Making Every Kernel Count:

Renewal Season: The Value of Partnerships

By Deb Ohlde, Central Kansas Corn Crew Representative

Farmers must be experts in many areas; plant genetics, technology, meteorology, and marketing to name a few. This time of year, many are focused on financials. The first quarter of the year is often referred to as “renewal season”.

Brenda L. Unruh, SVP-Administration and Member Services for the Kansas Bankers Association gave farmers the following tips for talking to their ag banker during this busy season.

“Talk to your banker early and often,” she advises. “They can’t be of assistance if they don’t know what you are up against as a producer.  Many times, they will be able to help you with workouts and solutions if you approach them early on so that bigger issues can be avoided down the road.”

Ongoing education is also critical for building and enhancing skills.  Many lenders, including Kansas banks offer special workshops and training opportunities during the winter to encourage producers to keep learning.  Unruh noted that even your bankers are participating in ongoing education to help you.

“The Kansas Ag Bankers division of the Kansas Bankers Association puts on an annual conference each March that focuses on agriculture trends, weather, the economy, markets, and how the latest farm bill affects Kansas farmers,” she says.

One speaker at this year’s conference will be Dr. Dave Kohl, Professor Emeritus, Agricultural Finance and Small Business Management at Virginia Tech, he speaks often to borrower and lender groups in Kansas.

I heard Dr. Kohl speak recently in my hometown of Clyde. He challenged producers to “set a goal of getting 5% better in just three areas.” He stressed focusing on only three because, “any more than that becomes too much at one time to handle effectively.”  He also spent time talking about a new Business IQ tool he has developed that emphasizes management factors and encouraged producers to complete it honestly for their own assessment and to share it with their lender.

Kansas Corn members, Lee and Margaret Scheufler, have spent many years fine-tuning their operation and that has included how they manage their financials. Margaret noted, “Our crop insurance agent and company have been an invaluable resource in helping us understand the risk management tools available and developing good marketing strategies. We have also been part of the Kansas Farm Management Association and have found that very valuable. Several area vendors also put on workshops and meetings a couple times a year; they help us with timing of grain sales, knowing our cost of production and understand the psychology of marketing.”

Farmers need solid partnerships with service providers, vendors and lenders to be successful.  Don’t forget to take advantage of the opportunities to learn new things and polish skills over the winter months.  Before long you’ll be in the tractor planting and appreciating the warmer temperatures of spring.