Cash is King in Agriculture by Steve Kluemper

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Steve Kluemper Cash

Number one, cash is king…

number two, communicate…

number three, buy or bury the competition.”

the late Jack Welch, God rest his soul

Number One, Cash is King

Steve Kluemper Farm Cash Receipts

How are your cash receipts going to be impacted by COVID-19?

FAPRI projects a $32.2 billion decrease in farm cash receipts in 2020 due to COVID-19. As you work with your consultants and advisors to determine your future, what do your projections show for 2020 and 2021 based on what you know under various scenarios?

Steve Kluemper Commodity Prices

In a recent farmdoc presentation, University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Nick Paulson and International Food Policy Research Institutes’s Joe Glauber  showed three scenarios that the WTO is using to project estimated global GDP impacts. Are you looking at similar scenarios?

Steve Kluemper GDP Estimates

Have a business plan including a marketing plan and work with it even when you are busy doing other things. Your consultant can help with this to minimize the time it takes. There will be opportunities to lock in prices in 2021 and 2022 that you won’t regret just like there have been for 2020.

Gregg McConnell and Marin Bozic delivered a great webinar by Farm Credit East, ACA about the time that should be spent on a risk management strategy for 2021 to “minimize regrets”. While the webinar is dairy focused, the concepts apply to all sectors.

Steve Kluemper Minimize Regret

The cards are pretty well dealt for 2020 and they will need to be played appropriately to get to 2021. That doesn’t mean that risks can’t be managed differently in 2021. This plan presented above is one of many strategies that are available.

Work with your consultant to set a strategy that works for you including the time involved, the frequency of review and most importantly, one that reflects the changing environment you are operating in.

What are you doing to make sure you get your fair share of the cash?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is throwing a tremendous amount of cash at agriculture to make up for some of the lost revenues. The latest reports show a new $16 billion in direct government payments going to agriculture with $9.6 billion for the livestock industry ($5.1 billion for cattle, $2.9 billion for dairy, $1.6 billion for hogs), $3.9 billion for row crop producers (with most expected to go to corn and the rest going to soybeans, cotton and others), $2.1 billion for specialty crop producers and $500 million for other crops.

How much each farmer receives will be largely based on how the USDA wants to support large vs. small producers by using individual dollar caps vs. basing it solely on production. The government is even opening up some of their Small Business Administration loan programs to agriculture which is a first but again is focused on small businesses, not large agriculture corporations with over 500 employees. If you don’t feel like you’re getting your share, notice that the poultry industry is projected to have a revenue decrease larger than dairy, yet is not getting any allocation in the $16 billion.

Are your costs generating cash?

Steve Kluemper Net Farm Income

In this environment, cash expenditures must be critically examined to prioritize needs before wants. Some commodity input costs such as energy, protein, purchased livestock, fuel and fertilizer are naturally coming down while others such as labor, DDGs and imported supplies might be increasing due to availability.

Steve Kluemper Ending Stocks

The Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture has predicted in a recent webinar that before the 2021 U.S. corn crop is harvested, there could be enough corn from the 2020 crop left over to meet almost 30% of the annual corn demand. That would be a record high level going all the way back to the over supply and resulting low prices of the 1980’s.

While low corn and bean prices are good if you are buying feed, it is not good if you are buying or renting high priced land to produce a crop that doesn’t cash flow. Cash rents far exceed returns to the land and must come down to reflect the profitability of farming those acres.

Steve Kluemper Return to Land

Now would be a good time to have a projection that can be tweaked with updated scenarios that will look quite different from those that were run two months ago. Projections must be developed and an emphasis on both business spending and personal financial habits will be critical.

Be thinking about fall fertilizer, fuel and feed costs now and have a plan as you go throughout the year. Have a rolling 12 month plan where you at least look at opportunities before you produce the product. Focus on field by field and animal by animal decisions to manage cash.

What are your top spending and investment priorities given various scenarios? What could impact the availability of key resources, supplies, processors and markets? Closely monitoring projections and activities will be crucial as you manage your business.

Number Two, Communicate

Steve Kluemper Dashboard

Communicating with Dashboards

In Dr. David Kohl’s article for Farmer Mac he talks about the importance of communicating with stakeholders. Dashboards are a great way to do that. His dashboard benchmarks for farmers and lenders is shown above.

As you work with your consultant to build your dashboard that you use to run your business and change it with various metrics over time, decide which metrics are appropriate to share with your spouse, family, employees, customers, vendors, lenders, investors, etc.

Steve Kluemper Dashboard

Give these various stakeholders a dashboard that is appropriate for them. Ask them to have one that they share with you as well. Make sure to include metrics about how you’re doing personally and emotionally and seek input from your stakeholders on how they’re doing and see you doing as well.

Communication is even more important in these volatile times. While things change rapidly, having a process to keep your most important stakeholders informed and able to provide their input is crucial. Don’t go through this alone. Let others pull on the rope with you and appreciate the successes and failures together.

Communicating with Capital Providers

Timely, accurate and concise communication with capital providers such as lenders, vendors and investors is very important, especially when you want them to relax rates and terms, defer payments, restructure obligations or even provide more capital now or in the future.

In this environment, Dr. Kohl talks about the need to have a written marketing and business plan that lays out the details of your future plans and monitors economic shifts to justify these requests and show how the stakeholders shouldn’t be harmed.

Steve Kluemper Credit Committee

The plans will need to be clear and concise and supported well enough so that the person you present it to can use it to present it to their superiors and regulators who usually make the final decision without meeting with you.

Try to find ways to establish a relationship with the credit analysts and credit committees to build your support within their organization. Be ready to take the time or use your consultant to answer follow-up questions and provide additional details.

As headwinds facing the agricultural economy persist, insured institutions must be prepared for agricultural borrowers to face financial challenges by employing appropriate governance, risk management, underwriting, and credit administration practices.” “Managing risk over the life of a loan includes: carefully documenting all lien perfections and other loan instruments; closely overseeing sale proceeds; conducting timely, independent collateral inspections; and developing a process for monitoring collateral values.” “A continuous credit grading program can help management identify credit risk early and take preemptive steps to prevent further deterioration.”

Keep in mind this guidance coming from the FDIC that will be seeing tremendous stress across most industry portfolios at their banks and especially in agriculture which has been struggling for a few years while the rest of the economy was improving. Everyone has someone to answer to and they need you to help them gather the answers.

Number three, buy or bury the competition

Steve Kluemper Buy or Bury

Assessing your Competitive Strengths and Cash Resources

Buy, Bury, Be Bought or Be Buried. Which of these four paths will you take? What are your strengths? What resources do you have available to you? You need competitive strengths and cash resources to execute your plan. With only cash resources and no competitive strengths, you can potentially buy strengths to be competitive. With only competitive strengths with no cash resources, you will need to raise cash to be competitive, usually by selling all or part of the business. With neither cash resources, nor competitive strengths, you will be buried.

Answering these questions and determining how to manage your business in this new environment can be accomplished during the process of developing your business model and a strategic plan that will generate cash and manage risk. AgriStrategies LLC can help you with this.

Excess Cash is Better than Insufficient Cash

Take matters in to your own hands. Ask for liquidity from lenders, vendors and investors when it’s available so that you have the cash to run and grow your business. Don’t wait until it’s needed. Make your case that you are thinking ahead and have a business plan as compared to others that are just going to wait and see what happens until they are bought or buried.

Maximizing liquidity and cash from all sources is crucial for the success of your business. Even if your business doesn’t need it, one of your key vendors or customers or even competitors might need a lifeline that could benefit your business. It’s important to put yourself in a situation to take advantage of these opportunities.

Cash is King. Communication is Crucial. Crush the Competition.

AgriStrategies LLC can help!

Stay Home, Stay Safe by Steve Kluemper

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Steve Kluemper Stay Home Stay Safe

With Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order and similar orders across the country, we are all spending a lot more time at home with our spouses and children.  This is a great blessing.  To help keep them safe, I am suggesting that there is something we know we should do and now would be a good time to do it as we’re looking to be productive but need breaks from work, school and Covid-19 news. 

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan sponsors the Healthier Michigan website which offers Tips for Prescription Safety, Storage and Disposal.  I suggest that you read and follow their tips.  Why do I bring this up?  Because their advice on things such as refraining from storing prescription bottles in dark places, not disposing of original packaging, never storing multiple medications in one bottle, locking up medications and more can help keep your family safe.

I know because around noon on August 18, 2019, I must have mistakenly and unknowingly taken some Ambien that was stored in an ibuprofen bottle while I was alone at our cottage on Lake Huron.  Ambien is a dangerous drug as noted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2019.  This resulted in me getting arrested for something I’ve never done before but didn’t and don’t have any memory of doing.  Before anyone, including me, knew that a medical reaction to Ambien was involved, the sheriff’s office issued a statement that spread like wildfire on social media such as www.9and10news.com, www.petoskeynews.com, www.upnorthlive.com, www.miheadlines.com, www.minews26.com, www.truenorthradionetwork.com, and of course, www.facebook.com

I have spent these past seven months being thankful that the situation didn’t turn out as bad as it could have, looking for a new job after resigning from my employer who was embarrassed by the news about me on social media, convincing the court system to dismiss all charges after they heard the facts, trying to find the right time to tell my children, family, friends, co-workers and prospective employers about the whole story, and determining where I go from here.  I have received a lot of support from my family, friends, former co-workers and prospective employers to lead me to start AgriStrategies LLC and move past this unfortunate event.  It definitely didn’t turn out to be the best time to start a business that preferably involves lots of face to face discussions, but video and phone will have to be sufficient for now.

This could have all been avoided if I had listened to the advice that was available. So, take some time to properly store your prescriptions to protect your family and avoid preventable accidents and misuse of prescription drugs. 

Why Do We Define Success? by Steve Kluemper

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Steve Kluemper Snow Day

I am sitting here today thinking about what success looks like. For two of my sons, their success is enjoying their first snow day of the school year today with no responsibilities and no on-line learning to get in the way of a highly desired day off that didn’t seem like it would ever come. For my other two sons who are in college and have far fewer, if any, snow days, their success is good grades this week to show for their efforts as they head out for spring break this weekend for their well-deserved week off.

As Lent started today, the priest challenged us to set a goal and then share it with an accountability partner. Success is achieved when we make ourselves better. However, if we could do it on our own, we would have already done it. Accountability helps us define, communicate and commit to our goal and have a higher probability of achieving it. We don’t need to share it with the world unless we want the world to help us achieve it.

I love this post from Leadership First. It’s not a competition with others, it’s a competition between me today and me yesterday. Yes, we are competing with others every day but it is really our best against their best. What are we doing to give our best? We need to define success to be our best.

At AgriStrategies, I can help you define success, which sometimes can be more difficult than actually achieving it. It is important to get out of the mindset of competing with others where you have less control and focus instead on competing with yourself yesterday where you are more in control of achieving success. Once we’ve defined success, we can create the plan to communicate it to others that will help you achieve it and hold you accountable for it to increase the likelihood of success.

Happy 75th Birthday Dad by Steve Kluemper

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Steve Kluemper wishes his Dad a Happy 75th Birthday

This past weekend I had the opportunity to take my youngest son Eli and go home to visit my dad for three days for his 75th Birthday. The father/son bond that we experience in agriculture in the family business is so remarkably strong. Our dads are our mentors, our teachers, our disciplinarians, our friends, our excuse to get out of the house when we want to, our reason for getting up early when we don’t want to, our first experience with bosses that we don’t always agree with, and where we get a tremendous amount of our common sense, work ethic, knowledge, stubbornness and love for the land, animals and family that are part of who we are.

On Friday, the three of us went to the National Farm Machinery Show. Dad loves going to that show and talking with people. I hadn’t been in a few years so it was good to see it is still as well attended as it was when I went when I was in FFA and the tobacco companies handed out free samples to anyone! It was also good bonding time for Eli and I as he asked questions and picked up all the free candy that he could. Eli was also excited to see the three houses in Louisville that we lived in before we moved to Michigan when he was 2 years old.

Steve Kluemper and Eli and Ron go to the NFMS
Steve Kluemper's house in Louisville
Steve Kluemper working with a sick cow

On Saturday, my brothers and I got to help Dad with chores on the farm and then got to have dinner together. I know my brothers and my sister and their families (see our family picture) get called on a lot to help since they live on the edges of the farm, but it was special to me to be helping and working with them in a small way on Dad’s birthday.

We stacked lumber that was cut from a tree on the farm. That reminded me of when I was Eli’s age and ended up with stitches in my head from a pry bar that slipped when Dad was moving lumber. I think about playing in the grain bins, riding on tractors and all of the other unsafe things we did as kids and how lucky we are that all we lost was three toes, my brother’s, not mine.

Steve Kluemper's Dad and barn
Steve Kluemper feeding hay with his Dad

After stacking lumber, we went through partially frozen mud to feed cows, we helped a new calf and her mother deal with some eating and udder health problems and we moved equipment around to make it all happen. It always amazes me the simple tools that come in so very handy to get the jobs done like good gates to keep things where they belong, number 9 wire to hold things together, a pickup truck, utility tractor and ATV to move people, animals, equipment and feed, ether to start the cold tractor, and of course the trusty pocket knife and pliers that are a part of Dad’s wardrobe.

That night we celebrated Dad’s birthday with a cake made by my niece, John Deere tractor cookies, a delicious supper made by my sister-in-law, a pile of birthday cards from friends and relatives collected by my sister and topped it off with watching the first three episodes of the Dukes of Hazzard, a Friday night family tradition in the 1980’s before Mom and Dad would watch Dallas.

The next morning before leaving for church we found that two calves had gotten out and needed to be rounded up and put back in their pen. Another tradition of the cattle getting out right at the least opportune time.

My time with Eli this past weekend was just as rewarding for me as the time spent with Dad. Interacting with both of them together and individually generated some great memories. When I’m another 50% older, I hope that Eli and the rest of my boys have similar feelings about me that I do about my Dad. I hope they are proud of me and thankful for what I’ve been for them.

In my line of work, I get to work with a lot of great farm families like mine. Understanding the family dynamics, having and knowing how to use the tools of the trade and managing risks are extremely important for me to help them and for them to succeed. It is so rewarding to be able to help their businesses succeed so that they can continue to have their own generational experiences of working together for the good of their business, but most importantly, for the good of their family.

My New Website

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New Website Steve Kluemper AgriStrategies LLC Logo

Welcome to my new website. It might not be fancy but I built it all myself. I would say its a minimally viable product that will continue to be upgraded as needed. I can upgrade it as necessary but it isn’t the focus of my new business. It’s just a little way to know more about me. I probably put too much information on here but it’s what I’ve been working on and I wanted to share it with everyone if you care to read it. It’s also nice to share pictures from my family’s farm and other farms.

Please use the links to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram and recommend that others do the same by sharing links to my website on those apps as well. I look forward to interacting with you and hearing your thoughts and feedback. If you have some specific ideas about improving the website and have some technical expertise to make it happen, send me a message on the Contact Me page.