel: “Do your homework, don’t be afraid to ask questions, be conservative with your finances, and don’t give up.