Westerhold: Succession Planning Benefits Current, Future Generations & Production Ag

As the average age of the American farmer continues to increase, what’s being done to transition farmland to the next generation?

Ashlee Westerhold, economist with the University of Idaho Extension, said it’s vital that today’s farmer understands if children or grandchildren are interested in returning to the farm and running day-to-day operations. She noted, regardless of the size of your operation, if you don’t plan for the future of that farm operation the likelihood of it succeeding is very small.

“Especially in today’s age where land prices are outrageous and it is hard for the younger generation to get into farming.  But you’re also seeing kids of the next generation maybe interested in those money signs, and greed is becoming a factor into these family farms because of land prices.”

Westerhold said like any other financial conversation, it’s important to expect the unexpected and to have the chat with family members early. She noted if your children or grandchildren are not interested in farming, that does not mean the land should be taken out of production and sold for development. She said there are a lot of young people out there interested in production Ag, but don’t have a family farm they can return to, so they’re looking for someone willing to take a chance on them.

“There are becoming more mentorship programs, and so, that way you can work with the next generation, it might not be your blood, but you can be comfortable passing it on, and so there are many different avenues to go down if you want to keep your land in production without an heir.”

Westerhold added she’s very passionate about her job and the opportunity to work with farmers and ranchers. She said she loves showing them when and how succession planning works, how it can ensure that operation successfully transitions from one generation to another.

“Just this past year, we have written an impact statement at the University of Idaho describing how one of our largest operations in Idaho changed their structure so they could transfer to their son a lot easier without having cousins or other family members involved in that process.  And so it was a multifamily dynamic at first.  And the dad actually liquidated his part of that multifamily and put it into expanding his farm that was solely in his name, so that his son would have an easier transition into farming.”

For additional tools and resources, check out the University of Idaho’s AgBiz Website.

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