Analysis of Farm Business Available through FINPACK

ISU Extension and Outreach offers financial planning to help farmers make informed decisions

October 13, 2017, 9:52 am | Ann Johanns, Chad Hart

Farm FieldAMES, Iowa – It’s safe to say that financial management for farm families is unique. Farm income can be irregular and unpredictable. Bills must be paid, livestock fed and crops tended to. Taking care of a family’s needs can bring added stress.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers Farm Financial Planning, a program providing one-on-one financial support and advice to farmers. The Farm Financial Planning program was initiated in the 1980s in response to the farm crisis. It continues to be available to give Iowans confidence with stressful issues, legal questions and financial concerns.

The program includes a computerized analysis of the farm business using FINPACK software from the Center for Farm Financial Management. FINPACK gives information to make more informed and profitable decisions for the future of a farm business.

“Farm Financial Planning is intended for farm families who want a more complete picture of their farm financial situation," said Ann Johanns, an extension program specialist in economics. "It helps take the guesswork out of whether or not a change would increase profitability and improve cash flow. A FINPACK analysis may provide a more in-depth evaluation of the farm business, which many lenders are requiring before they will extend further credit."

Farm Financial Planning helps farmers evaluate their farm business and determine whether or not a change is desirable, said Chad Hart, an extension economist and associate professor at Iowa State.

“It provides an in-depth plan for the farm business so the operator and the lender can make decisions for the future. The computer analysis looks at profitability, liquidity, solvency and risk-bearing ability. This information is provided for three or more alternative plans at a time. Examples of alternative plans could be the addition, expansion or phasing out of a livestock operation, or buying, selling or renting land,” Hart said.

Farm Financial Planning also can help evaluate ways to correct negative cash flow and profitability problems, Hart said.

A trained ISU Extension and Outreach associate meets with the family one to two times to get farm records and to discuss results of the FINPACK analysis in confidence and possible effects if changes are made. The extension associate may introduce other farm and family financial materials or information about outside sources for further help.

The service is currently available at no charge and is funded by the Agricultural Credit School, a program of ISU Extension and Outreach, and the Iowa Bankers Association. Farm financial associates are part-time ISU Extension and Outreach employees trained in farm budgeting and financial analysis. They have agricultural backgrounds and understand farming and the challenges it may bring.

To set up an appointment, contact an ISU Extension and Outreach farm management specialist (who can be found at or the Farm Financial Associate in your area at

For questions regarding the Farm Financial Planning program, contact an ISU Extension and Outreach farm management specialist. Or contact the Beginning Farmer Center at 877-232-1999.

Another source for Iowans in need of legal, financial, stress or crisis and disaster questions, is available through the Iowa Concern Hotline. Call 800-447-1985, or visit the website

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