MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin agency said it’s never too early for farmers who are considering retirement to start putting together a plan for their farm’s future.
The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection’s Wisconsin Farm Center gives farmers free advice, Wisconsin Public Radio reported .
The center takes about 2,000 calls annually, said Dan Smith, an agricultural development administrator with the department. More than half of the calls in 2016 were regarding setting up a plan to sell a farm, he said.
Smith said about 98 percent of Wisconsin farms are considered family farms, though many are multi-million dollar businesses. While there are economic and legal issues to consider when putting together a plan, there are many emotional ties to selling a family business that can make planning for the future difficult.
“The farm is a business, but it’s also the home,” he said. “It is the home to the next generation. It is the home to non-farming siblings who still think of growing up on the family farm and have that deep emotional connection to it.”
Transitioning from a farm supporting a single family to supporting multiple families makes succession plans complicated, he said. It can take six years to develop a farm succession plan, he said.
It’s important for farmers who are considering retirement to talk with their family members about the farm’s future, but it may be a difficult conversation to have, said University of Wisconsin-Extension agricultural agent Trisha Wagner.
“Sometimes a facilitator or a third party is needed to just help get those ideas out of each of the (family) member’s heads whether they’re going to end up farming together and be business partners or not,” Wagner said.