The Revolution in Farm Estate and Business Planning

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The agricultural sector is going through a veritable revolution attributable to the technology of seed and genetics and the technology of power. Farm and ranch firms are growing rapidly in size with ever higher levels of capitalization and rising land values which have led to increased emphasis on succession planning and have posed new challenges for practitioners in agricultural areas. Conflicts between on-farm heirs and off-farm heirs (and even within the on-farm heir group) have become commonplace with ever-greater emphasis on valuation of the firm with efforts to mirror market determinations but without market-setting trades as with larger firms, protection of minority owners of the business and terms for buy-out of those with exit strategies in mind. The structuring of the firm to accomplish the goals and objectives of the owners has contributed to multiple entity operations with problems related to income tax complexity, ‘at-risk” rules, passive activity loss outcomes and, in some instances, a reduced rate of firm growth as the redirection of assets has been made more difficult. The moves by Congress to provide taxpayer friendly provisions for farm and ranch firms but with “fences” to keep others from taking advantage of the particular provision have contributed to the complexity of planning to accomplish the objectives of the firm. 

Educational Objectives
• To better understand the options for valuing ownership interests in farm and ranch firms
• To show the importance of maintaining annual valuations 
• To gain insights into “fairness” in establishing the framework for entry and exit from the farm or ranch firm and suggestions on how to avoid; “oppressiveness” as now recognized by some courts 
• To gain additional perspectives in  the structuring of  the farm or ranch firm  in a manner to advance the objectives of the decision makers 
• To focus attention on the need for a “power audit” to provide insights into who would have the whip-hand of power in the event of unexpected (or even expected) events such as death, disability or other disequilibrating happenings
• To better integrate tax planning with the key objectives expected to be pursued currently and in future years

Who would benefit most from attending this program?


Practitioners in agricultural areas of the country would benefit heavily from the webinar as well as those working with small businesses elsewhere that face many of the same problems and challenges as farm and ranch firms.


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Neil E. Harl is Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Emeritus Professor of Economics at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. He is a member of the Iowa Bar. Dr. Harl was Director of the Center for International Agricultural Finance from 1990 through 2004. He received a B.S. from Iowa State University in 1955, a J.D. from the University of Iowa in 1961 and a Ph.D. in economics from Iowa State University in 1965. His major fields of law interest include estate planning and taxation, business planning and agricultural law. Dr. Harl has published widely including 29 books; more than 400 professional articles and bulletins; and more than 850 articles in farm and financial publications. He is author of the two volume treatise, Farm Income Tax Manual, the single volume Agricultural Law Manual and the 17th edition of Farm Estate and Business Planning, published in 2013. 

B.S., Iowa State University, 1955, J.D., University of Iowa College of law; Ph.D. (economics), Iowa State University, 1965; Member of the Iowa Bar. Served as Associate Professor of Economics, 1964-1967; Professor of Economics, 1967-2004; Emeritus Professor, 2005- ; Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and  Life Sciences, 1976.