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Released: November 12, 2002

NW Kansas Farm Management Program Provides Ally, Assistance for Farmers

COLBY, Kan. – Few times in Kansas history have been more challenging to farmers than this past year, but personalized help is available to producers who are working through the challenges.

"The goals of the Kansas Farm Management Association are to provide each member with information about business and family costs to improve farm business organization, farm business decisions, and farm profitability, as well as to minimize risk," said Mark Wood, northwest KFMA economist.

The Colby-based NW KFMA was organized in 1949 as a cooperative effort with Kansas State University Research and Extension and K-State’s Department of Agricultural Economics. Through on-farm visits, whole-farm analysis, and other educational programs, the association’s economists assist producers in developing sound farm accounting systems; improving decision making; comparing performance with similar farms; and integrating tax planning, marketing and investment strategies.

The two northwest-area KFMA offices are in Colby and Wakeeney. They are affiliated with the state KFMA organization based on the K-State campus in Manhattan.

"We have been members of Farm Management since the early 1990s," said Rhonda Laufer of Ludell, in Rawlins County. "They were very helpful in getting us converted to computer record keeping. They are only a telephone call away."

Her husband, Brian said visits to the farm by their area KFMA economist have been helpful: "They review your farm analysis with you – this is a good directive and really makes you think."

One of the more recent benefits they’ve received through KFMA, the Laufers said, is help with a computer program related to the new farm bill with which individual farms can analyze their situation in line with Farm Service Agency changes.

"Making significant management decisions is a tricky process," KFMA’s Wood said. "Finding sources of information to determine the ‘right’ direction is difficult. Each farm has a different mix of resources: land; equipment; technical skills and available labor. The association economist has the advantage of working directly with over 100 farms in the same geographic area."

KFMA economists know the operations by visiting the farms and by processing an annual financial and enterprise analysis of each farm’s records. Each farm’s production and financial information is kept strictly confidential.

"This baseline of financial data is a great method of identifying strengths and weaknesses of each farm operation when compared to others in the same area or even the whole state of Kansas," Wood said. The ‘right’ decision is clearer when information based on the individual farm’s resources, financial performance, and association economist experience with other farms in the area is available to the association member, he said.

"I would say that as field men, we help farmers to step back and look at the big picture," said Luc Valentin, also a northwest area KFMA economist. "Sometimes farm managers get so involved in their day-to-day routine that they don’t take the time to step back and look at their situation with a different perspective. For instance, where I am going from now on, what are my goals for my operation, how do I get there, how do I manage my farm differently so that I can help my kids to start farming?"

Valentin said the value of the analysis that KFMA assembles for each farm is particularly helpful: "With the operations getting bigger and bigger, it is really easy to get lost in complex details and not be able to pinpoint the real problems. With the analysis and the ability we have to compare the operation versus similar ones, we have a great tool to discover room for improvement or at least recognize which are the things that are benefiting this operation."

Sherman County farmer Mike Sieck of Edson, said the KFMA has been one of his operation’s best "allies" by providing an independent analysis and by developing spreadsheets, enterprise cost comparisons, cash flow analyses and tax information.

"I feel Farm Management is a great way to improve the profitability of your farm," said Tony Horinek, of Brewster in Thomas County.

For more information about the Northwest Kansas Farm Management Association, interested persons can contact the Wakeeney office at 785-743-6681, or the Colby office at 785-462-6664, or visit the Website at http://www.agecon.ksu.edu/nwkfma.

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K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by:
Mary Lou Peter, Communications Specialist
mlpeter@oznet.ksu.edu
K-State Research& Extension News

Additional Information:
Mark Wood is at 785-462-6664