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Planting Season 2023: Help Your Clients Farm More Sustainably

As crops go into the ground for Planting Season 2023, how can you help your clients make more sustainable farming decisions? Here are some tips.
May 16, 2023

Planting Season 2023 is upon us. Farmers and landowners across America are making key decisions about what to put into the ground and when. 

Among those decisions: How high of a priority are sustainable farming practices?

Given crop futures for this season, it’s a complex decision to make. Certainly farmers and landowners care about the long-term viability of their land. 

But given the rising cost of farm inputs, farmers have to see exceptionally high crop yields to break even this year. 

This may require some planting decisions—including applications and treatments—that increase short-term yields but have long-term implications for the sustainability of the land.

So what does this mean for how you advise your own clients? 

It means that the sustainability question is not as straightforward. You, as the trusted advisor, have an opportunity to help them thread the needle:

Run a profitable operation for 2023…

…while keeping with sustainable farming practices & maintaining the land’s long-term health.

Here are some tips to help you navigate this scenario in Planting Season 2023. 

Why farmers need to adopt sustainable farming practices

Long term, sustainability and productivity aren’t at odds. 

Take soil health, for example. In a 2019 study, increasing the organic matter in soil from 0.05% to 1% resulted in a 20% yield. Another study found that soil health practices were able to increase yields by $76 per acre.

This shouldn’t be shocking. If you pump a bunch of forever chemicals into the ground, the damage to the land will hurt your productivity. 

But given current market conditions, the concern right now isn’t the long-term health of the land. It’s the farmer’s and landowner’s ability to be profitable in 2023. 

So how do you best advocate for sustainable farming practices among your clients? 

The key is to find a “why” that ties directly to the farmer’s bottom line. 

Rather than talk in broad strokes about “the environment,” explain how sustainable farming practices help their operation right here, right now. 

Reduce costs

Farm input costs are already high. Sustainable farming practices can help drive down those costs, including:

  • Reduce water use & irrigation costs
  • Limit use of equipment to move soil
  • Cut back on chemical treatments

Although some traditional farming practices improve productivity, they’re also costly to implement. Crop profitability is a double-sided coin, and cutting back on costs could alleviate some pressure.

Improve planting date reliability

If farmers rely on chemicals manufactured overseas, supply chain delays can impact their ability to meet planting targets. 

Sustainable farming practices can circumvent the use of those chemicals, effectively negating the impacts of supply chain issues or product shortages. 

This is an unforeseen cost that farmers and landowners generally don’t consider until they’re already in the throes of it. Even one week of delayed planting could result in lost productivity and decrease the chances of profitability. 

Force creative solutions

Many times your clients use a particular farming method simply because it’s what they’ve always done. It’s not always the most effective, nor the most cost-effective.

Committing to sustainable planting practices can force clients to rethink their previous practices. This can force them to consider alternative solutions, some of which may be better for the bottom line. 

How to support your clients in navigating sustainable planting decisions in 2023

As a trusted advisor to your clients, part of the value you offer is help in navigating these key decisions. 

By showing the client that you’re in their corner, you can guide them toward sustainability—even in this challenging market.

The challenge is to show the value of sustainable farming for practical reasons, not political or ideological. While concern for the environment is important, the client won’t listen if you put politics above their operation.

When you put the client first, however, you’ll build trust. In turn, they’re more likely to listen to—and follow—your advice. 

1. Make sustainability benefit their operation

There are a million canned arguments you could make for farmland sustainability. We’ve heard them all.

The farmer isn’t going to listen to copy-and-paste advice. So make sure you’re speaking directly to their operation and their needs.

This requires you to get to know their land, so you can tailor recommendations to them specifically. 

2. Tie sustainability to selling decisions

Although farmland values likely won’t be as strong as 2022, we can expect a well-supported farmland market in 2023. Some clients may want to sell off their land. 

But here’s the thing: if the soil’s been depleted, then that land isn’t going to be very valuable. 

So if you have a client that’s considering selling, make sure they understand that sustainability is key to making their asset as sellable as possible. Otherwise, they’ll have to settle for a low rate.

3. Consider creative finance decisions

Depending on your lease agreement structure, farmers are not incentivized to look at long term ROI. They’re just trying to make it through this season.

If there’s any extra capital from last year’s record-breaking profits, the client could invest that back into the operation. 

However, it’s entirely possible that the time for that has passed for this season. But if the opportunity is there, it could be a way to keep the operation afloat, even if they struggle to break even. 

4. Focus on progress, not perfection

You can’t and won’t be able to do all things sustainable overnight. Especially this season. Many clients simply will have their hands tied.

That’s fine. The goal here is to start making progress toward sustainability. 

Your first season, you may be limited in what you can do. But go ahead and do it. You can do more sustainable farming with each successive season. 

5. Find a farmer who’s experienced with sustainable practices

Sometimes, landowners can’t make sustainable decisions for their land because their farmer doesn’t have the right expertise.

But if the client is able to get out of their current lease, you may want to find a farmer who has experience with sustainable farming. They’ll likely be able to maintain land health while also growing highly productive crops. 

Final thoughts on sustainable farming in 2023

Sustainable farming is a tall order for many farmers and landowners in 2023. If you value your clients’ commitment to sustainability, however, you’ll have to advise them in the right direction.

This involves showing the benefit of sustainable farming for their operation in specific, tangible ways. When you show that you care about their operation, their needs, and their goals, you’ll be in a position where the farmer will trust you.

Then when it comes time to sell, lease, or otherwise adjust their land agreements, you’ll be the first one they call. 

To help clients make critical decisions about their land, make sure you have all the information at your fingertips. See how the GroundOS land software gives you the insights you need.

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