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Published February 17, 2014, 10:34 AM

Farm business transition examined at crop expo

Good communication is important in just about every activity involving two or more human beings. It’s especially important in planning a farm business transition, says David Saxowsky, a professor in the North Dakota State University agribusiness and applied economics department. “Communication among all the parties involved is just essential,” he says.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Good communication is important in just about every activity involving two or more human beings.

It’s especially important in planning a farm business transition, says David Saxowsky, a professor in the North Dakota State University agribusiness and applied economics department.

“Communication among all the parties involved is just essential,” he says.

Saxowsky will give a keynote address on the topic at 1 p.m. Feb. 20 at the International Crop Expo Feb. 19 and 20 in Grand Forks, N.D.

The show, which combines activities sponsored by small grains, potato and soybean groups, is expected to draw 5,000 people and about 175 exhibits. The show opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. Feb. 19, and opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 4 p.m. on Feb. 20.

There is no admission fee.

Though crop prices and potential farm profitability have slumped, exhibitor interest remains strong, says Lionel Olson, a Grand Forks County extension agent and a Crop Expo organizer.

“We still have a waiting list (to exhibit),” he says.

The Grand Forks show sometimes is referred to as “Big Iron in the winter,” a reference to the popular Big Iron farm show held every September in West Fargo, N.D.

Olson isn’t a fan of the term.

“We’re our own show,” he says. “We’re proud of our exhibits, but we have a great lineup of informational sessions, too.”

As Olson notes, the International Crop Expo was founded 13 years after the Alerus Center opened. It combined three smaller events hosted individually by the small grain, potato and soybean groups.

Concurrent sessions on potatoes, soybeans, dry beans and small grains are planned on the mornings of both days this year.

Historically, the Crop Expo has had outstanding informational sessions on potatoes, soybeans, dry beans and small grains, and that’s true again this year, Olson says.

As in the past, several top U.S. potato industry officials will attend the conference.

Red River Valley potato officials do a great job bringing national officials to the show, Olson says.

This year, John Keeling, executive vice president and CEO of the National Potato Council, speaks from 9 to 9:30 a.m. Feb. 19.

Two leaders of the U.S. Potato Board — Blair Richardson, president and CEO, and Eric Halvorson, co-chairman of its international marketing committee — are scheduled to speak from 9 to 10:10 a.m. Feb. 19.

Jerry Wright, CEO of the United Potato Growers of America, is scheduled to speak from 10:20 to 10:50 a.m., Feb. 19.

Keynote speakers

The average age of U.S. farmers is about 57, so many ag producers have reached an age where they’re thinking seriously about passing on their business or other assets.

Both keynote speakers at the International Crop Expo will address that issue.

Sally Mulhern’s presentation at 1 p.m. Feb. 19 will be on estate planning.

Mulhern is a prominent attorney and speaker, and the Grand Forks show is glad to have her, Olson says.

Saxowsky says his presentation at the Ag Expo “isn’t just for those transitioning away from ownership. It’s for those transitioning into ownership, as well.”

To be successful, a business transition needs the active participation of both the current owner and future owner, he says.

“It can’t be just the current owner indicating ‘this is how it’s going to be.’ And it can’t be the new owners indicating how they hope it’s going to be. All parties need to be involved in the process,” he says.

To complement Saxowsky’s presentation at the International Crop Expo, three Grand Forks County farmers are scheduled to give their perspective on agribusiness transitions, too.

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