A little planning now can pay big dividends for producers

Soybeans at West TN AgResearch and Education Center

Whether a producer grows soybeans, like these at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, wheat or any other row crop, before harvest is a good time to review farm management plans. Photo courtesy UTIA.

Although cool, wet weather has delayed crop progress in some areas this season, many growers are now shifting to harvest mode, and Chuck Danehower, a farm management specialist with University of Tennessee Extension says growers should take some time before harvest to review their end-of-season plans.

The first step, said Danehower, is to evaluate harvesting power. “Do you have the combine or picker power to efficiently harvest your crop on a timely basis? Do you need an additional harvester either through purchase, lease, or by having some acres custom harvested?” he asked. If the harvest season gets drawn out due to the lateness of crops and weather, extra harvest power may be needed, he cautioned. If you need assistance in this evaluation, contact your local county UT Extension office or your area UT Extension farm management specialist.

Next, Danehower says growers should update their 2014 cash flow plan. “A quick yield and price assessment to estimate income along with examination of remaining outflows for the year can prevent problems before they occur,” he said. “Include in the outflows operating loan, equipment and land loans, cash rent, and an estimate of remaining expenses. On the income side, there won’t be any USDA direct payments coming in October. The new farm bill may generate a payment for your farm, but it would probably be 2015 before that is known. If you estimate a shortfall, start exploring now ways to address it,” he said.

Updating your marketing plan is the third step Danehower recommends for a review of your management plan.  Will you be able to fill your contracts? Talk to your local elevator for alternatives. Prices have been trending downward, so evaluate carefully whether additional contracting should be done before harvest,” he said.

Danehower adds that it’s a good idea to explore post-harvest strategies, such as selling to potential end users of your crop such as ethanol plants or livestock producers. “Keep in mind that just because you have storage arranged for your crop, doesn’t mean you have to use it.”

The farm management specialist also reminds producers to identify weak areas of their fields as harvest gets ready to start. “What corrective measures can be made for next year?” Include weed problems in your assessment, he said. “Resistant weeds should be particularly identified as a small problem can quickly get out of control the next year.”

“While the weed problems are fresh in your mind, explore what you can do this fall and in 2015 to control any problems. Many universities, including the University of Tennessee, have field days right before harvest starts and these would be a good place to evaluate control measures appropriate for your farm,” said Danehower.

As harvest begins, Danehower says producers should consider tax planning. “If you wait until December, it is too late. Talk to your accountant and share your cash flow assessment. Any major tax planning should always be for economic reasons as well as saving taxes. Taking on additional debt to save a little in income taxes, may not be feasible, he cautioned.

Finally, Danehower reminds growers that the whole process is continuous. “It’s time to start formulating 2015 plans,” he said.  “Evaluate whether you will plant wheat for 2015. It won’t be long before you will be asked to start making 2015 seed purchases.”

The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, including its system of 10 research and education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.



Chuck Danehower, UT Extension,
scdanehower@utk.edu, 731-635-9551


Download article