Sustaining Northeast Farms for Future Generations” is a three-year collaborative project that will educate 400 agriculture producers on farm succession planning issues and resource conservation policies so that future generations of farmers will operate profitably and protect our natural resources. Of the anticipated 400 farmers receiving information on farm transfer planning, 150 will take two-three of the following action steps for farm transfer:
1) Contact organizations to learn more about farm succession and natural resource protection.
2) Talk with family members about the human and natural resource needs of the farm.
3) Identify, train and mentor a farm successor.
4) Develop a better understanding of farm transfer and natural resource protection options.
5) Inventory and evaluate human and natural resources of the farm.
6) Increase awareness of natural resource and farm transfer programs.
7) Understand loan options and the farm’s financial position.
8) Understand the tax implications for land use planning, estate planning, and farmland protection.
9) Schedule meetings with attorneys, accountant or farm transfer/resource protection staff.
10) Transfer livestock/machinery/management/
land to the next generation.
Sustaining Northeast Agriculture for Future Generations was a three year project from July 1, 2004 through March 31, 2007 that used a multifaceted approach to research and share issues in farm succession planning, natural resource and conservation, and concerns for the next generation. The major goal for the project was to have 400 farmers receive information on farm succession planning and land-use conservation policies, and to have 150 continue and take at least two or three action steps to transition their farm was accomplished using four steps.
The first step, identifying farmer education needs through a farm succession survey, was completed in early 2006 and shared with agricultural producers, state legislators, and the general public. The second, listening to eight to ten farmers outline their educational needs through focus groups, proved valuable for planning workshops and outreach that focused on the actual needs of agricultural producers.
Next, educational workshops on farm start-up and succession were to be attended by 300 farmers, and proved even more successful than anticipated with an actual attendance of 706.
Finally, 50 farmers were to receive individualized assistance on farm start-up and farm succession. This phase also proved successful, with 135 farmers receiving assistance during the course of the project.
During the project time span, April 2004 through April 2007, the farm succession workshops hosted by Pennsylvania Farm Link attracted 706 farmers who, in turn, received information on planning and land-use conservation policies. 160 responding farmers took a total of 515 action steps, averaging 3 action steps per respondent.
The action steps were identified and categorized using the following performance target indicators (followed by number of respondents)
1) Contact participating organizations to learn more about farm succession and natural resource protection. (28 respondents)
2) Talk with family members about the future of the human and natural resource needs of the farm. (121 respondents)
3) Identify, train, and mentor a successor (either an heir or an unrelated person). (100 respondents)
4) Develop a better understanding of farm transfer and natural resource protection options and programs. (76 respondents)
5) Inventory and evaluate human and natural resources for the farm. (18 respondents)
6) Increase awareness of natural resource protection and farm transfer programs available. (unmeasured – see #4)
7) Demonstrate a better understanding of the financial position of the farm and financing options for farm transfer to the next generation. (32 respondents)
8) Understand the tax implications involved in land use planning, tax assessment, estate planning, and farmland protection. (10 respondents)
9) Scheduled meetings with attorneys, accountants, or farm transfer/resource protection staff to discuss transfer/resource planning. (120 respondents)
10) Transfer of livestock/machinery/management and or land to the next generation. (10 respondents)
As more than 400 farmers received information and that the goal of 150 farmers taking at least two action steps was exceeded, Pennsylvania Farm Link was successful in achieving and exceeding this performance target.
The first part of the project was to conduct a survey of existing farm businesses in PA and NJ to identify farm transfer needs and issues related to farm business succession.
The survey was developed by Professor Andrew Errington of the University of Plymouth, England and John Baker, Attorney-at-Law of Iowa State University. It was used in England, France, Canada, Japan, Iowa, and Virginia. In August 2004, a meeting was held with PA NASS, NJ NASS, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, New Jersey Farm Link, and Pennsylvania Farm Link to discuss the survey, the time frame, and implementation. It was determined to duplicate the same survey used in Iowa and Virginia, which was also to be used in North Carolina and Wisconsin, for inclusion in a national pool of information on the needs of farmers in their succession planning process. It was then determined that the initial survey would be mailed in January 2005 with one follow-up mailing 4-6 weeks later.
On March 7, 2005, 1945 surveys were mailed to Pennsylvania farmers and 1945 were mailed to New Jersey farmers by the NASS office. The follow-up mailing was sent on March 29, 2005. Results were returned in early 2006.
The results of the survey to identify farm transfer needs and issues related to farm business succession was shared with both the general and agricultural public in several ways. Press releases outlining the results and the impacts on agriculture were sent to Pennsylvania media and agricultural media organizations. Posters containing statistical findings were displayed at various farm shows and at all PA Farm Link events. The membership of the Pennsylvania Farm Link board of directors (made up of representatives from Penn State, Delaware Valley College, Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit, the PA Department of Agriculture, USDA-Farm Service Agency, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, the Grange, the Farm Bureau, PA Farmers Union, Wildlands Conservancy, American Agriculturalist, PA Young Farmers, and several farmers at-large), each received a copy of the final report about the succession survey and discussed the implications to agriculture.
Two focus groups were held to determine needs assessment and develop educational materials to meet those needs. The first focus group was held on December 9, 2004. The group consisted of one part-time farmer and six full-time farmers of varied ages and levels of transition preparedness.
The second focus group was held in September 2005. It drew five part-time farmers who were new or just getting started with actively pursuing a farming career, and had completed a farm business plan.
Each group was asked:
1) Is there a problem in getting young people started in farming? What is it? How should we tackle it?
2) In your mind, what is the most important issue confronting farmers in farm transitions to the next generation? How well do you feel you understand this issue? How have you addressed it?
3) What is the most important issue confronting a beginner who wants to get started? What can an individual farmer do to address this issue? What can the state government do to address this issue? What can the federal government do to address this issue?
4) What is the least important issue confronting farmers regarding farm transfers? What is the least important issue for farm start-ups?
5) Do you believe that we need to heighten awareness of the need for transfer planning? If so, what methods should we use to accomplish this? Do you have a transfer plan for your farm family business? If not, why? To whom would you turn for help in planning the transfer of your farm?
6) What do you think motivates farmers to begin the transfer process? How can we use this to encourage more farmers to take action on farm transfer? What do you think motivates farmers not to begin the transfer process? How can we change this to encourage more farmers to take action on farm transfer? What is the most difficult problem that faces farmers in farm transfers?
7) Do you think retirement planning is important? What motivates farmers to retire? What motivates farmers to not retire? Have you begun planning for retirement? If not, why? What retirement options would help you transfer your farm to the next generation?
Pennsylvania Farm Link then held workshops to address the needs of farm start-up and succession planning. Several models were used, including Passing on the Farm, Preserving the Family and the Farm, and New and Beginning Farmer workshops. These workshops were held each project year during the autumn and winter workshops seasons (2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2006-2007).
The Passing on the Farm model was conducted as a day-long workshop held once a year in several different Pennsylvania counties. The topics included family decisions in a farm transfer, Business planning for a transition, financing new farmers, managing risk through crop insurance, farmland preservation, estate planning and the legal implications, and local farmers discuss how they transferred their farms.
Speakers for each topic were secured from Pennsylvania Farm Link, Penn State Cooperative Extension county offices, USDA-FSA county offices, PA Dept. of Agriculture’s PA Grows program, AgChoice or Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit county offices, local agricultural lending institutions, PA Dept. of Agriculture & USDA Crop Insurance, county Farmland Preservation representatives, regional Attorneys, and local farmers.
The Preserving the Family and the Farm workshops were held twice, once in June and once in November 2006, during the evening in two different regions of the state. A third was scheduled in June but cancelled due to lack of interest. This workshop was developed after participating in two farmland preservation/succession workshops held in 2005 and a Family Decision in an Farm Transfer workshop held in 2005. The workshop consisted of a PA Farm Link representative, a county Farmland Preservation representative, and a panel of farmers who discussed farm transfer and family issues, farm preservation issues, and available programs.
The New and Beginning Farmer workshops were offered as a full-day biannual workshops. Each year a workshop would be held in the western half of Pennsylvania and one in the eastern half, each using speakers who represented agricultural specialties that are prominent in each region. The topic for each workshop included a keynote, a start-up strategy farmer panel, finding your niche, and beyond production, which encompassed marketing and business planning. These workshops also featured a resource fair that provided everyone an opportunity to speak with representatives of various agricultural organizations–USDA-FSA, USDA-NRCS, Penn State Cooperative Extension, Farmland Preservation, Crop Insurance, county Conservation Districts, regional insurance agencies, PA Farmers Union, PA Grange, AgChoice & Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit, local agricultural lending institutions, PA Certified Organic, PA Women’s Ag Network, and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
These workshops were marketed through direct mail by Pennsylvania Farm Link and county extension offices. Handouts announcing upcoming workshops were available at all farm show appearances, at workshops, and at miscellaneous events throughout the state. Press releases were issued prior to each workshop to regional and local press, radio, and television stations. Paid advertisement was not used. Perhaps as a result, press releases and announcements were not as readily picked up by urban media as rural ones.
Each workshop model provided speakers with a general topical guideline, freeing them to focus on issues in that topic that were particularly pertinent to the region of the workshop location. This freedom was a useful tool and the workshops were successful in disseminating necessary information; however, audiences did not necessarily gain the same level or type of information as a similar workshop in a different location. For example, presenter A shared information the farmer and their family will need to gather and discuss prior to speaking with a professional. Presenter B shared less about what information the farmer needs to have prior to a visit and more about the legal or programmatic details. Neither presenter was wrong or misguiding but perhaps a more inclusive guideline, other than an open-ended topic, would have ensured that both audiences were given more similar experiences and information.
The need for development of print and electronic educational products that focus on sustainable farm entry/exit and the promotion of preservation of natural resources guided an inventory of natural resource protection and conservation organizations. This inventory led to a compilation of fact sheets for each of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania which details the mission, focus, and contact information for county conservation district offices, USDA-NRCS offices, county/state farmland preservation programs, private conservation programs and conservancies, and RC&D councils. The fact sheets were made available to workshop participants and sent to individuals as requested. They are a helpful resource for farmers in all stages of their business cycle but must be kept current as contact information changes and as new organizations form.
Several evaluation tools were used to gain feedback from farmers and workshop participants regarding meeting their information needs about sustainable farm business start-up and exit. A post workshop evaluation form was created and used for each type of workshop and was used each year to allow for annual comparison. In addition, a Survey of Potential & Beginning Farmers was developed and completion requested by all participants in the New & Beginning Farmer workshops. Finally, at the conclusion of each workshop series a follow-up telephone survey was conducted with participants of the Passing on the Farm workshops.
The post-workshop evaluations consisted of three question areas including farm experience, PA Farm Link contact, workshop specific questions, while also providing space for comments and “Please tell us the most valuable thing you learned today.”
The Farm Experience questions asked respondents to check all that apply and included:
I am thinking about getting into farming in ___ months ___ years.
I am employed on a farm ___ less than 6 months ___ 1-2 years ___ 2+ years.
I am renting a farm ___ 0-3 years ___ 3-10 years ___ more than 10 years.
I own a farm ___ 0-3 years ___ 3-10 years ___ 10+ years.
The PA Farm Link contact questions asked respondents to indicate yes or no and included:
I completed a PA Farm link application (entering or landholder).
I contacted Farm Link for information on loans, farm transfers, marketing information, other.
I attended other PA Farm Link events.
This is my first attendance at a Farm Link event.
I plan to attend other Farm Link events.
The workshop-specific questions for Passing on the Farm workshops asked respondents to indicate yes or no and included:
Today’s presentation was important to me.
From what I learned today, I plan to sit down with my family and discuss our farm’s future.
I have a better understanding of the tax consequences, if I don’t develop a succession plan.
As a result of today’s presentation, I have a better understanding of my options.
I understand the loan programs that are available for new farmers.
I plan to set up a meeting with my accountant, financial adviser, or extension agent.
I plan to set up a meeting with an attorney in the near future.
I need help in discussing my plans with my family.
I plan to learn more about farm transfers.
The workshop-specific questions for the Preserving the Family and the Farm workshops were the same as the Passing on the Farm workshop questions, however two questions were replaced including:
“I understand the loan programs…” was replaced with “I have a better understanding of farmland preservation programs.”
“I plan to set up a meeting with my accountant…” was replaced with “I plan to learn more about farmland preservation programs.”
The workshop-specific questions for New & Beginning Farmer workshops asked respondents to indicate yes or no and included:
Today’s presentation was important to me.
From what I learned today, I plan to investigate markets for my products.
I have a better understanding of the ways to structure my farm entry.
As a result of today’s presentation, I have a better understanding of my options.
I understand the loan programs that are available for new farmers.
I plan to develop a business plan for my farm business.
I plan to talk to other farmers about beginning farmer strategies.
I need help in discussing my plans with my family to enter farming.
I plan to learn more about farm entry strategies.
The farm succession survey results were returned in the Spring of 2006. Those who responded were comprised of:
43% full-time and 44% part-time farmers
82% were male and 16% female
Average age: 57 years
72% have male children and 67% have female children
91% have a high school education
21% are college graduates
32% have a potential farm successor identified, of which, 21% plan on the successor being a son, 5% a daughter, 1.5% both a son and a daughter, and 1.1% plan on someone other than a son or a daughter. 64% have discussed their retirement plans with someone.
24% plan to retire, 29% plan to semi-retire, but 40% plan to never retire. In planning for retirement, 52% contribute to pension other than social security and 37% have made an estate plan.
This information indicates that there are farmers who are making proper retirement plans, however, it also points to a need for inter-generational communication and planning regarding farm succession. Educational programs and professional advice continue to be necessary in guiding farmers toward integrating retirement and transition plans for their farm business and farm families. The continuation of the farm enterprise and retention of farmland rely on the ability to reach farmers and assist them through the decision and transition process.
Two focus groups were held during the course of this project with a total of 12 farmers participating. In these groups, discussion resulted in the following issues being raised:
Availability of land to lease (with purchase options), access to start-up capital, stigma attached to farming as a profession during school years, and lack of competitive income and benefits, are all seen as important issues in getting young people started in agriculture.
Documenting transition decisions, retirement funding other than farm sale, living arrangements, profitability, and concerns over equity over equality in a family transfer, are all seen as important issues for farmers confronting transition and succession planning. In addition, farmers in the groups mentioned that access to information is available but the impetus for proceeding with the decision process is not reached prior to a farm family emergency. Yet, the need for education assistance and access to resources to answer specific individual questions is still considered important by participants.
Several recommendations were made by the first focus group and include:
1) Conduct “how-to” educational workshops on farm transfer that should cover the basics, focus on the need to start planning as soon as possible and identify resources that can help farmers.
2) Write about farm transfers in farm publications, include case histories to illustrate farm transfer issues and how families handle these situations.
3) Develop case histories on farm transfer illustrating different situations and how they were handled. Using examples of what went wrong is just as important as what was handled well.
4) Educate farmers, in workshops and in print media, about the problems that occur if they don’t plan.
5) Develop a network of farmers that could be called on to talk to other farmers about farm transfer issues – what they did, resources they used, problems they addressed or didn’t address.
6) Develop a checklist of issues for farm transfer that need to be addressed so that more farmers understand the need to take action and know what to do.
Pennsylvania Farm Link sponsored a total of 29 workshops to benefit farmers in both start-up and succession including; 18 Passing on the Farm, 1 Family Decisions in a Farm Transfer, 2 Preserving the Family and the Farm, and 6 New & Beginning Farmer workshops. In addition, Pennsylvania Farm Link participated in two additional preservation/transition workshops.
The Passing on the Farm workshops had a total attendance of 706 with 244 attending during the 2004-2005 workshop season, 278 attending during 2005-2006, and 184 attending in 2006-2007. 86.03% of evaluation respondents were attending a PA Farm Link workshop for the first time and 67.61% planned to attend additional PFL workshops. Approximately 68% of respondents own their own farms with 7% renting, 10% being employed on a farm, and another 10% thinking about getting into farming. Additional information gained from the workshop evaluation averages includes:
Over 95% felt that the presentation was important for them.
84% plan to sit down with family and discuss the farm’s future.
87% had a better understanding of the tax consequences without a succession plan.
89% had a better understanding of their options in a farm transfer.
69% had a better understanding of the loan programs available to finance a transfer.
55% planned on meeting with an accountant, financial adviser, or extension agent.
65% planned to talk with an attorney in the near future.
84% said they plan to learn more about farm transfers.
The Family Decisions in a Farm Transfer workshop was attended by 36 individuals, of which, only 40% were attending a PFL workshop for the first time. 73.33% of respondents own their own farm, 13.33% rent, 6.67% are employed on a farm, and 6.67% are thinking about getting into farming. 93% felt that the presentation was important; however, only 46.66% planed to set-up a family meeting to discuss their farm’s future. Yet, approximately 60% felt they had a better understanding of their options and choices and planned to learn more about farm transfers.
The Preserving the Family and the Farm workshops were attended by 54 individuals; 28 at the June 29, 2006 meeting in Quarryville, PA, and 26 at the November 1, 2006 meeting in Greensburg, PA. Respondents from the Greensburg workshop shared in their evaluations that approximately 85% were attending a PFL workshops for the first time and 76.9% planned to attend another, 76.92% owned their farm, 7.69% rented, and 7.69% were thinking about getting started. 100% felt that the presentation was important and 92.3% felt they had a better understanding of their options. In addition:
84.61% planned to sit down with their family and discuss the farm’s future.
76.92% understood the consequences of not planning.
100% had a better understanding of farmland preservation programs.
53.84% planned to set up a meeting with their attorney in the near future.
84.61% planned to learn more about farm transfers.
61.53% planned to learn more about farmland preservation programs.
The New & Beginning Farmer workshops had a total attendance of 373 with 118 attending during the 2004-2005 workshop season, 149 attending during 2005-2006, and 106 attending in 2006-2007. 49% of participants returning evaluations were considering farm entry while 25% owned their farm, 9% rented a farm, and 24% were employed on a farm. 86.56% thought the presentation was important and 59.5% plan to learn more about farm entry strategies. 59.83% plan to investigate markets for their products, only 53.67% had a better understanding of ways to structure their farm entry and only 49.33% plan to talk to other farmers about beginning farmer strategies. However, 78.5% had a better understanding of their options and 72.17% plan to develop a business plan for their farm business.
135 farmers received individualized technical assistance during the project. Most, whether entering or transitioning, were seeking information on business planning, development, structure and marketing. Others desired assistance in finding agricultural lending organizations or assistance in understanding the lending process. Information and assistance was also sought on family mediation, business planning courses, health insurance possibilities, farmland preservation, legal and tax decision implications, and help in locating regional resources.
On December 18, 2006, resource materials and evaluative materials were shared with the New Jersey Farm Link, Rutgers, NJ Department of Labor, NOFA-NJ, the New Farmer Development Project and the NJ Department of Agriculture. The needs of beginning and transferring farmers were discussed and how to best meet those needs. New Jersey has the highest per acre land values of any state in the Northeast making it very difficult for beginners and putting added pressure on landowners to sell for development. New Jersey plans to host a beginning farmer workshop in the future and is looking at ways to accomplish this in an effective manner.
Based on 515 actions taken by 160 farm families, the following represent the aggregate action steps taken under this program from 2004-2007:
28 families contacted organizations, such as PA Farm Link, to learn more about farm succession and natural resource protection.
121 families talked with each other about the human and natural resource needs of the farm.
100 families identified, trained and mentored a farm successor
75 families developed a better understanding of farm transfer and natural resource protection options.
18 families inventoried and evaluated human and natural resource needs of their farms.
32 families improved their understanding of loan options and the financial position of their farm.
10 families increased their understanding of land use planning, estate planning, and farmland protection program, policies and opportunities.
120 families scheduled meetings with their attorneys, accountants or farm transfer/resource protection staffs.
10 families transferred livestock/machinery/management/land to the next generation of farm owner-operators.
Instead of holding one conference we are trying to incorporate our findings into other ongoing events connected to Northeast universities and colleges, lending institutions, local governments, state legislators, etc. To date we have shared our findings and the educational needs with the following groups.
The public: press releases outlining the findings of the survey and how that impacts agriculture were sent most local publications in Pennsylvania. Posters displaying the key findings were made and are exhibited at all outreach activities and farm events. Farmer reactions to the statistics include agreement with the situation, indicating they can’t retire due to poor profitability and problems with profitability and encouraging the next generation to even consider farming.
Representatives of PA Farm Link Board: Each board member received a copy of the final report on the farm succession survey. Board members represent Penn State University, Delaware Valley College, Mid-Atlantic Farm Credit, PA Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency, PA House of Representatives, PA State Grange, PA Farm Bureau, PA Farmers Union, Wildlands Conservancy, American Agriculturalist, PA Young Farmers, and farmers received the report and the implications of the report were discussed.
Meeting with State Senators and Representatives: Outreach included publicizing the survey results in both the farm and local press. We engaged the current chair of the Pennsylvania House Agriculture Committee to host a special meeting to share these results with members of both the State Senate and the State House of Representatives. Primarily members of the Agriculture Committees attended. A presentation of the findings was made with discussion following on next steps that could be taken to address some of these concerns.
The committee will consider several recommendations that were presented:
1) Encourage owners to rent to beginners by providing a state income tax incentive to do so.
2) Encourage farm transition planning by assigning extra points in the farmland preservation selection process to those farmers who have a farm succession plan.
3) Increase the funding to programs that raise awareness of and understanding how-to transition the farm.
Agricultural Law Forum-–On December 8, 2006 PA Farm Link presented the results of the Farm Succession survey at the Agriculture Law Forum 2006 with 27 lawyers in attendance. Participants were very interested in the findings and interested in learning more about how they could help farmers in their transition planning. Several attorneys were added to our lawyer referral list and some will attend our upcoming workshops to learn more.
The retirement statistics (40% are never going to retire, etc.) generated some discussion on estate planning, farm profitability and what strategies to use to encourage more succession planning. The question was raised about the perception that attorneys were too expensive. Although this is a legitimate concern, frequently family issues and inertia act as even bigger roadblocks to successful farm transition. PA Farm Link recommends family meetings prior to meeting with the attorney to determine plans, goals and objectives for the farm transfer, so that “attorney time” is focused on time needed for legal matters and not family issues.
A brochure was developed to announce and share the findings of the Farm Succession Survey. This brochure was available to participants in PA Farm Link workshops and at various shows in which PFL participated. The information was also visible at these shows through a poster containing key findings of the survey.
Pennsylvania Farm Link also developed a Natural Resource Guide. This guide provides a listing of USDA, State, county, municipal, and private organizations whose mission includes promotion and support of Pennsylvania’s natural resources, conservation, and preservation. This guide can be distributed by request of a specific county’s information or as a complete book of all 67 Pennsylvania counties. To date, the information has been made available by specific county at Passing on the Farm and New & Beginning Farmers workshops, as well as by individual request. This publication is helpful for farmers who are unaware of the depth and breadth of conservation and preservation organizations that operate within their county and region. The effectiveness is limited by current distribution methods, and could be increased by allowing access to the publication through web media.
Additional Project Outcomes
Impacts of Results/Outcomes
This project permitted Pennsylvania Farm Link the opportunity to reach 1304 farmers through workshops and technical assistance. At least 160 farm families acted upon information learned through PA Farm Link and took 515 action steps toward farm entry and succession. These workshops were greatly aided by the information gained from the focus groups hosted by PFL. Also, in the 2006-2007 fiscal year alone, more than 6000 pieces of printed material on farm management and succession planning were distributed upon request at meetings, by mail or phone request, or other venues such as the PA and Keystone Farm Shows, Ag Progress Days, etc.
The Farm Succession Survey results proved valuable in assisting farmers to understand the value of succession planning as a part of their overall business plan. By sharing this information with the public, as well as State Senators and Representatives, PFL increased the awareness and urgency for assistance in planning. Farm families were assisted and potentially provoked into taking action either through family discussion or succession planning prior to retirement.
The unmet need in Northeast farm succession planning is that after current programs are delivered the number of farm operators across the Northeast who did not attend these programs, but who would benefit from participation in them, is considerable. With the inevitable future transfer of property following the death of these farm owner-operators, succession will become a reality for a large number of current owners, their families and their creditors. For example, up to 6,000 full time PA farm operations will face the loss through death or retirement of their principal farm operator in the next 15 or 20 years and will transfer the farm operation as a result. Will these owner-operators take action while options available to them are available or will inertia take over?
This project will have continued benefit for Pennsylvania Farm Link, in addition to new, transitioning, or retiring farmers, by utilizing information gathered from the Farm Succession Survey, focus groups, workshop evaluations, technical assistance requests, and action step statistics to continue designing, adapting, and hosting workshops. The foundation built during this project allows for additional research and opportunities in farm succession planning. The Natural Resource Guide developed for this project will continue to benefit Pennsylvania Farm Link as a resource and starting point for new and transitioning farmers.
Pennsylvania agricultural organizations benefit in that they can utilize our Natural Resource Guide and utilize information gained through PFL workshops to assist their clients and constituents. In addition, the awareness of farm succession planning and issues facing new and retiring farmers that is now available to the Pennsylvania Legislature can only benefit farmland preservation, conservation, and agriculture programs throughout the State. The results of the Pennsylvania responses to the Farm Succession Survey not only benefit this State and Region, but will be utilized in National and International analysis of succession issues.
While those who benefited most are those that took initiative and worked to accomplish 2-3 action steps as a direct result of the project; all farmers who utilized our service, attended workshops, and asked for personalized assistance also benefited greatly from this project. New & Beginning farmers have been encouraged to assemble a business plan, understand the lending process, and to utilize resources provided through private and governmental organizations. This knowledge will guide them to set goals and to be pro active in planning for transitions and succession. Farmers who are in a later stage of the business life cycle were encouraged to communicate with their family, start succession planning as soon as possible, and to utilize various vehicles for retirement planning.
Areas needing additional study
In addition to delivering educational programs that encourage and convince owner-operators to take action, identifying motivational and behavioral strategies that can increase the participation of owner-operators in these programs in the near term would be beneficial. Research into the social behavioral science and family dynamics components of decision making, trust building, power–sharing techniques and building effective communication within and among family members can contribute to solving problems that discourage families from addressing succession planning despite having ample time to do so.
Succession planning is not only for that portion of farm owner-operators who are committed to farmland preservation, but should be directed to a broader spectrum of owners and the variety of circumstances in which they operate. An important policy tool that committed owner-operators can use to assist in accomplishing a meaningful transition is the sale or donation of an agricultural conservation easement. Families that run small businesses require a great deal of information to do effective family business succession planning. In the realm of succession planning for owner-operators there are estate planning professionals –including lawyers, accountants, insurance specialists, financial and investment service people, and extension service outreach educators – who work hard to develop and deliver educational information via consultation services, presentations, and the distribution of printed materials. Nevertheless, many families still wait too long or fail entirely to take the necessary succession planning actions Understanding why these delays occur and what can be done to overcome them is a key ingredient in reaching out to owner-operators who would not have considered such programs if the effort had not been made to understand their position.
To determine factors that motivate farm operators to embark on succession planning efforts, and the policy tools being used by operators, research is needed to determine why farm operators who have sold or donated conservation easements on their properties made that decision and then compare those observations to observations of the attitudes, feelings and beliefs of full time farm operators who have not sold or donated such easements on their land. These comparisons can be analyzed to identify and measure motivational factors of each group. Without exploring what motivates each of these groups, any analysis would be incomplete and based on partial evidence.