Posted December 13, 2018 by Administrator
Tobacco Fraud Nets 60 Months Jail Time
Crop insurance fraud carries heavy penalties including steep fines and jail time. However, these deterrents don’t always work as intended. Crop insurance fraud comes in a variety of forms, and the following cases highlight some of the potential abuses.
Debra Muse of Willingford, Kentucky pleaded guilty to fraud on April 16, 2018. The judge sentenced her to 60 months of jail time as well as ordered her to pay $1,656,275 in restitution. She and several cohorts filed false claims with the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) in an attempt to obtain insurance money without actual cause.
They did so by falsifying tobacco production reports, bills,and shipping documents. As a result, they received inflated payments from their insurers who then sought recompense from the federal government. Under federal law, Muse will have to serve 85% of her sentence (51 months minimum) before she is eligible for release.
LaGrange Farmer Receives 25-Month Jail Sentence for Fraud
On May 30, 2018, a judge sentenced James Wiggins, Jr. of LaGrange, NC to 25 months of jail time and ordered him to pay $5,600,433 for several offenses including identity theft, conspiring to commit money laundering, and making false statements to the FCIC. Wiggins and his co-conspirators filed false insurance claims as well as disaster relief claims and then engaged in illegal activities to try to conceal the fraud. They filed false claims alleging they lost crops to receive an insurance payout while selling the healthy crops in secret transactions.
Farmer Faces up to 30 Years per False Statement
Though not yet scheduled, Christopher Hickerson, a farmer from Lexington, KY is facing a ten-count indictment for making false statements to the FCIC. Dating back as far as 2009, Hickerson falsified his tobacco production while simultaneously claiming a significant amount of damage. Hickerson laid claim to tobacco produced by other farmers to inflate his claims. He also obtained crop insurance under other individuals’ names to capitalize on new producer insurance bonuses. For every false statement made to the FCIC, Hickerson faces 30 years in prison as well as a fine of $1,000,000.
As outlined above, crop insurance fraud is not worth the cost. At Cline Wood, we dedicate our time to helping farmers and other agribusiness leaders understand their insurance needs. To learn more about the risks facing your farm as well as how to protect against them, contact us.
This document is not intended to be taken as advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such. Marsh& McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein. Any statements concerning actuarial, tax, accounting or legal matters are based solely on our experience as consultants and are not to be relied upon as actuarial, accounting, tax or legal advice, for which you should consult your own professional advisors. Any modeling analytics or projections are subject to inherent uncertainty and the analysis could be materially affective if any underlying assumptions,conditions, information or factors are inaccurate or incomplete or should change.
Posted November 29, 2018 by Administrator
Farming has always been a risky occupation with slim margins, and 2019 will be no exception. Both livestock and crop farmers are feeling the financial squeeze, dairy farming and row-crop sectors in particular. Thankfully, not every trend is bleak. The following are several developments farmers need to be aware of to maximize their profits.
Positive Factors Affecting Farming Finances
There are several positive trends affecting the farming industry. These include:
- Unemployment is the lowest it’s been in over five decades, coming in at 3.7%. Many agribusiness employees are also seeing an increase in salary.
- Experts expect consumer spending to remain stable as farmers continue to produce strong yields.
- Farmers have new opportunities at growth due to an increased interest in fresh foods, craft beer, and other ventures that call for specialty crops.
- Farmland value is stable with some small increases. This is significant for farmers who borrowed against their equity.
Negative Factors Affecting Farming Finances
While there are several notable trends to look forward to, farmers need to be aware of the negative aspects poised to influence the industry as well.
- Yields may be strong, but prices are not. In addition, just because a farmer can produce more doesn’t mean he or she has enough space to store it before selling it. It may behoove farmers to produce slightly less to keep production costs down.
- Experts expect the cost for crop production to increase in 2019.
- A decrease in crop profitability isn’t correlating to a decrease in rent. A visceral desire to control land can make rent negotiations tough, especially when there are other farmers willing to pay steep rent costs.
- While stable farmland prices is a good thing for established farmers, it’s a challenge for those trying to get their foot in the door. Farmland value remains high, placing it out of reach for up and coming farmers.
Running a successful farming operation requires balancing risk against profit. For example, overreaching or poor planning can turn a successful yield into a financial disaster. Farmers who take the time to learn and plan for the above trends can navigate around the negative while capitalizing on the positive. To learn more about reducing your farming risk, contact the experts at Cline Wood.
Posted October 23, 2018 by Administrator
As temperatures start to drop lower, many farmers stop their planting efforts. This is unsurprising since many crops don’t fare well in cold weather. Freezing temperatures, frost, and snow cripple most crops, but not all of them. Root vegetables perform well despite the change in season; farmers can also take this time to jump-start their spring planting efforts. While fall planting isn’t for every farmer, the following crops offer farmers a prolonged planting season:
- It’s easy for farmers to obtain onion bulblets in the fall. Before temperatures drop to below freezing, farmers can reap fresh scallions. Once winter hits full force, the onions will remain dormant until temperatures increase. The crops will pop up in the spring, giving farmers a head start on the season.
- As a member of the same plant family as the onion, leeks perform well in the fall and winter. They perform best when planted in the early fall.
- Strawberries. Most farmers that cultivate strawberries purchase them for spring planting. However, farmers can increase their productivity by getting started in the fall. Most farmers pinch off the blossoms during the initial season to allow the plant to better develop its roots. By doing this in the fall, farmers can harvest the fruit at the start of the main season.
- Radishes. These plants grow much faster than most. Within four weeks of planting, farmers can begin harvesting. Because they thrive in cooler temperatures, farmers can plant and harvest them multiple times during the fall and winter. It also helps that cold weather enhances their flavor.
- Greens. Lettuce, kale, and spinach are great fall crops as cooler temperatures make the leaves taste sweeter. Like onions, farmers don’t need to fear planting them too late to harvest. They’ll sprout back up once temperatures begin to rise after winter.
Even though the above crops are excellent for fall planting, farmers do need to take steps to protect them from extreme winter temperatures. This means sprinkling a loose layer of straw over them to protect them from frost heaving. To learn more about how to protect fall crops, contact the experts at Cline Wood.
Posted September 25, 2018 by Administrator
Farmers rely on corn yield estimates to make crop management and grain marketing decisions. However, basic methods of calculating crop yield can produce misleading results. The more simple the calculation, the greater the margin of error is. All methods of estimating corn yield require farmers to count the kernels on an ear of corn.
The simplest of methods relies on estimating how many ears per acre a farm produces. While it may be easier to estimate ears per acre and multiply that by the number of kernels per an average size ear of corn, the results will not be accurate. The following outlines two methods for estimating corn yield starting with the least accurate method.
- Simple but inaccurate. As mentioned above, the simplest method is the least accurate. To achieve a rough estimate of corn yield, farmers who anticipate around 26,000 ears per acre can select an average size ear of corn, count its kernels, and multiply it by 0.289 (this multiplier implies an average size kernel). Farmers should skip kernels near the top that are less than half the size of regular kernels. To do this, farmers can count the kernels in one row on the ear of corn and multiply it by the number of total rows. For example, 12 rows with 48 kernels is 576 kernels per ear (12*48 = 576). Multiplying this by 0.289 equates to approximately 166.5 bushels per acre (166.464 to be exact). This math makes several assumptions about the ears per acre as well as the average kernel size. It also excludes outliers such as pests, drought, and other stressors that can affect kernel size or overall yield.
- Recalculating for population and seed size. The above example assumes a crop production of around 26,000 ears per acre. However, farmers should reduce this number by 1000-2000 to account for pests and other issues that can affect the final yield number. They should also incorporate a multiplier for kernel size ranging from small to large to take weather conditions into consideration. Poor weather will yield smaller kernels and vice versa. For this particular example, farmers should use the following equations to get a better idea of what to expect:
- 25,000 ears per acre in a stressful year: 576*0.227=~131 bushels per acre
- 25,000 ears per acre in an average year: 576*0.278=~160 bushels per acre
- 25,000 ears per acre in a very productive year: 576*0.357=~205.5 bushels per acre
This results in a possible range of 131-205.5 bushels per acre. While the simple method’s number fell in this range, the final result could be much less or much more depending on outside factors.
If the farmer wishes to be even more conservative, he or she can reduce their expected yield by 2000 and use the following equations:
- 24,000 ears per acre in a stressful year: 576*0.218=~125.5 bushels per acre
- 24,000 ears per acre in an average year: 576*0.267=~154 bushels per acre
- 24,000 ears per acre in a very productive year: 576*0.342=~197 bushels per acre
This equation produces a range of 125.5-197 bushels per acre. Both of these equations result in more than 70 bushels per acre in difference and can have significant implications for a farmer’s bottom line and budget. Farmers need to prepare for all possibilities for their corn yield so as not to endanger their farming operation. To learn more ways to protect your livelihood and your farm, contact the experts at Cline Wood.
Posted August 20, 2018 by Administrator
Farming is a demanding job with often incongruous pay for the hours worked. A major contributor to that problem is an insufficient workforce. With many viewing farming as unskilled labor, it’s hard for farmers to attract and retain reliable laborers. As a result, they have to do more and more with limited resources. As farmers creep ever nearer to critical capacity for working hours, innovators are postulating a workable solution in the form of farming robots.
How Will Robots Help?
Automating tasks is not a new concept. Businesses in every industry are unloading their tedious tasks on machines to streamline their processes and free up the human workforce to focus on tasks that are more important. However, agribusinesses have a harder time translating automation into the field. Now, innovators are addressing this need with robots that can perform physical labor.
Even with pay increases, farmers can’t keep laborers in the field to pick fruits, vegetables, etc. Wages range from $11.50 up to $20 an hour, but this still isn’t enough to attract a stable workforce. As a result, farmers are turning to technology to help bridge the gap between consumer demands and their physical labor limitations. In Florida, a startup company developed a robot that can pick strawberries at the same rates as 30 laborers. It can pick a single plant clean in eight seconds and cover eight acres in one day.
Other Potential Uses for Agriculture Technology
Simple labor is just the beginning of robotics technology in farming. Innovators have big plans to automate harvesting, processing, packaging, and handling grocery logistics. The technology has progressed to the point where a robotic arm has the same dexterity as a human hand. This allows the machine to handle soft foods like tomatoes and grapes without damaging them.
Robotics is poised to disrupt the farming industry; however, the intent is to save farmers time while reducing costs. If your farm is struggling with burgeoning expenses, Cline Wood can help. With years of industry experience, we know the risks involved in managing a farm as well as how to mitigate them. Contact us to learn more about reducing your risk to improve your bottom line.
Posted August 6, 2018 by Administrator
The CDC estimates Salmonella causes 1 million foodborne illnesses per year. Of those incidents, 19,000 result in hospitalization and more than 300 end in death. Individuals suffering from Salmonella often experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, and a fever. More often than not, individuals who contract the disease had multiple elements at play such as not cooking the poultry to the correct temperature. However, poultry farmers have a duty to reduce the risk and spread of Salmonella by adhering to best practices on the farm.
6 Ways to Reduce Bad Bacteria Contamination
Bacterial contagions come from a variety of sources. The most common include:
- Wild birds or pests
- Farm personnel’s hygiene and sanitation
To stop the spread of Salmonella on the farm, farmers and workers need to focus on the following areas:
- Cleanliness and hygiene. Growing houses are a significant source of contamination on farms. Workers need to ensure they clean these areas between flocks to prevent the spread of residual bacteria. Keeping pests such as flies and rodents under control can help with these efforts as well.
- Managing water sources. Water is an easy way for Salmonella bacteria to spread from bird to bird. Some tactics that prove effective are utilizing chlorinated water or organic acids.
- Reducing dust. Much like water, dust can contribute to the spread of Salmonella. Farmers should aim for dust levels at 3mg per cubic meter or less.
- Contaminated grains can result in Salmonella in the final feed product. Farmers should only purchase grain and feed from mills that adhere to rigorous quality control standards.
- Encouraging proper gut flora. Farmers need to establish a good gut flora balance in chicks within days of hatching. This can prevent Salmonella from colonizing them. Ways to achieve this include organic acids, enzymes, and yeast technologies.
- Cocci management. Coccidiosis is a disease that affects the intestines of birds and causes diarrhea. It also contributes to the spread of Salmonella so farmers need to implement effective controls to reduce instances of coccidiosis.
Raising healthy poultry free from contagion isn’t just a good farming practice; it also helps keep consumers in good health. Salmonella is just one of the risks poultry farmers have to manage. To learn more about protecting your poultry farm, contact the experts at Cline Wood.
Posted May 14, 2018 by Administrator
Proper budgeting allows farmers to estimate their costs and profits for an upcoming production period. A solid budget will help farmers make decisions about their agribusiness as well as calculate their ability to achieve financial goals. These goals can include paying off or reducing debts as well as saving enough to make significant purchases for the farm. Budgeting is vital to completing business objectives because it provides a baseline. Without this reference point, farmers cannot hope to make improvements to their operation.
How Do Successful Farmers Budget?
The following are strategies prosperous farmers employ when managing their budget:
- Set goals. Budgeting should not be about breaking even. Budgeting allows farmers to visualize and achieve goals with a realistic margin. Goals can be short-term, such as producing more than the previous years, or they can be long-term, such as retiring within the next half-decade. Farmers who approach budgeting with a purpose will be better equipped to manage their agribusiness from year-to-year.
- Use budgets for daily management. A budget isn’t a one-and-done deal; it’s a living document that requires nurturing. Farming situations change and budgets should reflect this. Budgets allow farmers to make decisions such as planning for expenditures, making arrangements that will affect the next generation on the farm, etc.
- Make smart marketing decisions. Marketing in farming is not the same as marketing for a traditional office job. Farmers have to make decisions on when to sell crops, grain, etc. to ensure they remain in the black. While many companies approach marketing as a means to get rich quick, farmers use it as a method to avoid going in the red. Agribusinesses operate on thin margins and need to use their budgets to make sales decisions that keep their costs and profits in balance.
Budgeting is an effective part of risk management for farmers. In an industry that is often at the mercy of the weather, farmers need to take command of their budget to monitor the factors they can control. If your farm is struggling to manage its risks, Cline Wood can help. Contact us to learn more about assessing your risks and implementing strategies to mitigate them.
Posted April 17, 2018 by Administrator
In previous decades, farmers only needed to know how to grow and sustain crops to be successful. Now, the ability to produce a product is a given in farming. With improved technology and communication, almost anyone can grow crops with a modicum of success. Standing out above the competition, however, takes much more work. Farmers now must possess growing power and business savvy to differentiate and remain relevant.
Business Skills and Leadership in Farming
Bringing business skills into the farming industry increases the complexity but also the rewards. Farmers can no longer only rely on their skills at cultivating crops. The following are just some of the areas farmers must learn to navigate to keep ahead of rival operations:
- Innovative finance administration
- Consumer research and marketing
- How to apply and use agricultural technology
- Risk management strategies
Risk management, in particular, is a multi-layered concept. Farmers must consider how to avoid risks as well as deal with them should they occur. For example, farmers can take several measures to prevent fires; however, failing to establish a system to manage the aftermath of a fire is foolhardy. Even with the best preventative measures in place, accidents can happen. That is why farmers need to incorporate a number of insurance policies to protect their farm. Failing to invest in insurance coverage can bankrupt a farmer and destroy his or her operation.
The time has come and gone where successful farmers only needed to be good at production. Farmers that fail to improve their business expertise will find themselves falling behind those that invest in marketing, technology, and more to protect their assets. Cline Wood can help struggling farmers navigate the changing landscape of the agriculture industry while putting safeguards in place to protect their farm. Contact us today to learn more.
Posted February 12, 2018 by Administrator
Farming is hard work and often a risky venture. It also demands much of the farmer’s time, leaving a perception of a workaholic who garners few rewards. It is also not a glamorous job and does not appeal to the masses. With the deck stacked against them, it is a wonder farmers succeed at all. Limited interest has led many farmers to turn to the next generation, their children, to take on the family business. Unfortunately, growing up on the farm has not inspired second generations to pick up where their parents left off.
Selling the Next Generation on Farming
Second generation farmers represent an important stepping-stone between the ruthless first steps of building a farm and its potential golden years of prosperity. Second generation farmers do not have to contend with crippling farm debt, loans to pay for machines, and so on. Nevertheless, the next generation balks at the lifestyle change. Even if the assets are stable, the shift to living on a farm is significant. Their fear of failure is also paramount.
However, future farmers have a significant advantage over their parents. Back in the 1960s and 70s, there was a massive back-to-the-land movement. For one of the only times in recent history, rural growth outpaced urban growth. However, these would-be farmers were entering unknown territory blind. They had no scientific data and next to no communication options. Next generation farmers have all the benefits of an established farming operation plus a wealth of information. The explosion of information across the web has made farming success easier than ever.
Creating Succession Where None Exists
Not all farmers have obvious heirs to their enterprise. When this is the case, many wait until it is too late to establish a line of succession. If a farmer does not have a clear line of succession, that individual needs to start planning sooner rather than later. Waiting to establish an heir until retirement means extended working years and a higher chance of failure.
To do this, most farmers look to their existing workers. Many farms have shining stars amongst the plethora of employees. Once farmers begin the conversation of transference, they can draft an agreement on how to shift their chosen heir from employee to owner. Most farmers start by giving 10% ownership to their employee and sign over a small percentage each successive year.
The process is slow for a reason. All relationships take work, and grooming an heir is no exception. It is less of a complete takeover and more of a partnership. For several years, if not decades, the transference process will look more like business partners working side by side than an owner retiring. This process is difficult, but Cline Wood can help. If you are struggling with retirement or farming succession planning, contact us today.
Posted January 22, 2018 by Administrator
The summer of 2014 marked the beginning of a downward trend for used equipment prices, particularly for late model equipment and large machinery. Now, after a four-year spiral, costs have bottomed out. Dealers are asking for similar prices for the same equipment as they did last year. This puts equipment and machinery at 60-65% of their value compared to 2014. While farmers looking to buy equipment may rejoice at the low prices, not everything is good news.
The Good and the Bad of Low Used Equipment Prices
The halt in plummeting prices ends the growing gap between the values of owned equipment versus new equipment. This is great for farmers looking to buy used large or late model machines as prices remain at an all-time low. Because prices have bottomed out, the used machines are likely to retain their value as well. Dealers are even providing low-interest financing options, so the time to buy used machinery is now.
However, there are drawbacks to low equipment values. Decreased equipment values tank farmers’ relative borrowing power at the bank as lenders may disagree over the true value of their farming operations. Farmers can help mitigate this issue by researching what their equipment is worth. Finding recent sales on auction sites of similar equipment can give farmers an idea of what their machinery value is.
Controlling Equipment Costs
Even though costs are at a historic low, machinery expenses across the board are rising. This is in large part because farmers are upgrading their equipment with the latest technology. Farmers need to assess their equipment needs to prevent costs from exceeding their means.
This is not always a simple task. Farmers have many questions including whether they should trade their large machines now or hold off, should they downgrade their equipment, or should they work for longer during the day. As the premier agribusiness insurance provider, Cline Wood can help farmers answer these questions and more. To learn more about managing farming expenses, contact us today.