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By Janet Kubat Willette

Little things make a big difference in farm profitability.

The spread between the high 20 percent of farms and the low 20 percent shows that, said Gary Thome, Riverland Community College farm business management instructor.

For dairy farms in 2004, the spread was $1,065 from the top 20 percent to the bottom 20. In beef, it was $471.


Improving farm management practices can be as hard as raising crops or livestock, Thome said, and farmers may want to consider recruiting a team of specialists to help.

"You probably can't be a specialist in everything," he said.

The specialists, perhaps a lender, accountant, farm business management instructor, agronomist and market adviser, can help farmers.

"Marketing is going to become very critical," said Al Brudelie, dean of management education at Minnesota West.

Another change just around the bend is the farm bill. The next farm bill will be negotiated in a far different setting than the 2002 package.

Today, the public is more concerned about Social Security, health care and Medicare than agriculture, Thome said.

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