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Stay Agile to Improve Success in 2015

Planning with flexibility in mind can help you be proactive, rather than reactive, when changes in markets, weather and other variables impact your operation.

By now, you’ve likely already begun implementing your 2015 cropping plan — seed order is in; your fall fertilizer is down; spring fertilizer is locked in; herbicide decisions are formulated. As you continue developing next year’s plan, don’t forget to factor in some flexibility.

Long-term planning is critical for any business, maybe more so for agriculture. What makes farm planning different is the mountain of variables. From global production, economics and politics to factors as local as a poorly drained low spot on the northwest quarter on the home place, many factors influence your outcomes. Then consider how fast any one — or 10 — of those variables can swing. (How many predicted sub-$60-per-barrel oil back in October?) That’s why it’s important to constantly monitor variables, focus on the ones you can influence or control, and adjust your plan accordingly. As you do so, here are some things to consider:

  • Will disrupting your corn-soybean rotation pencil out? How about beyond 2015 or 2016?
  • If winter weather shut down your fall tillage routine, what is your backup plan to manage crop residue?
  • If you harvested wet fields, how will you alleviate compaction?
  • Do you know which herbicides you used on each field in 2014? Do you understand the plant-back restrictions for each product and how each impacts your crop rotation decisions?
  • Do you have flexibility in your seed orders to adjust if you decide to shift acres? Or what if you want to better focus racehorse hybrids on only your best acres, should margins tighten even more?
  • Can a different or larger tractor or other piece of equipment improve efficiency or help you reduces other costs, such as fuel or labor?

Among the most important factors is an openness to new ideas and a willingness to seek off-the-farm resources. Often, fresh thinking can open our eyes to practices we’ve never considered. Although those adjustments can help us through the more challenging times, they frequently become the new operating standard and continue paying dividends when conditions improve.

The agricultural economics department at your state’s land-grant university provides a good starting point. Many provide constantly updated, localized operating budget worksheets; farm program analysis; and decision-making and planning tools. The American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers includes an Accredited Agricultural Consultants program that offers various services.

When it comes to equipment, your Case IH dealer can help you evaluate options to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve your bottom line. Don’t overlook neighbors, ag lenders, suppliers and industry associations. Each can provide ideas and serve as a sounding board. Be sure to tap all available resources. In 2015, doing so might be more critical than ever.

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