2014 Outlook Meetings Announced

Farmers and agribusiness need to keep tuned into market trends, production economics and farm policy issues affecting farm profitability. Farmers, agribusinesses and others in the agricultural industry have the opportunity to learn more about the current farm outlook at an Ohio State University Extension 2012 Farm Outlook Program. Thirteen programs are scheduled beginning December 12. Meetings are coordinated by local OSU Extension office and/or local agri-business to deliver Ohio State University’s foremost authorities.  Contact the local host for registration and the speakers presenting.

December 12, 2013, Wayne County, Fisher Auditorium OARDC, 1680 Madison Ave. Wooster, 9:30 am – 3:00 pm, $10/person, Pre-register by December 5, call the Wayne County Extension office at 330-264-8722, or RSVP by email to: lewandowski.11@osu.edu

December 12, 2013, Erie, Huron, Sandusky and Seneca Counties, Bellevue VFW Hall, 6104 US Route20, Bellevue, OH, 4:00 pm registration; 4:30 pm – 8:30 pm Dinner included, Free to attend if you RSVP by December 5, or $22.00, RSVP by calling Valarie Bumb at 419-483-7340 or email BumbV@fnblifetime.com   

December 13, 2013, Mahoning County, MetroParks Farm 7574 Columbiana-Canfield Rd, Canfield, 11:00am-3:00pm, $10 per person, Lunch included, RSVP by calling the Mahoning County Extension Office at 330-533-5538 or email  barrett.90@osu.edu

December 16, 2013, Ashland County, Fraternal Order of Eagles Club, 400 East Lake Dr., Ashland OH, Registration 9:30am, Meeting at 10:00am, Free with RSVP, Lunch included, RSVP to Sutton Bank, John Augenstein 419-207-3648 or jaugenstein@suttonbank.com

December 16, 2013, Seneca County, Attica Fairgrounds, Social Hall, 15131 E. Twp Rd 12, Attica OH, Registration 4:00pm, Meeting at 4:30pm, Free with RSVP, Dinner included, RSVP to Sutton Bank, Chris Willman 419-426-6253 or cwillman@sutton.com

December 17, 2013, Darke and Shelby Counties, A Learning Place, 201 Robert M Davis Pkwy, Piqua, OH 45356, Time: 11:30 a.m., Lunch included, $20 per person, Pre-register by December 10, call the Darke County Extension office at 937.548.5215, or RSVP by email to: custer.2@osu.edu; or Shelby County Extension Office at 937.498.7239, or RSVP by email to: brown.1522@osu.edu  

December 17, 2013, Darke and Montgomery Counties, Miami Valley Career Technology Center, 6801 Hoke Road, Clayton, Ohio 45315-8975, Room 406 Adult Education Center, Time: 5:30 p.m., Dinner included, $20 per person, Pre-register by December 10, call the Darke County Extension office at 937.548.5215, or RSVP by email to: custer.2@osu.edu

December 18, 2013, Pickaway and Ross Counties, Circleville Presbyterian Church, 134 E Mound St, Circleville, OH, 7:30am – 10:30am, Free, Breakfast sponsored by Kingston National Bank, RSVP by December 12 by calling the Pickaway County Extension Office at 740-474-7534 

December 18, 2013, Fayette and Clinton Counties, OSU Extension, Clinton County, 111 Nelson Ave., Wilmington OH, 12:00 noon – 4:00 pm, Lunch included, Cost: $15, RSVP by December 13, Call the Clinton County Extension Office at 937-382-0901 to RSVP

December 18, 2013, Champaign and Union County, Union County Services Building, 940 London Ave, Marysville 43040, 6:00 pm-9:30 pm, Free to attend with RSVP by December 11, Call the Union County Extension Office at 937-644-8117 to RSVP

December 19, 2013, Wood County, Wood County Fairgrounds, Junior Fair Building, 13800 West Poe Road, Bowling Green, OH, 10:00 am – 2:00 pm, $15 per person Lunch included, Reserve by calling Wood County Extension at 419-354-9050 by December 16, Contact: Alan Sundermeier at sundermeier.5@osu.edu

December 19, 2013, Defiance County, Jewell Community Center, Defiance County (Jewell, OH), 5:30pm-9:00 pm $15/person, RSVP by Dec 12, Registration form at: http://defiance.osu.edu, Call: 419-782-4771

December 20, 2013, Fairfield County, Fairfield County Ag Center, 831 College Avenue, Lancaster, 11:00am to 02:00pm, Lunch provided, No fee but advance registration required by Dec 16, Call: 740.653.5419 x 23, For more info email: hogan.1@osu.edu

Changes to Section 179 & Accelerated Depreciation Limits for 2014? Will there be another 11th Hour Save by Congress?

By: David Marrison, Associate Professor and Extension Educator

Over the past decade, Congress has repeatedly allowed faster depreciation of capital assets to stimulate business investment by providing a “bonus” depreciation allowance in the year the asset is purchased. The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 extended the depreciation bonus through 2012 to encourage new equipment purchasing.  This was then extended through the end of 2013 by Congress in early 2013.  This Accelerated First Year Depreciation or Bonus Depreciation allowance coupled with I.R.C. § 179 Expensing have allowed business to write off capital expenditures immediately minimizing taxable income or creating a loss from these schedules. 

Accelerated First Year Depreciation for 2013 is limited to 50% of the purchase price.  To qualify, the asset must have its original use begin with the taxpayer (only new equipment) and have a depreciable life of 20 years or less. Virtually all farm-use assets have a depreciable recovery period of 20 years or less, and accordingly are eligible. Bonus depreciation is most effective when applied to assets with a longer recovery period, such as machine sheds and shops (20 years), or drainage tile and culverts (15 years). Currently, the tax law does not extend bonus depreciation past December 31, 2013.

I.R.C. § 179 expensing allows farmers to elect to deduct part or all of the cost of qualifying farm assets in the year they are placed in service.  It applies to machinery, equipment, and special use or single purpose agribusiness buildings, such as bins, drying systems, and livestock barns. But it is not available for general purpose agricultural buildings, such as machine sheds and shops, nor is it often available to landlords who purchase or construct properties used by a tenant.  New, used equipment and certain software are eligible for this deduction. The equipment, vehicle(s), and/or software must be used for business purposes more than 50% of the time to qualify for the Section 179 Deduction.

While it is a great tax incentive, there are limits to Section 179. In 2013, this deduction is limited to $500,000 and is scheduled to plummet to $25,000 in 2014.  The total amount of Section 179 claimed cannot exceed the total amount of the taxable income the farmer is reporting for 2013.  Under current law, the dollar limit after which the maximum deduction allowed is reduced dollar for dollar remains at $2 million for 2013.  This investment will drop to $200,000 in 2014.

What’s the difference between Section 179 and Bonus Depreciation?
The most important difference is both new and used equipment qualify for the Section 179 Deduction as long as the used equipment is “new to you” while Bonus Depreciation covers new equipment only. There are rules which prevent the sale of equipment between related parties.  When applying these provisions, Section 179 is generally taken first, followed by Bonus Depreciation. 

The Future?

With the dis-functionality of Congress, it is hard to get a good read if farmers will get an 11th hour extension with regards to the percentage and limitation amounts for I.R.C. § 179 Expensing and Accelerated First Year Depreciation.  In more normal times, there would be a good chance the Section 179 deduction would stay closer to $500,000 versus $25,000.  However, this is not a normal time in Congress and with bigger fish to fry with another round of government shut down talks, farmers should not count on any changes to Section 179 and bonus depreciation for 2014.  And if there are changes, it may not be until after the Mid-term elections.

With the reduction of the I.R.C. § 179 to $25,000 and the potential elimination of accelerated first year depreciation, farm business should examine if now is the time to consider such a capital equipment purchase.  If you are having a very good year and NEED to upgrade or get new equipment, it may be a good move to do this before the end of the year. Be careful however not the let the tax tail, wag the business dog.  If you have started the construction of new grain bins or other larger projects, make sure those are finished by year-end as these items need to be placed in serviced before the end of the year to get the deduction.

A warning exists.  If farmers have been using these measures and have financed their equipment, they may find their tax bill going up since they now have income with no tax depreciation to help offset it and still have to make equipment debt payments.  Evaluate your current situation to determine if purchasing depreciable assets is appropriate.   Consultation with a tax professional is highly suggested.  Don’t buy “new paint” or “new steel” without first doing a comprehensive cost analysis.

Additional information on Accelerated First Year Depreciation or Bonus Depreciation allowance coupled with I.R.C. § 179 Expensing can be found on the Internal Revenue Service’s web page at http://irs.gov.

Annie's Project Meetings Planned

By: Gigi Neal, OSU Extension-Clermont County, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator

Ohio Annie’s Project team is making plans for upcoming programs.  Programs consist of Risk Management Assessment through the original Annie’s Project curriculum and complimented by Farm Finance and Farm Transition through the Annie’s Project- Managing for Today and Tomorrows Success curriculum.

Annie’s Project is an educational program dedicated to strengthening women’s roles in the modern farm enterprise.  Through six educational sessions, Annie’s Project fosters problem solving, record keeping, and decision making skills in farm women.  Annie’s Project RMA workshops are open to all women in any facet of agricultural life, from the novice individual starting fresh in agriculture to the veteran production farmer.  Women will gain valuable knowledge into the six sessions of the course including:  human resources and time management; business plans, property ownership and leases; financial documentation, retirement, estate planning, and using spreadsheets; risk management and insurance; financial records and how to interpret them; and topic chosen by participants.

Annie’s Project Level II – Managing for Today and Tomorrow through “Investing for Your Future for Farm Families” and “Programs in the Intersection of Farm and Family Finance.” 

“Investing for your Future for Farm Families” is titled simply “Farm Finance” in Ohio and participants will examine the interconnected nature of farm and personal investment decisions.  Participant will discuss basic investing topics: successful financial management; investment terms (e.g., diversification, dollar-cost averaging, and asset allocation); finding money to invest; specific types of investments (e.g., stocks, bonds, and mutual funds); investing with small dollar amounts; investing resources; and investment fraud. This information lays a foundation to help participants understand how and why they are investing.

“Programs in the Intersection of Farm and Family Finance” is simply titled “Farm Transition” in Ohio and participants will learn and build their Estate Plan by looking at:  Who will get Grandpa’s Farm, Who gets Grandmas Yellow Pie Plate, Retirement and Estate Planning for Farm Families and Getting Ready for Estate Planning.  At the conclusion of the Farm Transition participants will have their estate plan in order and ready to proceed to the next level.

Champaign, Delaware and Union Counties are planning an Annie’s Project January 15-February 12, 2014 (Wednesday’s) in Marysville, OH.  For more information contact Amanda Douridas (937-644-8117, douridas.9@osu.edu) or Rob Leeds (740-833-2030, leeds.2@osu.edu)

Coshocton County is hosting a Farm Finance program from February 18 – March 25, 2014 (Tuesday evenings).  For more information contact Emily Adams at 740-622-2265 or adams.661@osu.edu.

Contact your local County Extension Office for more details or interest in planning a program.  County Educators are adding programs throughout the year.  You may also contact State Coordinators: Christine Kendle, Extension Educator, Tuscarawas County at 330-339-2337 or kendle.4@osu.edu or Gigi Neal, Extension Educator, Clermont County at 513-732-7070 or neal.331@osu.edu.


Financial Trends and Issues in Agriculture

By: Chris Bruynis, Assistant Professor & Extension Educator

Agriculture industry leaders have expressed their concern for the financial health of farmers over the next few years. Are we looking at another period similar to the early 1980’s? Most everyone agrees farmers are in better financial health and have better debt to assets ratios than in the eighties.  However, that does not mean there won’t be financial stress and some farms will not survive the financial tightening that appears to be coming quickly.

Data from the University of Minnesota’s FINBIN Farm Financial Database was used to examine the trend in financial positions of over 300 crop farms between 1,500 and 10,000 acres (average 2,500 acres) in the Midwest states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Missouri from 2009 through 2012. The data shows a nice upward trend in gross farm income and good growth in net farm income from operations. Net farm income from operations includes the change in inventory and prepaid expenses adjustment to connect expenses and income to the calendar year the production occurs. 






Gross Cash Farm Income





Total Farm Cash Expenses





Net Farm Income from Operations










Current Assets





Current Liabilities





Working Capital










Total Assets (market)





Total Liabilities





Current assets are those assets that can be sold in the calendar year and turned into cash. Included in these would be grain held, accounts payable, and prepaid supplies in inventory.  Current liabilities are those expenses that the farmer is committed to pay in the next twelve months.  This includes items such as operating loans, accounts payable, loan interest due this year and the current portion of term loans. As farmers have increased their farm income and current assets, they have also increased their current liabilities.  Even with increasing current liabilities, their working capital increased and their liquidity position improved.

Examining farm solvency shows a similar trend as liquidity. Solvency is the ability of a farm business to pay all its debts if it were sold tomorrow. Farm assets are up over $2 million while farm liabilities grew $630 thousand. Farmers during the past four years have also improved their solvency ratios as well.  This all look promising. So why are agricultural professional concerned?

The concern centers around the recent drop in crop prices and the predictions that crop prices may average around $4 corn and $9 soybeans for the next three years. If this occurs, farm income would return to 2009 levels ($3.77 corn and $9.55 soybeans reported by the sample farms). Looking at the chart above, farmers would have approximately $1.30 million in income (2009) and $1.38 million in expenses (2012).

Will the farm expenses fall likewise? There could be some softening of farm inputs, but intermediate and long term loan payments for land and equipment will not change. Although some of the purchases were financed from profits, the current liabilities on the balance sheet increased from $585 million to $683 million.  Also the renegotiation of land rents downward will be slow to occur.  In addition, farmers have increased their personal living expenses on the average from $68 thousand to $88 thousand annually in the past four years.

This sets the stage for farmers to potentially loss $150 thousand or more annually for the next few years.  So is this problematic?  In this sample, the average farm can withstand this because of a healthy working capital balance of $1.16 million. But what about the farmers that have borrowed excessively to purchase new equipment and tile in order utilize accelerated depreciation as a tax management strategy? Or the farmer who has purchased additional land at high market prices?  Or the farmer who has aggressively rented land for top of the market prices and rented land is 90% of their operation? Some farms businesses may be at significant risk of financial problems.

Farmer’s should be examining their working capital and overall financial position now to prepare for the possible financial belt tightening that could occur in the next few years.  Because of delaying crop income to the next year, farmers who primarily manage taxes and not overall finances will not realize the impact on their financial position until 2014 or 2015, which may be too late to take corrective action.

Property hazards don’t disqualify immunity under Ohio’s Recreational User Statute

Peggy Hall, Asst. Professor, OSU Extension Agricultural & Resource Law Program We often explain the Ohio Recreational User’s Statute to farmland owners because the  law provides liability protection when someone asks to hunt, fish, snowmobile or conduct other recreational activities … Continue reading

Farm Transition, Estate and Retirement Seminar

Do you have a concrete plan in place to transition the family farm to the next generation? OSU Extension will offer a Farm Transition, Estate and Retirement Seminar on Tuesday, December 10 in New Philadelphia. This event is for all generations involved with the family farm.

The purpose of the program is to offer tools and education to farm owners who are preparing to transition the farm to the next generation. Topics include trusts, gifting, protecting farm and personal assets, federal estate taxes, insurance options, retirement income and security, family communication and much more.

Speakers include Robert Moore, Attorney, Wright Law Company; Larry Gearhardt, OSU Extension Taxation Field Specialist; Chris Zoller, OSU Extension Educator Tuscarawas County; and Emily Adams, OSU Extension Educator Coshocton County.

Seminar check-in begins at 9:30 am with the program scheduled from 10:00 am until 3:00 pm. Cost of registration is $15 per farm family and includes lunch and a resource notebook. The seminar is made possible with generous support from Farm Credit Mid-America and PNC Bank.

The program will be held at the Kent State University Tuscarawas Branch in the Ohio Small Business Development Center, Room ST209, 330 University Drive NE, New Philadelphia, OH 44663.

Registration and payment is required by November 27. Registration forms are available online at www.coshocton.osu.edu.

Contact Emily Adams, OSU Extension Coshocton County, for more information at 740-622-2265 or adams.661@osu.edu or visit www.coshocton.osu.edu for more details.

Disciplining Farm Employees

by: Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, ANR

A farm manager recently discussed with me concerns he was having with an employee and wanted suggestions for disciplining his employee.  Following is an article written by Dr. Bernie Erven, Professor Emeritus and OSU Extension Specialist, that describes ways to effectively discipline employees.

Discipline is an unpleasant responsibility. Doing it poorly only compounds the unpleasantness. Doing it well, on the other hand, reduces employer frustration, increases employee morale, makes the firing of an employee rare, and reduces the threat of legal action by disgruntled former employees.

Effective discipline can be made a management strength. Building a reputation as a fair but tough disciplinarian is a goal with many long-run benefits.

Three guidelines:

1. Take effective preventive action to promote employee self-discipline and to minimize the frequency of disciplinary action.

2. Use effective disciplinary techniques including the hot stove rule and progressive discipline.

3. Reward supervisors and employees for their efforts to minimize disciplinary action.

Using Effective Disciplinary Techniques

The preventive actions will assure that most of your employees will require little more than their own self-discipline. No matter how effective your preventive actions may be, however, you will sometimes need to discipline.

You may follow the general guidelines in the hot stove rule, use progressive discipline, or even resort to an often short-sighted approach – firing.

Hot Stove Rule

The rule is actually an analogy based on a person touching a hot stove. The analogy provides four discipline basics that are applicable to many situations.

Think about deciding to touch or not touch a hot stove. How does the hot stove influence your decision? The hot stove rule suggests four ways in which the hot stove is like good discipline:

1. Warning
The stove provides a warning. One can feel the heat and know that touching will burn. (Employees need to know their employer’s rules. The rules provide a warning.)

2. Consistent
The stove is consistent. One need not guess whether the hot stove will burn; it always burns. (Employees need to know that the rules will be enforced every time they are broken. Discipline will not be a surprise.)

3. Immediate
The stove burns immediately. No time is lost between the touch and the burn. (Employees should know that the discipline will come soon after each offense. Saving up discipline problems until the next performance review or until the supervisor is less busy means the discipline will be less effective.)

4. Impersonal
The stove is impersonal. The stove burns its owner in the same way it burns someone who encounters it by accident. (Good discipline treats each violator in the same way. The best employee, a family employee, and a problem employee receive the same fair treatment.)

Progressive Discipline

The intent of discipline is to change what a problem employee is or is not doing. A problem that occurs over and over is more difficult to deal with than a single-event problem.

For example, it is more difficult to deal with an employee who regularly refuses to use safety equipment than to deal with an employee who received a speeding ticket with a business truck for the first time in five years.

Changing problem behaviors that are repeated is akin to eliminating bad habits.  Changing a bad habit is difficult. One warning from a supervisor is unlikely to have much impact. Progressive discipline is designed to stick with the employee until there is no longer a problem.

Progressive discipline incorporates four steps, each more severe than the previous step:

1. Verbal warning

2. Written reprimand

3. Suspension

4. Discharge

Communication is the key to progressive discipline.

The communication’s primary objective is to help “save” a problem employee by letting him know there is a problem, what needs to be done to take care of the problem and by when it has to be done.

The secondary objective is to help build a defensible case for firing the problem employee.

Lack of communication sends an unintended message to the problem employee – your performance is okay even if you know that it really isn’t. Ignoring a problem rarely brings a satisfactory solution. Lack of communication assures that there will be neither a commitment by the employee to improve nor a plan on how the employee intends to improve.

The communication associated with discipline can be emotional for both the employer and employee. The employer should get all the facts before the discipline, communicate in private, stay calm, document what was said and resume normal relations with the employee after the discipline.

The steps in progressive discipline and their timing vary from employer to employer. Most, however, follow a basic pattern.To illustrate, an employer has a rule that all employees are to call in when they are going to have an unexpected absence from work. Not calling in four times in a 24 month period leads to automatic discharge. Each employee is allowed one freebee, an absence without calling in, every 24 months.

The first offense after the freebee triggers progressive discipline. Given this rule, progressive discipline might be applied as follows:

Verbal Warning
Terry, an employee, was absent without calling in. He had already used his freebee. Bob, Terry’s supervisor, talked with Terry his first morning back on the job. Bob confirmed that Terry had been absent and had not called in. He then explained the rule and asked Terry if he had any questions about the rule. Terry said the rule was clear. Bob reminded Terry that if he went 24 months without a repeat of the problem, his personnel file would be purged of any record of this first offense. Bob wrote a summary of the conversation for Terry’s personnel file.

Written warning
Seven months later, Terry again failed to call in. Bob gave him a written reprimand the following day. The written reprimand again explained the rule, reminded Terry that this was his second offense and explained the consequences of third and fourth violations of the rule during the next 17 months. Bob again asked if Terry had any questions about the rule.

He asked Terry to sign a statement saying that he had received the written reprimand. Bob reminded Terry that if he went 24 months without a repeat of the problem, his personnel file would be purged of any record of the two offenses.

Fourteen months later, Terry again failed to call in. Bob prepared a letter for Terry explaining that he was suspended from work without pay the following day for having had three offenses of the rule after his freebee. Again, Bob explained the rule and gave Terry opportunity to ask questions.

The letter made explicit that another offense within the next three months would cause automatic discharge. Bob again had Terry sign that he had received the letter and explained how he could have his file purged. Terry then went 24 months with no repeat of the problem and his file was purged of Bob’s written material about the three offenses after the freebee.

The employer’s intent is to never use progressive discipline but to stand ready to use it effectively when an employee’s behavior requires action. Once the progressive discipline process starts, the employer’s hope is that the employee will make further steps unnecessary because the problem has been corrected.

Discipline without punishment is an alternative to traditional progressive discipline. Progressive discipline without punishment makes change the employee’s responsibility and coaching the employer’s responsibility.

The oral warning in the first step makes clear to the employee that he has a responsibility to change his behavior.

The second step repeats the first step except the warning is in writing.

The third step includes a one day decision-making leave with pay. The employee is asked to decide whether he or she chooses to remain with the business and follow the rules or resign.

The fourth step is automatic discharge.

 If you have questions related to this topic or other farm employee management issues, please contact me.

 (Source: Dr. Bernie Erven, Professor Emeritus & Extension Specialist, The OhioStateUniversity)