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Selling new ideas to Dad or Grandpa may take a team approach

Agriculture.com Staff 07/07/2010 @ 9:08am

Danny Klinefelter is a Texas A&M University economist with an international reputation for offering executive training to some of the nation's largest and most successful farms and ranches. His Executive Program for Agricultural Producers has drawn more than 750 participants from 41 states, Canada, Brazil, Chile and Mexico.

Thursday, Klinefelter offered a condensed version his program to 40 of the nation's most promising young farmers and ranchers at the 2004 New Century Farmers conference in Johnston, Iowa. Run by FFA and sponsored by Pioneer Hi-Bred International and DuPont Crop Protection, the program offers young people a chance to network and do some long-range thinking about the careers they're about to enter in production agriculture.

Most seemed inspired by Klinefelter's encouragement to think beyond day-to-day production problems and to anticipate change. Klinefelter encouraged his listeners to study their competitors, look beyond their own commodities, and to try to figure out how their products fit into an entire marketing chain.

But he was asked, "What do you do when your grandfather doesn't want to change the farming business you've just entered?"

You might try finding another farmer who's the same age who has had success with the new idea you're promoting to your family, Klinefelter replied.

"A lot of people [think that], until I've seen it work, I'm not willing to try it," he said.

Better yet, see if you can get your grandfather to visit that farm to see how the technology you want to try has worked there, he said.

You have to expect that change won't happen overnight, he added. Don't expect to come back from college and to get ten things you learned there adopted right away.

Farms and ranches that aren't changing, though, are falling behind. Klinefelter worked in banking during the 1980s, a tough time for many in agriculture. But even then, he noticed that, while the most profitable fourth of his customers were getting returns of only 5-10% above average, that over a period of about six years, their average net worth increased by about $500,000 while those in the bottom fourth fell behind. Driving down the road and looking at their crops, you wouldn't notice much difference.

He used a baseball analogy to illustrate how performance affects income. Players with a batting average above 300 might make six times as much as those with one of 250. And if you watched them at bat, the potential hall-of-famers would get one more hit only every 20 times, he said.

In some cases, potential young farmers may decide that they just can't work with parents or grandparents, Klinefelter said.

For a summary of Klinefelter's 15 characteristics of top farm executives who have attended the Executive Program for Agricultural Producers, see: http://extension.usu.edu/files/agpubs/executve.htm

E-mail Dan: dan.looker@meredith.com

Danny Klinefelter is a Texas A&M University economist with an international reputation for offering executive training to some of the nation's largest and most successful farms and ranches. His Executive Program for Agricultural Producers has drawn more than 750 participants from 41 states, Canada, Brazil, Chile and Mexico.

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