U.S. Farm Liquidity Measures Projected to Decline in 2020

by: Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, ANR

Click here for Article (access the figures)

Liquidity is a measure of the ability of a farm to use cash or ability to convert assets to cash quickly to meet short-term (less than 12 months) liabilities when due.  Data from the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service (USDA-ERS) forecast a continued decline in 2020 of liquidity on U.S. farms.  This article discusses two metrics, the current ratio and working capital, to evaluate liquidity.

Working Capital

USDA-ERS projects farm working capital to decline from the 2012 level of more than $160 billion to $52 billion in 2020 (see Chart 1).  Working capital is the value of cash and short-term assets that can easily be converted to cash minus amounts due to creditors within 12 months.  These are considered “short-term” assets and liabilities.  Having adequate working capital is important for a farm to meet obligations as they come due, take advantage of pre-pay discounts, and manage through price declines or unexpected expenses.

Like many things in agriculture, knowing how much working capital a farm needs varies based on several factors.  These include farm size, farm type, and market volatility.  The working capital to gross revenue ratio is a measurement of the working capital divided by the gross sales of the business. This ratio measures the amount of working capital compared to the size of the business.  Lenders prefer a working capital to gross revenues ratio of 40 percent or better. This means that if the business has $1 million in gross sales, working capital would need to be $400,000 or 40 percent of $1M.  When the working capital ratio falls below .20, a farm may have difficulty meeting cash obligations .in a timely manner.

Chart 1. (Source: USDA-ERS, February 5, 2020) (see PDF version to access charts)

Current Ratio

The current ratio is calculated as total current assets divided by total current debt (or liabilities).  Current is defined as less than 12 months.  Current assets include: cash, accounts receivable, fertilizer and supplies, investment in growing crops, crops held for storage and feed, and market livestock.  Current liabilities include: accounts payable/accrued expenses, income and social security taxes payable, current portion of deferred taxes, current loans due within one year, current portion of term debt, and accrued interest.

USDA-ERS expects the value of current assets to decline 3.5% and current liabilities to increase 2.3% in 2020.  The current ratio of U.S. agriculture was 2.87 in 2012 and is projected by USDA-ERS to fall to 1.42 in 2020 (see Chart 2).  If a farm has $100,000 in current assets and $70,000 in current liabilities, the current ratio equals 1.42.  A current ratio of 2:1 or greater is desirable and indicates a farm has $2 in short-term assets for every $1 in short-term debt.

Chart 2.  (Source: USDA-ERS, February 5, 2020)  (see PDF version to access charts)

Management Tips

Farm financial management is critical in today’s volatile environment.  Consider the following management tips:

  • Complete an annual balance sheet. Using your numbers, calculate trends.
  • Compare your numbers with recommended benchmark values.
  • Discuss your numbers with your lender.
  • Contact your local Extension educator or enroll in the Ohio State University Extension Farm Business Analysis and Benchmarking Program (https://farmprofitability.osu.edu/).


Assets, Debt, and Wealth, United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/farm-sector-income-finances/assets-debt-and-wealth/

Deterioration of Working Capital, University of Illinois Farmdoc, https://farmdocdaily.illinois.edu/2020/03/deterioration-of-working-capital.html

Improve Understanding of Your Farm’s Working Capital, Michigan State University Extension, https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/improving_understanding_of_your_farms_working_capital

Minding Your Balance Sheet and Working Your Working Capital, University of Illinois Farmdoc, https://farmdocdaily.illinois.edu/2019/01/minding-your-balance-sheet-working-your-working-capital.html

The Basics of a Farm Balance Sheet, Ohio State University Extension, https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/anr-64#:~:text=The%20farm%20balance%20sheet%20is,information%20about%20a%20farm%20business.&text=The%20balance%20sheet%20is%20also,solvency%2C%20and%20risk%20bearing%20capacity.



Farm Office Live Webinar Slated for Thursday, June 11 at 9:00 a.m.

OSU Extension is pleased to be offering the a “Farm Office Live” session on Thursday morning, June 11 from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m.  Farmers, educators, and ag industry professionals are invited to log-on for the latest updates on the issues impact our farm economy.

The session will begin with the Farm Office Team answering questions asked over the two weeks.  Topics to be highlighted include:

  • Updates on the CARES Act Payroll Protection Program
  • Prevent Plant Update
  • Business & Industry CARES Act Program
  • EIDL Update
  • CFAP- update on beef classifications and commodity contract eligibility
  • Dicamba Court Decision Update
  • Other legal and economic issues

Plenty of time has been allotted for questions and answers from attendees. Each office session is limited to 500 people and if you miss the on-line office hours, the session recording can be accessed at farmoffice.osu.edu the following day.  Participants can pre-register or join in on Thursday morning at  https://go.osu.edu/farmofficelive 


Being and Maintaining an Economically Resilient Farm

by: Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, ANR, Tuscarawas County

The word “resilience” is used often in the agricultural press.  What does this mean?  Merriam-Webster defines resilience as:

  1. The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress.
  2. An ability to recover from or adjust to misfortune or change.

We often see resilience used in agriculture when discussing climate and weather.  There is documented evidence of weather changes that have impacted agriculture, and farmers have done their best to adapt to these changes.  Examples include building soil health, managed grazing, the use of cover crops, water management strategies, technology adoption, and more.

Resilience can also be used when discussing the economics of agriculture and the resulting effects.  It is no surprise to anyone in agriculture that people are strained, are experiencing stress, and are trying to adjust to new and different ways of operating.

Strategies to Be Economically Resilient

  • Mission statement

A mission statement is a short description of the fundamental reasons your business exists – its critical purpose.  The statement aligns what the business says it does, what it actually does, and what others believe it is about.  The statement reflects the underlying values, goals, and purposes of the business.

Example mission statement:

“The mission of Brown Family Farms is to produce high-quality crops in sufficient quantity and quality to provide a good standard of living for our family and employees.  We believe a farm is the perfect environment to raise a family and strive to have the farm remain a viable business for future generations.”

  • Set Goals

An acronym commonly used to describe goals is SMART.  Goals must be Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timed to be useful management tools.  As you develop goals, it may be helpful to divide them into personal, production, and operational categories.

Goals should be:

Specific – and focus on a specific problem or need

Measurable – to have some means of tracking achievement

Action-oriented – action is the pathway to achieving goals

Realistic – aim high, but keep goals within the realm of possibility

Timed – to include a realistic completion date

  • Know Your Cost of Production

Do you know the true costs to produce every acre of a crop, every pound of milk, every ton of hay, and each pound of meat?   Are there some crops or livestock that make more money than others?  Are there some acres that could be converted to a use that provides a higher net return?  How does your farm compare with the established farm financial ratios?  An in-depth financial analysis can help answer these and other questions.

Visit the Ohio State University Extension Farm Profitability Program (https://farmprofitability.osu.edu/) for additional information or to enroll in the Benchmarking Program.

  • Postpone Major Capital Investments

Most everyone is already doing this, but it is a good idea to assess what investments are necessary, how urgent these needs are for your farm, and the cost of these investments.  Do you really need to buy a new piece of equipment?  Could you accomplish what is needed by hiring someone or renting the equipment?  If you need to make a major capital investment, consider not only the initial cost, but the associated “DIRTI 5” – Depreciation, Interest, Repairs, Taxes, and Insurance that must be accounted for after the purchase.

  • Restructure Debt

Discuss with your lender opportunities to refinance or restructure debt.  Do you have short-term liabilities that could be moved to intermediate notes to improve cash flow?

  • Evaluate Expenditures

Analyze your expenses to see where you might be able to trim costs without sacrificing production.  For example, can you reduce your seeding rates to reduce costs?  Ohio State University Extension has been conducting on-farm research to evaluate corn and soybean seeding rates.  Contact your Extension educator or review the trials reports here https://digitalag.osu.edu/efields/efields-reports.  Dairy farms will find helpful information and cost-control considerations here https://dairy.osu.edu/.

Talk with your nutritionist, agronomist, Extension educator, and other experts to evaluate inputs and expenditures.  Do you need every ingredient in your ration?  Do you need a seed variety with every available trait?

  • Reduce Family Living Expenses

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2018 indicate average family living expenses equaled $61,224 annually.   A February 2019 article published by the Center for Farm Financial Management at the University of Minnesota show a family of three averages almost $64,000 annually in family living expenses before paying income taxes or making other non-farm capital purchases and investments.  Are there “extras” that are costing too much?  Evaluate what you want versus what you need as a family.

  • Consider Non-Farm Income

The current pandemic may make finding off-farm employment more difficult, but there are opportunities.  Look in the local newspaper, conduct online searches, let family and friends know you or a family member could use help finding employment.  Calculate how much you need to earn at an off-farm job.

  • Seek Opportunities to Be Entrepreneurial

 Challenging times might not seem like the opportunity to get creative and extend the current workload further, but there likely are tangential opportunities to your existing business that meet the needs of the community. Maybe that is offering storage facilities, tree trimming, bookkeeping, or other enterprises. This can reenergize someone in a time when it is easy to feel down and creates a productive diversion. Some of the best creative work in this country came from a less than opportune economic environment.

  • Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

To say that operating a farm business in today’s environment is a challenge is an understatement!  There are plenty of people who want and are available to help you sort through the complexities, answer questions, and provide guidance to help you succeed.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditures – 2018,  https://www.bls.gov/news.release/cesan.nr0.htm

Characteristics of Financially Resilient Farms, University of Nebraska, https://cropwatch.unl.edu/2018/characteristics-financially-resilient-farms

Developing Goals for the Agricultural Business, Ohio State University Extension, https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/anr-45

Family Living Expenses Add Up, Center for Farm Financial Management, University of Minnesota, https://finpack.umn.edu/family-living-expenses-add-up/

Whole Farm Planning Model, Ohio State University Extension, https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/anr-52

Farm Office Live Session Slated for Thursday, May 14 from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m.

OSU Extension is pleased to be offering the a “Farm Office Live” session on Thursday morning , May 14 from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m.  Farmers, educators, and ag industry professionals are invited to log-on for the latest updates on the issues impact our farm economy.

The session will begin with the Farm Office Team answering questions asked over the ten days.  Topics to be highlighted include:

  • Updates on the CARES Act, Payroll Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), and Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) Update
  • Corn and soybean budgets
  • Supply and demand balance sheets
  • Other legal and economic issues

Plenty of time has been allotted for questions and answers from attendees. Each office session is limited to 500 people and if you miss the on-line office hours, the session recording can be accessed at farmoffice.osu.edu the following day.  Participants can pre-register or join in on Thursday morning at  https://go.osu.edu/farmofficelive 

Farm Transition in Tasmania

by: Amanda Douridas, Extension Educator

Around this time last year, I had the opportunity to travel to Tasmania to attend and present at the International Farm Management Congress. During one of the tours, we were able to meet with 3 farms who have implemented very successful succession plans. Farm transition is a struggle for many farms not only in the U.S. but across the globe. It was interesting to see the generation in their 30s and 40s as the primary managers of the farm with their parents stepping down in their 50s and 60s (but still working as much as they want to).

At one farm, the older generation decided to become more of an employee showing up at work every day at 7:30 a.m. and taking a wage. He and his 33 year old son still very much talked and discussed the future of the business daily but his son ultimately made the decisions. Another advantage to developing the succession plan at an early stage was most children did not have significant others involved yet, which can be a cause for contention in some cases.

In each instance, on and off-farm children knew where they stood within the operation and were better able to plan for their future. This is crucial for the younger farming generation especially. They know the future of the farm is secure and are able to expand or change to fit their family’s needs.

Another common denominator in the younger generation is nearly all spent 5-10 years working outside of the operation after school. Many worked on another farm or in the agriculture industry gaining valuable ideas and insights to bring back to the farm.

One farmer gave 4 rules for succession planning:

  1. Set a timeline for the plan to be finalized.
  2. Appoint someone outside the family as a mediator.
  3. Everyone needs to come to the table in a conciliatory state of mind.
  4. Start thinking about what you will do for the rest of your life.

The next generation is likely to have a different management style. That does not make it right or wrong. The older generation received the farm at a young age themselves and were able to keep that going with their children.

Lastly, have a retirement party to thank the businesses you’ve worked with and show them the next generation is in charge. This will notify salesmen that they need to stop calling you and allows the next gen to handle business partners in a way that fits the future of the operation.

There is a video available on Youtube featuring one of the families is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIKpne_VSbU&feature=youtu.be

Registration Now Open for May 6 Annie’s Virtual Reunion

By: Amanda Douridas, Extension Educator

Those who have participated in an Annie’s Project understand the camaraderie and friendships that are developed during the course. They also understand the value of education to improve the farm operation. Keeping those two points in mind, the Ohio Women in Ag team is hosting a virtual Annie’s Reunion on May 6 from 9-11 a.m.

The reunion will allow past participants to catch up with each other through virtual breakout rooms and further expand their education through 3 different tracts: Farm Management, Livestock and Food. The opening session will provide resources and inspiration for the unique challenges farms are facing right now. Breakout sessions include grain and livestock market updates, backyard poultry, food prep and preservation and more. Those who have not participated in an Annie’s Project are also invited to attend to learn more!

Registration is open until noon on May 5 at http://go.osu.edu/AnniesReunion. For questions, please contact Amanda Douridas at Douridas.9@osu.edu.

Those who have not had the opportunity to participate in an Annie’s Project are welcome to join us as well. Annie’s Project is a national program focused on farm management education for farm and ranch women. The course consists of 18 hours of education 5 risk areas: financial, human resources, legal, market and production. For more information, visit https://www.anniesproject.org/. Contact Gigi Neal if interested in learning about upcoming programs at neal.331@osu.edu or 513-732-7070.

COVID-19……Changing the Way We Do Business on the Farm

by, Mike Estadt, Agriculture Extension Educator in Pickaway County

The State of Ohio is starting the process of opening for business this week. Farms across Ohio never closed.  With developments recently with the food processing chain breaking down due to the COVID-19 virus one can easily see why it is vitally important to have contingency plans for disruptions to your business no matter how big or small.

Have you given serious thought to what would happen to your farm or agricultural business if you or a key employee(s) were to become ill due to the coronavirus or for that matter any health related event that would prevent you from getting your crop planted, managed through the growing season or harvested in the fall?

In response to this scenario Dr. Dee Jepsen, State Safety Program Leader and Lisa Pfeifer, Educational Program Manager, Agricultural Safety & Health have authored a white paper entitled “Navigating COVID-19 on the Farm” with some excellent ideas and daily best management practices to mitigate risks on your farm.  This paper can be found at: https://u.osu.edu/ohioagmanager/2020/04/23/navigating-covid-19-on-the-farm-best-practices-for-daily-management-of-s-and-people/anitation-deliveries-equipment-repairs

Another great supporting document that should be part of every farm, nursery, and ranch is an operational plan in the case of an emergency.  Quite often the details of complicated farm operations are known only be one person, the farmer.  Tyler Williams, Cropping Systems Extension Educator with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has developed two comprehensive fillable Word documents for row crop and cow-calf producers available at: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/2020/farm-operations-plans



Farm Office Live on Monday April 27

OSU Extension is pleased to be offering the third session of “Farm Office Live” session on Monday evening, April 27, 2020 from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m.  Farmers, educators, and ag industry professionals are invited to log-on for the latest updates on the issues impact our farm economy.

The session will begin with the Farm Office Team answering questions asked over the past week.  Topics to be highlighted include:

  • Update on the CARES Paycheck Protection Program
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)
  • Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) Update
  • Ethanol and biofuel update
  • ARC and PLC Forecasts
  • Other legal and economic issues

Plenty of time has been allotted for questions and answers from attendees. Each office session is limited to 500 people and if you miss the on-line office hours, the session recording can be accessed at farmoffice.osu.edu the following day.  Participants can pre-register or join in on Monday evening at  https://go.osu.edu/farmofficelive 

We are In This Together

bySarah Noggle, Extension Educator, ANR, Paulding County & Chris Zoller, Extension Educator, ANR, Tuscarawas County

Daily, farmers are taxed with challenges. We think of farmers as superheroes.  Superheroes have some sort of extraordinary power, but at times their shield is not enough to deal with what is coming their way. The weakness Superman had was kryptonite, and like Superman, farmers usually can only fight off so many scenarios being thrown at them.  The day-to-day tasks of managing a farm can cause stress and frustrations.  Add to this the impact of COVID-19 on farm commodities, and it’s obvious the strain takes its toll on everyone.

Sean Brotherson, North Dakota State University Extension, shares stress and mental health, management tips.

Why is it that some farmers can handle lots of stress and others very little? Researchers who have examined differences between successful and unsuccessful stress managers have identified three key factors. First, individuals vary in their capacity to tolerate stress. For example, prolonged exertion and fatigue that would be only mildly stressful to a young farmer but may prove very difficult for an older farmer or someone with a heart defect.  Emergencies on the farm, delays, and other problems that a confident farmer takes in stride may be a stumbling block for one who feels inadequate. While part of an individual’s stress tolerance is inborn, a crucial part depends on the quality of coping skills practiced. Learning to cope successfully with a stressor once makes it easier the next time.

A second factor is feeling in control. Successful stress managers know how to accept those stressors out of their control – the weather, their height, stock market fluctuations – and how to effectively manage those stresses within their control – such as neck tension, temper flare-ups, or record keeping.

Finally, the attitudes, perceptions, and meanings that people assign to events determine a large part of their stress levels. A person has to perceive a situation as stressful or threatening to experience stress. If you think your dog is barking in the middle of the night because of a vandal, you will experience more stress than if you suspect a skunk has wandered into your yard.

Stress can be defined as energy in a blocked or chaotic state. Individuals should seek to develop calm, free-flowing energy that promotes harmony and balance in a person’s body, psyche, and soul. To relax and manage stresses well during peak farm/ranch stress seasons – planting and harvesting – takes discipline and daily practice at controlling events, attitudes, and responses.

Following are some techniques individuals may adopt to gain control.

Control Events

Plan ahead. Don’t procrastinate.

  • Before planting and harvest, discuss who can be available to run for parts, care for livestock, etc.
  • Set priorities about what has to be done today and what can wait until tomorrow. Plan your time.
  • Say no to extra commitments that you do not have time to do.

Control Attitudes

  • See the big picture: “I’m glad that tire blew out here rather than on that next hill.”
  • List all the stresses you now have. Identify those you can change; accept the ones you cannot change.
  • Shift your focus from worrying to problem-solving.
  • Think about how to turn your challenges into opportunities.
  • Notice what you have accomplished rather than what you failed to do.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations daily. Give up trying to be perfect.

Control Responses

  • Focus on relaxing your body and mind. Keep only that muscle tension necessary to accomplish the task.
  • Tune in to your body. Notice any early signs of stress and let them go.
  • Take care of your body. Exercise regularly and eat well-balanced meals.
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes, using alcohol or other drugs, or using tranquilizers or sleeping pills.
  • If your health allows, tense and then relax each part of your body from toes to head, one section at a time.
  • Take a break. Climb down from your tractor and do a favorite exercise.
  • Take three deep breaths – slowly, easily. Let go of unnecessary stress.
  • Stop to reflect or daydream for 10 minutes. Close your eyes, and take a short mental vacation to a place you enjoy. See the sights; hear the sounds; smell the smells. Enjoy. Then go back to work feeling refreshed.
  • Think positive thoughts: “I can and will succeed.”
  • Look for the humor in things that you do.
  • Find someone with whom you can talk about your worries and frustrations.
  • Seek help when you need it. There are times when all of us can benefit from professional advice or support.

Seeking Help

Depending upon your situation, having a friend or relative to share your concerns may suffice.  Other times, you may benefit most from a trained professional.  The following are resources we hope you find useful.

So remember, like Superman, farmers can’t always hold up their shield to fight off all the scenarios being thrown at them. It’s okay to don your cape and reach out. Mental health challenges affect one in four adults according to a survey conducted by the World Health Organization in 2017. Even in our rural communities, there are sources of help. Additionally, reach out to OSU Extension in any of the 88 counties and we can point you in the right direction.



Navigating COVID-19 on the Farm – Best practices for Daily Management of Sanitation, Deliveries, Equipment Repairs, and People

by:  Lisa Pfeifer, Educational Program Manager, Agricultural Safety & Health & Dee Jepsen, PhD, Associate Professor and State Safety Program Leader, Agricultural Safety & Health

Click here for a PDF version of this article

Practices for limiting exposure and risks related to coronavirus.

While agriculture has been a part of the essential work that continues to hum with a focus on keeping our food supply chains open amid stay at home orders, it is important not to lose sight of the fact business as usual will demand course correction and new plans to keep family and employees safe, and farms operable and secure. Information changes quickly in the face of the unknowns of this pandemic, but one prediction that has remained stable is the timeline for a vaccine. It will be 12 to 18 months before a vaccine is available, necessitating plans to see farms through spring planting, summer, harvest, winter, and spring a second time. To delve into some ideas on how to navigate a normal workday on the farm in the face of a public health emergency and an economic crisis it will take thinking outside of the box and a commitment to change some rote behavior and practice.

Where do can an individual farm or operation start?

Start by examining and planning for four areas of concern.

  • Contingency
  • Keeping Family and Employees Safe
  • Equipment Use and Sanitation
  • Deliveries and On-Site Custom Services

Contingency plans or continuity of business plans keep operations running smoothly in case of any disruption. According to a current online poll conducted by DTN and data analytics company Farm Market iD, more than 69% of farmers polled don’t have a prepared backup plan should they become sick with the virus themselves. Farms need a plan for the foreseeable future, until a vaccine is widely available. Farmers plan for herd management, crop rotation, inputs, cash flow, and equipment repair. Contingency planning will just become another part of the arsenal of best management practices, otherwise a cascade of failures may result, including:

  • Insufficient operational resources
  • Loss of workforce
  • Workers who might not be adequately trained for tasks
  • Lack of someone with operational knowledge
  • Crop or product waste

Contingency Planning

Prepare written documentation of your business operations in case of illness. Communicate the plan to family or another person who can step in during a time of need. Identify the critical functions of all sectors of your business.

  • Agronomic
  • Livestock
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Human Resources

Make sure you walk through different scenarios for the farm. Include contacts for veterinary care, equipment service, feed and seed supply. Map out the farm property, including all rented ground and buildings. Note whether or not you have any tenants in housing and what the agreements are for payment.

A small farm the owner may be the sole operator, or alternatively the sole caregivers should a spouse or family member fall ill, putting that operation at greater risk if a disruption occurs.

Do the employees or neighbors identified to help have the necessary understanding of the operation and the appropriate training to do the job? Do they have access to the all needed information? Like passwords to important accounts. Can bills be paid? Gates unlocked? Are keys needed for any equipment?

Keeping Family and Employees Safe

Start with the basics, all of the CDC guidelines — thorough hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when sick. Then build from there.

  • Make sure to provide a place where employees can wash hands and have disposable towels available.
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol for remote locations.
  • Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.
  • Discourage sharing of any food or beverages.
  • Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment.

Post easy to follow guidelines for your employees in commonly utilized spaces. The CDC has printable resources online. Talk with employees about coronavirus to gauge their understanding and concerns. Keeping communications lines open will help each operation refine and make changes to new procedures.

Establish plans of work for employees built around health and safety considerations.

  • Assign jobs/tasks that can be done without the presence of another, if possible.
  • Instruct employees to physically distance six feet if a shared worksite is necessary.
  • Remember workers may be asymptomatic and physically difficult work activity can cause spread of droplets outside the recommended six feet of distancing. Take special precautions when assigning heavy labor tasks.
  • Utilize separate transportation.
  • Consider grouping employees to work in teams, to limit individual exposure.

Levels of risk associated with various jobs workers perform can differ and consideration must be given to where, how, and to what sources of coronavirus might workers be exposed. This will allow for appropriate plans to be made and protective mechanisms to be put in place in advance of those exposures. Will an employee come into contact with the general public, customers, elevator or ag business employees, on-site service providers, or coworkers? What about off of the farm in non-work environments? Do some of your employees face high exposure risks at home because of a spouse’s work setting?

Keeping family and employees safe will require the establishment of protocols for sanitizing common gathering places like the shop, lunch areas, and offices spaces on the farm property. Cleaning and disinfecting high touch areas like — door handles, phones, keyboards, light switches, monitors/touchpads, faucets/sinks, and restroom areas.

Equipment Use and Sanitation Plans

Knowing an optimal equipment use plan would allow for a single operator to reduce virus spread, what protocols can you put in place on your farm?

The goal should be to put steps in place to:

  • Eliminate ride sharing in all vehicles if possible
  • Sanitize each operator cabin upon entry and departure
  • Provide cleaning supplies for each tractor/employee

On all tractors and equipment, touch points should be sanitized. Include exterior handrails or grab bars, doorknobs or handles, the steering wheel, controls, handles to open windows, the key or start button, and the seat. Consider exterior equipment points with high touches as well, like hydraulic connections, hitch pins, 3-point hitch connection points, and the PTO.

For soft or porous surfaces such as tractor seats remove visible dirt and clean with appropriate cleaners, allowing for dry times between users. If dry times will put equipment out of rotation for too long, consider covering operator seats with a trash bag and changing between each operator. Get creative in how you can engineer protections around the farm.

Deliveries and On-Site Custom Services

Identify and coordinate a drop-off location for supplier deliveries, away from on-farm high traffic areas and housing. Create specific instructions for drop-off deliveries.

  • Provide the location and all procedures needed at the drop-off point.
  • Create signage to easily identify drop-off points.
  • List all point of contacts with contact information to assist with questions leading up to delivery and upon arrival.
  • Practice distancing with delivery drivers. Avoiding personal interaction is best.

When an outside source will be providing on-site services make a plan before their arrival. Instruct technicians, mechanics, and applicators to utilize their own transportation to and from the field if the work or service is to be performed off site.

Reference Materials

Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

Steps on the Farm to Manage COVID-19, https://www.ncga.com/stay-informed/media/in-the-news/article/2020/03/steps-on-the-farm-to-manage-covid-19

On Farm Biosecurity to Keep Us and Employees Safe, https://agcrops.osu.edu/newsletter/corn-newsletter/2020-08/farm-biosecurity-keep-us-and-employees-safe#.XpSH-39bwpI.twitter

COVID-19 Guidance for farm employers, https://farms.extension.wisc.edu/covid-19-guidance-for-farm-employers/?fbclid=IwAR0eWUgzsqbqEkYP4hWt2gVE8QRH5ca-Jzdwpd5NA6icCrM0uXCfYZzxTj4

Six possible impacts of COVID-19 on farming, https://www.morningagclips.com/six-possible-impacts-of-covid-19-on-farming/?fbclid=IwAR01wkTg6AKfxikpQs-PKsaIcVMKsybNFYRq2ERMzzlV1YBNnL6XQiomubQ

Planning for a Pandemic, https://www.ocj.com/2020/04/planning-for-a-pandemic/