Instant Recordkeeping Book for Small Farmers

Emmanuel Ajuzie

Southern University and A&M College

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Almost all small to medium-sized farms are found in rural America. They are mostly operated by those characterized as "socially disadvantaged farmers." This group of farmers have limited resources (such as land and capital) and lack the assets needed as collateral for securing the financial assistance necessary to run profitable farming operations. Furthermore, they often lack the managerial skills required to operate a successful farming business.

Successful farm management requires the ability to make the right decisions. Decisionmaking involves the ability to identify problems, determine alternative courses of action, analyze the alternatives, select the best alternative, implement the decision, follow-up to measure success of adopted alternatives (Beierlein et al., 1995). These farmers lack management skils. This deficiency in managerial skills has been attributed to inadequate or improper managerial training combined with the inequities associated with Extension Service Programs (Brown et al., 1995). Good skills in farm management enhances the probability of operating a profitable enterprise.

Recordkeeping is a vital step in the decisionmaking process. It provides the farmer with the tool to plan his/her operation and make future projections regarding the profitability of his/her enterprise. Farm records also provides information for management decisions. These include production decisions, farm size decisions, farm organization decisions, preparation of legal documents, reporting to the Internal Revenue Service, reporting to the Farm Service Agency to apply for loan or settle an estate, and reporting to the Social Security Administration. Information required to make these informed decisions include past costs, returns, input use and production, present financial and physical condition, and future costs, returns, and production.

One of the objectives of every business, such as farming, is to maximize profits given sets of inputs, input prices, and some output constraints. The data needed by the farm operator to obtain estimates of the profitability of his/her operation can be gained from well kept record books. It cannot, therefore, be over emphasized that recordkeeping is very crucial in the success of every business enterprise. However, in most cases, the "socially disadvantaged farmer" lacks the time to devote to extensive and complicated recordkeeping. The request by this category of farmers for a simpler record book has led to the production of an "Instant RecordKeeping Book for Farmers" by the Louisiana Family Farm Technical Assistance Project (LFFTAP) in the College of Agriculture, Family, and Consumer Sciences at Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The LFFTAP is one of the projects established by the government in most of the 1890 institutions to provide assistance to limited resource farmers who have been experiencing problems in their farming businesses.

The book comes in two volumes, one for expenditures and the other for sales. Spaces are provided for instant recording of all daily and monthly transactions throughout the year. Such prompt recordkeeping will enhance the quality of transactions and decisions made in farm management. The "Instant RecordKeeping Book" is intended to assist the farmer in collecting accurate and precise information for completing the Farm Service Agency (FSA) record book if the agency requires that only its record book be used. In that case, this record book will serve to complement and not to replace the FSA publications on recordkeeping. Otherwise, the relevant portions of the "Instant RecordKeeping Book" could be used in lieu of the FSA's record book. Apart from the sections of the book that deal with items of expenditures and sales, the operator will find other sections equally helpful. These include projected and actual cost and returns, budget statement, income statement, family living expenses, livestock record, and others. With the projected and actual cost and return table, the farmer is able to plan and project the current year's operation based on his performance the previous year. At the end of the year, he would record his actual activities. From this record, he would know how well he has done and decide whether or not adjustments and technical assistance are needed to achieve a better result the following year.

As stated previously, recordkeeping is recognized as one of the most important components of a successful farming operation. It enables the farmer to check the financial position of the family farm from year to year and analyze the performance of the farm operation. Other uses of farm records include filing income tax reports, dividing income on farms operated by partnerships, showing proof of ability to repay loans when processing loan applications, and making plans and budgets for future farming operations. Because of these essential services on farm accounts, it is imperative that every farmer, especially the category of farmers referred to above, be trained in the art of good recordkeeping. Starting with a simpler record book is motivational and rewarding.

References

Beierlein, James G., Kenneth C. Schneeberger, and Donald D. Osburn. "Principles of Agribusiness Management," Waveland Press, Inc., Illinois, 1995.

Brown, Jr., Adell, Ralph D. Christy, and Tesfa G. Gebremedhin. "Structural Changes in U.S. Agriculture: Implications from African American Farmers. In "Blacks in Rural America," ed. Stewart, James B. and Joyce E. Allen-Smith, 1995.

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