Short-Term Operating Plan for Farms and Ranches

Mary Sobba
Field Specialist, Agricultural Business and Policy
Joni Harper
Community Engagement Specialist, Agriculture and Environment
Catherine Neuner
Community Engagement Specialist, Agriculture and Environment
Kyle Whittaker
Community Engagement Specialist, Agriculture and Environment

Editor’s note
The PDF of this publication contains fillable forms. See the “Download this publication” button.

Note, this plan is meant to help farm and ranch families organize information to help family members keep the farm operating should the primary decision maker be unable to make decisions. The plan should not be used in place of legal, accounting or other professional opinions.

Timely decision making is essential for farm and ranch businesses. Decisions are a part of daily operations and vary greatly from prioritizing tasks to choosing inputs and deciding how much product to sell at a certain price. Most operations have primary decision makers who routinely make these decisions. It is important however, that others know how to proceed if the key decision maker(s) is/are unable to make decisions.

This plan was developed to help farm and ranch families continue operating their businesses with minimal interruptions should the primary decision maker(s) be unable to make short-term decisions. The plan could be helpful in an unexpected situation such as hospitalization or military deployment.

For this plan, the short term is generally considered two weeks to six months. The purpose is to have organized information for family members to use to continue operating the farm or ranch business. Locating key information is stressful and time consuming, and this plan will help to reduce stress and save time.

The plan was designed to capture useful data with concise input, while considering ease of information retrieval. The plan has seven parts and persons completing it can choose which sections are needed. All farms/ranches will likely need Parts 1 and 7. Additional parts will vary depending on the enterprises of the specific farm or ranch.

Part 1: General Information

Part 2: Livestock Information

Part 3: Crop Information

Part 4: Horticulture Information

Part 5: Woodlands / Timber

Part 6: Hunting Leases / Rights

Part 7: Equipment Information

The plan can include more details by adding attachments. Possible attachments may be farm maps, feed mix rations, etc.

The plan will need to be updated periodically to remain relevant and useful. Updating it at the end of each year should keep the data accurate and retain the value of the document. Although the plan may seem a bit cumbersome, it is similar to insurance in that it requires an investment with the hope that it is not needed. However, when an unexpected situation arises, this plan could be quite helpful for the family members maintaining the farm or ranch business.