Track B: Succession and Transfer

Dr. Maria Marshall, Dept
of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University and
Director of the Purdue Initiative for Family Firms discussed research on farm family businesses.

Jon Jaffe, Farm Credit East, and Kip Kolesinskas, a consulting Conservation Scientist, addressed the growing challenge of farmers without successors.

“It was a real wake-up call to see how few farmers age 65+ have a next generation working on the farm with them,” said Cris Coffin, Policy Director at Land For Good. New research from American Farmland Trust and Land For Good shed light on what these trends mean for the future of New England agriculture.

Julia Valliant, a researcher with The Ostrom Workshop of Indiana University, spoke on assisting transitions to non-family successors.

Scott Marlow, Rural Advancement Foundation International, led a roundtable discussion of transition planning and farm programs.
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Successful and innovative programs, practices and policy. A compilation of ideas from presenters and attendees


Succession and Transfer  looked at building succession advisor teams, farmers without successors, and connecting transition planning with farm programs.

This track examined the multiple challenges around farm and ranch succession. Panelists discussed the challenges around succession planning, and gaps across regions in expertise and advisors to assist with planning. They addressed various legal and “soft issue” complexities, and affirmed the necessity of a team approach to guide farm and ranch families through the process. There was discussion around farmers without successors, and how tax policies and farm programs aid or impede successful transfers.

1B Farmers without Successors (Presentation)
Many farmers and ranchers do not have identified successors. This is both a challenge and opportunity. We examined research and programs focused on this audience. What do we know and how can we tailor assistance to their circumstances?

2B Tools, Methods and Innovations in Succession and Transfer Planning Assistance (Presentation)
Snapshots and stories from the field of successful and innovative strategies to engage farmers and ranchers in succession planning.

3B Transition Planning & Farm Programs (Discussion)
The discussion revolved around how transition planning does and could intersect with government and NGO programs and policy. Examples were drawn from risk management, credit, conservation and mentoring programs.

4B Building Succession Advisor Teams (Roundtable)
It takes a team to help farm and ranch families plan for succession. In this roundtable, practitioners dug into how to build and improve succession planning advisor teams. Issues included communications, confidentiality, and coordination challenges, along with strategies to recruit and train providers.

5B Technical Issues in Transfer Planning Assistance (Discussion)
Discussion of the hurdles advisors face with their transition clients—such as entity formation, taxes, operating agreements, and financial viability. What are good practices and areas for improved techniques?

The following bullet lists feature many of the programs and practices shared by presenters and attendees. It is not comprehensive and does not intend to suggest that these are the only or “best” programs and practices. The bullets are organized by broad topic.

Innovative and successful programs and practices:

Engaging farm families

Approaches to succession planning advising

Farmers/ranchers without successors

Support for succession planning

  • Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program funds advisors to work with transitioning farmers over 2 years.
  • MA State Department of Ag Resources’ Farm Viability Enhancement Program contracts with consultants to do succession assessments.
  • FSA’s Agricultural Mediation Program can help with affordable succession planning in many states. See also Coalition of Ag Mediation Programs.
  • NY case management approach of core consulting team, using Ag Mediation Program and grant funds.
  • Encourage BFRDP to focus more on succession planning programming.
  • Gaining Insights research paper examines farmers without successors in New England and NY.

Public policy suggestions:

  • Amend federal tax code to provide for a capital gains exclusion on certain farm/ranch transfers.
  • Provide federal block grants to states to fund technical assistance for farm viability and succession planning. (Some states do fund this.) Option include heir property/fractionation as new statutory interest in the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.
  • Designate farm transition as a resource concern within USDA-NRCS programs.
  • Broaden types of cases that mediation programs can address, including tenure negotiations and succession planning.
  • Integrate farm transitions into Risk Management Agency programs.
  • NRCS designate farm transition as a resource concern.
More info

Learn more about the Changing Lands, Changing Hands national conference and access the conference program for session descriptions, presenter bios, and contact information.

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