A steady decline in commodity prices and land valuation over the last few years have created a steady increase in economic anxiety among farm families throughout southwestern Kansas. The Kansas State University Farm Analyst Program is expanding its efforts to help farmers get a firmer grasp on their economic situation and provide long-range planning through their Farm Financial Workshops.

The K-State Research and Extension Department has provided farm analysis since the commodity price depression of the 1980s. K-State extension associate Robin Reid said the farmer's need for informed financial advice is as strong now as it was then.

"Because of the downturn in the farm economy we've been trying to find ways to help farmers who've been having some struggles," Reid said. "We want to make sure they have their business poised to withstand the financial stress.

"Our farm analyst services have really ramped up in the last few years."

In mid-July of 2012, the price for a bushel of wheat sat at $9.12, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Even as recently as February 2015 farmers were getting about $5.50 for their wheat. Prices thus far in 2018 have fluctuated in the low-$4 level. Corn prices have also seen 40-60 percent declines in the same time periods.

K-State's Extension department convened a large meeting last year in Doge City to inform farmers about ways to navigate the struggling farm economy. To serve farmers on an individual basis, the Farm Financial Workshops are designed for individual farm families to be paired with a farm analyst in a one-to-one setting and provide analyst services at a price far below that which the farmers and their families would have to pay to a private consultant.

"We recognize that everybody's operation is unique in the enterprises they have," Reid said. "So we wanted to bring the analysts and families together in a more condensed way."

Farmers will submit financial documents prior to the workshop so an analyst can evaluate their overall financial position, including assets, debt structure, and potential problems with working capital. The analysts will establish an enterprise budget for each venture a farm may be undertaking. The analyst will walk into the meeting with suggestions for possible changes or simply improvements to a farm's operations.

"We do a whole farm business plan," Reid said. "From there we can project net farm income for the following year and look at the potential cash flow. It can assess the overall financial health of the farm. The farmer can then look at alternatives to what they are currently doing that might increase profitability."

The worksop model is also designed to try to catch farms that perhaps are not in financial distress yet, according to Reid. The workshops can help farmers transition operations to the next generation of their families in a way that establishes profitability for the long haul.

"It can be good to have a second set of eyes look at what you're doing," Reid said.

The Dodge City workshop will be Feb. 8 at the office of the Kansas Farm Management Association. Sessions run approximately 4 hours so registration is very limited. Deadline for registration is Jan. 22. More information on farm analyst services from K-State's agriculture economics department can be found at agmanager.info, or call Reid at 785-532-0964.

To contact the writer email sedger@dodgeglobe.com