Running a rural farming business is a difficult task that experiences a unique number of challenges that are not experienced by businesses located in big cities.
According to Craig Dangar from Vault Accountants “Cash flow and debt are the biggest controllable challenges farming businesses experience. There are a lot of vagaries and uncertainty, you can't control drought but you can manage some of the variables,” says Craig Dangar.
“During the last two years the weather has had a material impact on farming businesses, and the cost of fertiliser has been dramatically impacted by the war in Ukraine,” continued Mr. Dangar.
The mental health related challenges are another issue experienced by farming family’s that according to Mr. Dangar are often looked and not discussed enough.
The impact of natural disasters, floods and bushfires can result in depression and anxiety. Furthermore, the difficulty of finding and keep good workers can also contribute, conflict amongst family members and changing legislation introduced by the government are all key factors that can impact a farmer’s mental health.
“Not enough is said about mental health, there are a lot of resources available but you need to reach out,” says Craig Dangar.
Injuries are also a common occurrence on Australian farms. Agriculture is the industry that experiences the highest fatality rate in Australia for any industry.
Thousands of people are injured or become sick whilst working on a farm. These unlucky individuals often need to receive hospital treatment and this can be difficult to access if the farm is located in a remote location far away from any medical centres.
Some injuries that occur on farm are a result of vehicle related accidents, injured caused by chemicals or from severe weather conditions or an injury caused by a farm animal.
Accidents caused by vehicles account for over 3 out of 4 deaths on Australian farms. The most common injury occurs from riding a quad bike. Farmers can also get injured from driving on a rural road or whilst they are travelling in an aircraft.
Farmers can get injured by snakes or venomous spiders or ticks. They can get injured when using a tractor or harvester or any other type of agricultural machinery. A farmer can get injured when they are in a dam or creek. They can also get injured when using a rifle or a gun or by electrical fencing or by fire and floods.
On the financial side of business Craig Dangar applying for government grants are a great way to aid your farm.
“For farm owners who are hoping to receive a grant to help bolster their business and ease their financial hardship, government support is usually there but navigating this can be hard, so don't be afraid to ask for help,” continued Mr. Dangar.
It is also important for farm owners to keep up to date with new technology and not be afraid to experiment with new business offerings to draw in new customers and generate more revenue.
“Don’t be afraid to diversify or innovate. We are seeing a lot more businesses thriving by opening new markets,” says Craig Dangar.
Mr. Dangar also encourages farm owners to embrace new technology, especially technology that aims to help farmers who are dealing with extreme weather conditions.
“Innovation and value creation has been critical. The use of accommodation as a secondary or tertiary income stream has also help a lot of farming businesses. Weather will continue to be the primary influence in regards to what types of new technologies become available for farms and there is a lot of amazing innovation around cropping and water usage,” says Craig Dangar.
Conflict between family members is a common experience on Australian farms. It is important for family members to be open and willing to have important conversations about the future of the farm especially when the head of the family is getting close to retirement age.
“We are finding a lot of conflict between generations; it is sad to see where people are holding on too long or not facilitating change when the time is right. The transition phase where the farm is passed onto the next generation is something that should not occur overnight. The best transitions we see takes years if not decades in the planning,” says Craig Dangar.
It is never too early to start planning. The more organised you are the less likely you are to run into problems and conflict later on. The earlier you begin the transition phase the smoother it will become and the less stressful it will be for the whole family.