Consultants offer services to farmers

Western Canadian farmers must learn to be more than expert growers. With the farm revolution stressing diversification, expansion and marketing, many farmers today seek outside advice to help them keep up with the rapid pace of change.

“They (farmers) were coming to us for taxes and financing and now we can provide them with agriculture experts, people who have been on the farm and know how that angle works,” said Randy Mowat, marketing director for the Brandon-based accounting firm Meyers Norris Penny.

In March, the company, with 25 offices across the Prairies, merged with Winnipeg agricultural consultants Backswath Management to add agricultural expertise to its tax and accounting

services.

Terry Betker, founder of Backswath, said today’s farmers need market savvy, financing know-how and employee management skills. As well, they must understand risk management tools.

The end of the Crow Benefit grain transportation subsidy has forced farmers to look at expanding, growing special crops or investing in agricultural processing.

Those who try to do it alone are in for an uphill climb, Mowat said.

“They’ll sit down in a coffee shop and get an idea for one of these projects, but then they’ve got to get on with seeding or the cattle and it gets dropped,” he said.

“That’s where we come in. We’ll keep the ball rolling and you do what you do best.”

According to Betker, many farmers don’t understand the importance of good personnel management.

With the growth of the hog industry in Western Canada, grain farmers are going to find it more difficult to find seasonal help. Once they find the help, farm operators today need to be smart to keep it.

“You start getting up to five hired hands and it is the owners who are not able to develop a different management structure, they don’t succeed,” he said.

In many cases, the farmer who tries to be everything to all parts of his operation eventually loses his footing.

“When it gets too big, he just can’t do it, and I think that’s going to be a growing issue.”

One advantage to the partnership is the massive database created using information from Meyers Norris Penny’s more than 20,000 farmer clients.

“We’ll be able to provide clear data to show what is possible and then it’s up to them to make the decision that will make that work,” Betker said. “We’ll be able to tell him what the impact of some of those changes will be.”

The database will be broken into three parts: how the individual farmer is doing, what the industry says he should be doing and what his peers are doing.

“As farming turns into big business it means profit margins are lower and farmers have less room for error,” said Betker.

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