Some Suggestions for Your New Year’s Resolutions

Rincker Law Ag-vocacy, Food & Ag Law, Social Media and Technology 2 Comments

Here we are.  Last day of 2009.  I cannot believe how fast this year has gone.  I started 2009 in Cheyenne, Wyoming and ended it in New York City at Rincker Law, PLLC.  I am extremely grateful for my friends and family who have been supportive along the way.  It’s snowing outside here in NYC today — nothing better than starting the next year with some fresh snow on the ground to brighten the city.  It’s a great time to reflect on 2009 and make resolutions for 2010.  So what are your New Year’s resolutions?

Here are some suggestions as you drink your last cup of coffee in 2009:

1.  Make 2010 the year that you get your farm out in the public.  Sponsor a community softball team or donate extra product to the local homeless shelter.  Volunteer at your local 4-H fair and go talk to youth about agriculture in schools.  Host a farm tour.  Get some media and communications training.  Write a letter to the editor and ask your local radio station if they would be interested in interviewing you.  Get a farm website if you don’t have one already and keep it updated.  Hire a professional photographer to help put your farm in the best public light.  If you aren’t already, make 2010 the year that you have an active voice on social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and blogs.

2.  Make 2010 the year that your farm reevaluates its business structure. Holly Foster wrote a great article in this month’s National Cattlemen titled “Too Busy Ranching to Plan.”  In that article, she asks “[w]hether you operate a sole proprietorship or are part of a family corporation, is the current business structure optimal for management and positioning it to transfer to the next generation?”  This is a question that should be answered by your attorney and accountant.

3.  Make 2010 the year that you get your estate planning in order.  In addition to a possible change in business structure, should you create a trust?  Again, this is a question for your attorney and your accountant.  Furthermore, do you have your Last Will and Testament created and up-to-date?  If you used a will creation computer program I would suggest taking it to an attorney making sure that the will was validly executed under your state laws.  Do you need a health proxy and/or power of attorney?  I also suggest making a binder complete with all your important documentation including bank account numbers and credit card numbers so your family can easily find your assets if something should happen to you.  If you run and operate a farm or ranching business, does your spouse or children know how to take over the reigns if anything should happen (even temporary hospitalization)?  It is important for families to talk about these issues.

4.   Make 2010 the year that you get on top of your finances. In Holly’s article, she asks “[h]ow have you traditionally sourced your most significant cost inputs in the past and should you be looking at more cost-effective approaches, including forward contracting?”  During my masters study in ruminant nutrition, it was readily apparent that feed costs were the number 1 reason why a livestock operation either made or lost money for a year.  I am a big supporter of our extension education system and believe that every farm should have a good working relationship with their extension specialists (e.g., Cornell University Cooperative Extension).  Have an extension specialist or hire a consultant run a profit analysis on your farm to help highlight areas that could be improved.  Many cows in the Midwest have a higher body condition score that they need — perhaps money can be saved in your feeding program while also raising healthier more productive livestock.

5.  Make 2010 the year you get involved in national, state, and local politics. It’s easy to complain about the laws but what have you done lately to voice your opinion to legislators?  Keep up your memberships with agriculture commodity groups like American Farm Bureau Federation (“AFBF”) who are in Washington and your state capital lobbying each day for your rights.  Write to your congressperson or state legislator on issues that affect you.  I interned once upon a time for a Texas Congressman in Washington, D.C.  Every single piece of mail that comes into the office is looked at.  Even if you just get a form letter back, your letter likely went into a database that the Congressperson will look at before voting on a particular bill.  The legislative aids have likely read your letter and they will be the person will give the congressperson his/her opinion before voting.  You letter doesn’t have to be long-winded.  It could simply be a postcard saying how to vote on a particular bill.  Try to include the bill number if you have it.  Furthermore, local politics are often overlooked but in my opinion local politics make the biggest difference in your everyday life.  Get involved with City Council or your local Zoning Board.  We need more agriculturalists involved on every level of politics.  And finally, vote.  You lose your ability to complain when you don’t exercise your right to vote.

6.  Make 2010 the year you get your contracts and agreements in writing. Even if your transaction is with a family member or trusted friend, get the terms of the agreement in writing.  I recommend hiring a professional but with some transactions it does not make economic sense to hire an attorney; however, even then the parties should put the terms of the agreement in writing.

And finally, don’t forget the most important things in life — family, friends, faith and health.  Happy New Year and hope you have a prosperous 2010!

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  2. A great option to help with the New Year’s Resolution to put your farm in a positive light is to sign up on

    Farms can get their own blog and set up a group and discussion forum with their farm name and keep in touch with your friends, family, and community while sharing the positive aspects of farm life and farming.

    Anyone interested in being part of the discussion about farming can set up these discussion groups, as well. If you eat, you are invited. Let’s make sure farmers are well represented!

    Happy New Years!

    Mike Murphy

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