Estate Planning Important to the Future of the Farm

By Allison Floyd from Growing Georgia

Some top agronomists and economists will sweep through Georgia beginning today to give farmers details about the future of products special to their part of the state – from peaches to peanuts to poultry.

But all producers share one economic reality: Planning for the future of the farm means planning beyond just the next season.

“There’s no way to talk about the future of the family business without talking about estate planning,” said Will Thompson, an attorney with James-Bates-Brannan-Groover in Macon.

Thompson also will give a tax update – and the news is good. Near the end of 2013, it appeared that lawmakers might allow a $5 million exemption on the estate tax to drop to $1 million – a change that could have been devastating to small business owners like farmers.

But, instead, lawmakers extended the $5 million extension (adjusted for inflation to $5.34 million per person) giving farmers some ability to plan for the future.

“Of course, even a permanent change is only permanent until another Congress takes over. You can’t trust that it’s truly forever,” Thompson warns.

The most important thing to remember, said Thompson, is that business-succession planning is a process, not a single decision.

“Succession planning is a whole family process, meaning it is going to affect everyone in your family,” he said. “We are getting better at talking about these issues, but still have a way to go.”

“I’ve heard dads say, ‘You’ll know what my plans are when you read my will,’ but that can cause more strife than anything,” Thompson said. “Nobody likes surprises. Communication is key.”

In addition to the talk on estate planning, each city in the tour – Macon, Athens, Lyons, Tifton, Bainbridge and Cartersville – will feature an update on a commodity important to that region. Experts also will discuss topics important to lots of growers, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act’s impact on the vegetable industry and how the demand for wood pellets will affect the lumber market across the Southeastern U.S.

The UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Georgia Farm Bureau and Georgia Department of Agriculture sponsor the seminar series each January, and attendance grows every year. Last year, almost 1,000 business people, farmers and community leaders attended their local events.

“The main objective of the Ag Forecast is to provide Georgia’s producers and agribusiness leaders with information on where we think the industry is headed in the upcoming year,” said Kent Wolfe, director of the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.

“It helps farmers plan what they’re going to plant in the next year, but it’s also good for bankers and other businesspeople who do business with farmers or who will be impacted by the farm economy.”

The 2014 Ag Forecast sessions will be held today in Macon, Jan. 27 in Athens, Jan. 28 in Lyons, Jan. 29 in Tifton, Jan. 30 in Bainbridge, and Jan. 31 in Cartersville.

For more information on the 2014 Ag Forecast, see or search @UGA_CollegeofAg on Twitter.