Growing in Agriculture: Succession Planning
Growing in Agriculture
By Lucas Lentsch, Secretary of Agriculture
January 21, 2016
Agriculture is a risky business. From the whims of weather to the often unpredictable nature of the commodity and livestock markets to the cost of inputs, there is much in agriculture we can’t control. Because of the uncertainty, it’s important to take the time to manage the things we can control. One thing all families involved in agriculture can do is take the time to sit down and discuss how your farm, ranch or agriculture related business will transition from one generation to the next.
An important first step is preparing a team of advisors and putting together a schedule of succession planning meetings—a decision this important often can’t be made after only one discussion. Your succession planning team may include legal counsel, an accountant, a lender and those invested in the current and future success of your family operation. Sometimes those individuals extend beyond family. In some cases, families decide that the best course of action is bringing in a third party to run the operation, whether that’s a young producer, just starting out and looking for a place to call home, or a neighbor looking to expand. Succession planning conversations won’t be easy, but they are essential to the health of a sustained operation.
Unfortunately, health related events or untimely deaths happen in families. When life happens or tragedy hits, it is especially important that families already have a plan in place to answer the important questions. Planning now for the “what if” moments, allows all parties involved to focus on the present rather than worrying about the future.
As we start a new year, I ask every farm and ranch family to take the first step on this journey. Ask your lender, accountant or lawyer for recommendations of whom to work with. There are a number of professionals that help families work through these questions and can provide important advice and insight; however, it is most important that you find the one that works for you and your family.
If your family has done this challenging work already, congratulations to you for making it a priority. If succession planning has been on the “to do list” for some time—I encourage you to plan now. Don’t wait any longer. Your family has worked too hard to leave so much uncertain.
An mp3 audio version of this column can be found on the SDDA website.
A photo of Lentsch can be downloaded here.