Find trends and outlooks, education and more on financing rural America from Farm Credit Services of America.

More Content

A Framework for Better Decisions

Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica) and Frontier Farm Credit are co-sponsoring a webinar series, Two Economists and a Lender. This February installment, featured Agriculture Economic Insights (AEI) co-founders David Widmar and Brent Gloy and lender Maggie Holub, reviewed three simple tools to help producers think through decisions big and small.

Below are highlights from their discussion and the entire webinar.


Each year brings new uncertainties and new decisions. It’s easy to reach “analysis paralysis” and avoid making a decision. Or falling back on what was done in the past, even if it doesn’t make sense for the current environment.

Pro vs. Con
The simple act of writing down the pros and cons of a decision can help you better identify and think through the possible implications. For instance, producers will weigh the cost of a machine purchase and its effect on cash flow. They also will factor in the timeliness of field work and the possible implication for labor. But how does the purchase fit into the farm’s succession plan? A list on a white board, paper or an excel spreadsheet makes it easier to identify gaps in the decision-making process.  

“You might weight a few pros and cons if you feel they are more important than others,” Gloy advised. “That can be a good starting point to identify the key points and then move down to less important factors that really are ‘static’ or ‘noise’ “ that can get in the way of a good decision. 

Probabilistic Analysis
This method can help you think through uncertainties, such as weather or price. Suppose you are at a coffee shop and another farmer asks: Do you think corn will get to $4.25? The answer is a simple yes or no. But what if you are asked: What are the odds that December corn will hit $4.25 before April 2021? Your reasons for citing odds of 25% would be very different than an answer of 75%.

Again, it is useful to write down the reasoning behind your analysis. As time passes, you can revisit your analysis and update the odds, perhaps changing your decision regarding corn sales.

Decision Journal
Do you see a theme here? Writing down and revisiting decisions allows you to identify where you were right or wrong in your assumptions. This knowledge can inform future decisions.

“I do this for my corn and soybean marketing,” said Holub, who began managing her family’s farm when her father died. “I can look back at my plan and at notes I made on specific sales. This keeps the market in perspective at the same time it suggests whether I need to adjust my plan.”

“I can look back at my plan and at notes I made on specific sales. This keeps the market in perspective at the same time it suggests whether I need to adjust my plan.”
– Maggie Holub, relationship officer based in Norfolk, Nebraska

Gloy said different tools work best for different decisions. But all are useful for mapping out key points, collecting input from partners or other sources, being more deliberative about decision making and later reviewing the process and outcome.

“This is a perfect time to start using one or more of them,” he said.


Load more comments
Your comment has been received and is being reviewed.

Comments are moderated and reviewed before they are posted on the site. View our terms of use.


Feb 22, 2024 | The Business of Agriculture

Why Every Producer Needs to Take a Fresh Look at ARC and PLC

Discover which economic and crop insurance changes need to be factored into 2024 risk management plans ahead of March 15.

Jul 18, 2023 | The Business of Agriculture

Farmland Values Show Signs of Stabilizing

Cropland values in the four states served by FCSAmerica gained ground in the first half of 2023, but at a slower pace than in recent years. Areas of the market appear to be stabilizing.

Jun 23, 2023 | The Business of Agriculture

Financing the Next Generation: Transitioning Assets

Watch as we unpack the two main drivers of a farm business – operations and assets – and discuss asset transition strategies.

Ready to Talk?

Contact us if you have questions or need more information. Fill out the form, or connect with your local office using the Office Locator.

FCSAmerica serves farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and rural residents in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. For inquiries outside this geography, use the Farm Credit Association Locator  to contact your local office.