By Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation
In early December 2017, Far North Queensland dairy farmers gathered at the Malanda RSL for a ‘Getting Started in Succession Planning’ dinner funded by the Reef Alliance – Growing a Great Barrier Reef Program. Delivered by agribusiness and finance specialists, the workshop aimed to address the identified threat to farm business sustainability and the issue surrounding passing on the family farm.
Long-term business viability is integral to the land manager’s capacity to improve the natural resource base. A sound plan that accounts for the business’s transition from one generation to the next, provides the confidence and motivation for young farmers to invest in long-term projects that may not appeal to the older generation facing retirement. Through facilitating the development of succession plans, this workshop aimed to build resilience at the farm level such that off-farm threats to water quality can be minimised or negated.
The event was well supported with 23 farmers in attendance. Presentations were given by two, locally based guest speakers – Lynette McGuffie and Alison Larard. Lynette gave an overview of the services available to farmers through the Rural Financial Counselling service. An important take home message included the elements of a successful succession plan which include:
- Good communication,
- Starting as early as possible,
- Having a plan that is; realistic, achievable, equitable (everyone having an equal share is not always equitable) and adaptable (open for change),
- Training and working with your successor,
- Having a trusted professional team of advisors to help such as an; accountant, solicitor, financial planner, insurance agent and financial counsellor.
Lynette presented case studies of three different succession plans and highlighted the reasons why they succeeded or failed. Some of the reasons for failure included;
- Acting in haste – succession is a transition, not a day of the week
- Assumptions made on what children want
- Lack of communication with an unachievable plan
- Not taking responsibility for the process and thinking that the bank, accountant or solicitor is responsible
Alison Larard spoke about some of the challenges regarding succession planning in the northern Beef industry. She reinforced with farmers the importance of communication and starting the process early. As a recent recipient of the 2018 Nuffield Scholarship, Alison’s studies will focus on ‘Better Business Management and Succession Planning in NQ Beef Businesses’ Her presentation also encouraged the younger generation farmers in the room to consider applying for a Nuffield Scholarship and explained what is involved.
For some farmers, the workshop confirmed that they are on the right track with regards to succession planning, and other younger generation farmers were able to realise the importance of starting the process early. Most importantly, farmers became aware that they have access to professional, local support to help guide the process and provide a sounding board for ideas.
This event was delivered through the Dairying Better ‘n Better program which is an initiative between Queensland Dairyfarmers’ Organisation and Subtropical Dairy Program. It is supported through funding from the Australian Government’s Reef Trust Phase III: Reef Alliance – Growing a Great Barrier Reef project.
Lynette McGuffie presenting to the group of farmers at the ‘Getting started with Succession Planning’ dinner held at the Malanda RSL on 7th December 2017.