GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For Marianna farmer and rancher Ken Barton, the combination of business and family is more than just a balancing act – it is his livelihood.
Barton is 10 years away from retirement, and concerned about how he will hand over the reins of the family business he established in 1979 to his son and son-in-law.
“I think one of the things that kind of sticks out in my mind – what will I need to do to make sure that when I’m ready to retire – or simply have a smaller share and smaller responsibility – how do I leave that to my children without a huge tax burden on them or me?” Barton asked recently. He owns 260 acres and leases another 1,500 to grow row crops and raise cattle. “That’s my concern ─ that we can transfer that farm and those assets to the next generation without hidden things – things that we’re not aware of that could cause us the most problems.”
Many Florida farming and ranching families face that same question, and that’s where the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Extension program, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Department of Financial Services, are stepping up with a new take on the 6-year-old Florida Saves program. It’s called Agriculture Saves ─ or AgSave$ ─ and it is designed to help farmers and ranchers make that transition from one generation to the next.
It is so important that Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and state agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam are issuing a proclamation on Feb. 5, declaring February 23 – 28, 2015, as Florida Saves week.
“Whereas, 80 percent of surveyed farmers plan to transfer their operation to the next generation, but only 20 percent feel confident their succession plan will achieve that goal,” the proclaimation reads. The Florida cabinet is set that morning to sign the proclaimation, which also encourages military families to save money.
“Personal and household savings are fundamental to financial stability, yet it is estimated that 50 percent of Americans currently live paycheck-to-paycheck,” said CFO Atwater. “By sponsoring this resolution, we can help to ensure that Florida has a more secure economic future through education efforts and by encouraging smart, responsible financial decisions.”
Beginning Feb. 23 in the Marianna, Jay and Monticello communities, North Florida extension offices are holding a series of talks to help farmers and ranchers plan for their futures.
“Building wealth in general is an important part of people securing their longtime financial futures,” said Michael Gutter, a family financial management state specialist and interim program leader in the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences. “In fact, most business owners, especially farmers, are tying up a lot of their income, a lot of their wealth, in that family business. So it’s important to diversify and make sure that they have other sources of revenue available to them for later on in life, as well as being able to reach some of their goals ─ including sending their children to college to learn even better ways to run the family business.”
Some questions ranching and farming families should ask include:
- Are you interested in participating in the family operation? How?
- Are you prepared to assume that responsibility? If no, what would it take to prepare?
- Should family members not active in the operation attain or retain an ownership interest? If no, how should family assets be distributed?
- If you want to be included in the operation, are you willing to invest in an ownership interest?
- What is your biggest question, or unanswered concern, regarding succession intentions?
- Are there any other succession-related topics you would like to add to the agenda for an upcoming meeting?
Anyone in the agriculture industry can attend the Extension’s AgSave$ Summits in Marianna and Jay, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST and Monticello, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. EST. Lunch will be provided thanks to Farm Credit of Northwest Florida. The session focuses on retirement planning and succession planning. Other sessions will be held in the evenings via the Internet on March 24, June 23, July 21 and Aug. 18. The series costs $55 and will include a Farm Journal Legacy Project Workbook.
To register online: bit.ly/AgSavesSummit
Video available at: http://ifasgallery.ifas.ufl.edu/m4v/solutions/Agsaves.m4v
By Kimberly Moore Wilmoth, 352-294-3302, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Michael Gutter, 352-273-3529, email@example.com
Photo: The Barton Family. Photo by Shepard Eubanks, UF/IFAS