Family Farm Audits

Submitted by John Wade Gaddis

Varying commodity prices, uncertain water supplies, and unseasonable weather make it imperative for a family farm to stay on top of its business. How? Here are ten items to consider:

  1. Hold Regular Meetings. Meet regularly with your lender. Meet regularly with your ditch boss. Meet regularly with the owners of the farm and keep everyone in the loop. Schedule regular meetings.
  2. Keep Entity Up to Date. Keep annual meeting minutes. File reports with the Secretary of State annually.
  3. Plan Oil and Gas Development. Do you want to sever the minerals from the farm? Should you form an entity to take ownership of the minerals?  If you are leasing or entering into a production agreement, preserve as much of your property for future development as possible.
  4. Review All Insurance Policies. Does the farm’s insurance policy provide sufficient coverage for a catastrophic loss? Should you investigate obtaining a liability umbrella to provide more coverage? What crop loss insurance should be purchased?
  5. What is Your Plan for Retirement? Everyone talks about estate planning but have you put together a written retirement plan? Will the farm ownership continue in the family?  If so, have you defined a structure that helps your heirs make decisions in a way that avoids conflict or a forced breakup of the farm?
  6. Keep Up With Special Districts. Participate in discussions with any special districts that may affect your farm. Participating in sanitation districts, water districts and metropolitan districts can add value to the farm.
  7. Participate in Governmental Long Range Planning. Many farms lie within urban planning areas. Be sure to attend any public hearings about land use planning, zoning and future annexations. Be Proactive. Contact surrounding communities to review their long range plans.
  8. Document Everything. Update farm leases. Update farm house rental agreements. Document all farm assets, including water rights and storage rights. Obtain and inventory copies of all deeds, water rights, oil and gas rights and water storage rights.
  9. Know Your Disaster Plan. Recent events have taught that monsoon rains occur, fires can quickly destroy thousands of acres and unthinkable tragedies happen. Think about the worst that can happen and have a written plan of action in place.
  10. Assemble a Team of Trusted Advisors. Assembling a team of agricultural advisors, appraisers, bankers, accountants and attorneys – that know you and know your goals, hopes and methods of operation will help meet every challenge and make the most of every opportunity.

It is important to pay attention to larger issues that affect your farm. Sometimes you can manage to review all of these issues on your own. If you need help doing this, Lyons Gaddis, P.C. performs farm audits and we can schedule one for you.  Please contact an attorney in our Transactional Group for help.