Audits, Reporting and Program EvaluationWritten by Ann Wittmann
As fall sets in and the family rakes leaves, winterizes lawn equipment and brings out the snow blower, I can be found nestled in piles of paperwork at the office preparing for the Wyoming Beef Council’s (WBC) annual independent financial review. After 14 audits – all without findings, I’m comfortable enough with the process that I could spare some time to help in the yard, but honestly, it’s more fun for me organize paperwork than it is to play with the lawn equipment. In truth, the family knows I’m hiding out, and they are grateful. The farther I am from motorized equipment and flammable fuel, the longer we’ll all live.
An annual financial audit conducted by an independent certified public accountant is required of every qualified state beef council. Reviews are due to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB), which is responsible for the certification of qualified state beef councils, as well as the implementation of the provisions of the Beef Promotion and Research Act and Order.
Along with the audit, CBB also requires a statement of negative assurance that nothing came to the auditor’s attention to indicate that WBC was not in compliance with the provisions of the Beef Promotion and Research Act and Order. WBC must also provide a statement of revenues and expenses in the CBB’s specific “Full Dollar” forma, a schedule of actual expenditures versus budgeted amounts and a full review of the financial statements of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the beef checkoff’s largest contracting organization, and the United States Export Federation, a sub-contractor of NCBA. The review of the audited financial statements of these two organizations is an important step in ensuring accountability of beef checkoff contractors.
It should also be said that the budget and marketing plan approved by WBC are also reviewed by CBB to ensure that the state portion of the beef checkoff dollar is be spent within the guidelines of the Beef Promotion Act and Order.
Although I’ve been through the process numerous times, I am surprised by how much the audit varies each year. And it should. It’s always beneficial for new blood to look at standard operating procedures, internal controls and operational details in a fresh new way. Even though the WBC has contracted with McGee, Hearne and Paiz, LLP for several years, each year, the WBC audit is done by a different certified public accountant within the firm. Perhaps I am a little “touched,” but in spite of the scurrying, copying, scanning, meeting, highlighting, discussing and lugging of boxes, I find the audit requirements soothing and reassuring. Simply knowing that the audit is coming is comforting, and there is no better dance than the happy dance that erupts when a clean audit is in-hand.
WBC also takes this end-of-year accountability a step farther by evaluating each and every program conducted with checkoff dollars and measuring the success of those programs against the specific, measurable and time-bound goals established in each year’s marketing plan. This is no easy task, and we commend our outside contractors who have risen to the challenge by paying close attention to measurables and ultimately, the WBC strategic goals.
I’m happy to report that the audit, the Fiscal Year 2015 Program Evaluation document and the WBC Annual Report are available for viewing or download on the publications page of the WBC web site, found at wybeef.com/publications.aspx.
Happy holidays to all, and let’s celebrate another year of beef checkoff success and accountability.
WAIC Strives to Educate Students in Ag, Natural Resources TopicsWritten by Ron Rabou
By Ron Rabou, Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom Board Member
“My food comes from the store! What is wrong with you?”
“People and machines make our clothes, and we buy them from the store. Why don’t you get that?”
“Oil companies are greedy, and all they think about is money. They couldn't care less about people and the environment.”
“Farmers and ranchers are using chemicals and hormones that are causing cancer and killing us. They are bad people.”
Sounds pretty horrible, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s horrible – horrible that these are the kind of comments that my kids heard while attending elementary school here in our state’s capitol, right here in the “Cowboy State.” I made the mistake of assuming that, if you lived in Wyoming, you understood, for the most part, the value of agriculture, energy and natural resources. After all, drive in any direction or just look out your door and our vast land of resources is staring you right in the face. You can’t miss it, right? Wrong. An increasing and alarming number of students are disconnected now more than ever from the industries of agriculture, energy and natural resources – the industries that have helped to shape, form and build our great state and our nation for generations.
Our students seem to have a pretty good grasp on technology, sports and even some of the core subjects in school. And all of those are important to a degree, but what they are missing is the pure, basic understanding of what truly sustains life and our economy. These are the things that we cannot do without but rarely think of their value and importance in our everyday lives – things like food, fiber, transportation, heating and cooling, housing, pharmaceuticals and vaccines, to name a few.
The roots of almost all things we need in our daily lives are attached firmly to the industries of agriculture, energy and natural resources. However, as our younger generation continues to slip further and further from their understanding of the value of these industries and what they provide in our lives, the larger the challenges and regulations we will face in the future.
An ancient Chinese proverb reads, “When you cease to strive to understand, then you will know without understanding.” Sound familiar? As an agriculture producer, it seems to me that a lot of folks, especially government, know more about what I need to do and how I need to do it, than I do. And I’m the one taking the risks and in the trenches doing it. I attribute this largely to the lack of understanding about what I do, how I need to do it and why. The good news is I am confident the tide can be turned. But it can only be turned if we pool our resources, our intellect and our willpower together and unify as one voice.
When I became a board member for Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom, my hope was that we could do something that really made a difference in how agriculture, energy and natural resources were perceived. When I learned about our newest mission, “The Wyoming Stewardship Project,” it immediately became clear to me that this is our chance – our chance to have a voice, to be heard and to make a difference. And not just to make a difference, but to help transform what Wyoming’s students learn, how they learn and how they can apply what they learn.
The goal of the Wyoming Stewardship Project is to educate, engage and empower students, primarily through understanding and practical application. We are proud that this project is for Wyoming by Wyoming and will help to create generational viability for Wyoming by empowering students to problem solve, create, understand and improve, making Wyoming better tomorrow than it is today.
In simple terms, here’s how it works. We are currently working to develop new learning opportunities for students across Wyoming. These range from hands-on education, technology, scholarship opportunities and other projects that provide incentives for both students and teachers. We are currently hosting stakeholder meetings with industry leaders to determine what and how Wyoming’s students should learn. Then, simultaneously as this information is shared and stakeholders participate, we will work with educators across the state to work in harmony to process, brainstorm and write these new programs. And most importantly, these programs will be written so they are both practical and applicable to agriculture, energy and natural resources, so they are impactful and produce positive results.
As you might imagine, this is an enormously expensive and massive undertaking, especially for a staff of two people and a small volunteer board. As we move forward, it is imperative that we enlist your help! The project cannot be realized or completed unless we have the funds to make it happen. This will be an ongoing project and our ultimate goal is to have enough funding to continue to update and manage these projects. We can have a true, solid impact on our future. And it starts here, today, with each one of you. Help make Wyoming better tomorrow than it is today.
Partners in Resource Excellence: A Meeting with Three of Wyoming’s Natural Resources AssociationsWritten by Windy Kelley
By Windy K. Kelley, Wyoming Society for Range Management Past
President and UW Extension Regional Extension Coordinator
The Wyoming Society for Range Management (SRM) held their annual meeting Nov. 3-5 in Laramie. The theme of this year’s meeting was “Partners in Resource Excellence” – an appropriate theme, as the meeting was in partnership with the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts and the Wyoming Weed and Pest Districts, and partnerships are at the core of work in natural resources and agriculture.
Participants had the option to attend a tour on the first day, including a tour of X Bar Ranch west of Laramie. The Office of State Lands and Investments acquired the ranch in December 2007 and manages it for the benefit of the common school, or K-12, permanent land and income funds. The current lessee manages the ranch as a yearling operation, and they produce hay. Additionally, the ranch is enrolled in the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Hunter Management Area program. It was great to learn about the effort and to meet the ranch manager.
The second day included a presentation from retired University of Wyoming professor and author Dr. Dennis Knight as the keynote speaker. Dr. Knight shared a wealth of information and updates in the second edition of the Mountains and Plains: The Ecology of Wyoming Landscapes. Dr. Knight shared ecological implications of a changing climate in Wyoming and touched upon changes such as the role of the Greater sage grouse in land management today compared to when the first edition of the book was published. It was evident that Dr. Knight had an influence on a number of Wyoming’s current ranchers and organization professionals who attended this year’s meeting.
Each of the associations organized and hosted a concurrent session the third morning. Wyoming SRM organized the session titled, “Rangeland Research On-the-Ground with Private and Public Land Managers,” which Dr. Justin Derner of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service moderated. The session included a number of great presentations, starting with Joe Hicks of USDA Forest Service, followed by Wyoming rancher Scott Sims sharing about their on-the-ground applied management and research and needs from academic research.
The morning continued with researchers sharing how they are working to scale-up their research to be more relevant and true to how land managers and ranchers manage lands, including an adaptive grazing management experiment in northern Colorado. More about the experiement can be found at ars.usda.gov/Main/Docs.htm?docid=24218.
Additionally, state of Colorado Climatologist Nolan Doesken shared climate tools for ranchers and emphasized the need for more local precipitation data. The data can be collected by citizens and reported into the CoCoRaHS database. Dr. John Ritten of the University of Wyoming (UW) continued and wrapped-up the conversation about the importance of local precipitation data in his talk about economic impacts of increasing seasonal precipitation variation on cow/calf enterprises.
Thank you to all of the speakers and participants for an excellent session!
It’s a great pleasure each year to celebrate rangeland stewards in Wyoming. Wyoming SRM received a number of nominations for groups and individuals from throughout the state.
The following were awarded and recognized at this year’s meeting. The Uinta County Conservation District received the Award of Merit, and Piney Creeks Restoration Project received the Outstanding Achievement Award.
Jessica Crowder and Mae Smith were presented with Young Range Professionals awards, and D. Terrance Booth and J. Daniel Rodgers received Sustained Lifetime Achievement awards for 2014 and 2015, respectively. Lastly, Rick Dunne was honored with the Trail Boss Memorial.
Congratulations to all of you, and thank you again for your hard work, and dedication to the stewardship of rangelands.
Youth activities are at the center of the Wyoming SRM annual meeting. Activities include a student-professional mixer and events such as the High School Youth Forum and Rangeland Cup. Student events and competitions prepare the next generation of rangeland stewards through testing their knowledge and giving them the opportunity to develop their skills.
In Extemporaneous Speaking, Lacy Nelson of Sheridan College received first place, and BJ Bender of UW came in second. Kelsey Welter, Eric Ramerth, Morgan Squires and Justin White of UW won first place in the Rangeland Cup Team Poster Competition, and second place for the contest went to Jessica Windh, Alyssa Archuleta and Jared Nichols, also of UW.
The Undergraduate Range Management Exam (URME) first place winner was Jessica Windh of UW, and a tie for second went to Kelsey Welter and Eric Ramerth, both of UW. Lastly, in the Plant Identification Contest, Tevyn Bladwin of UW took first place, and UW’s BJ Bender came in second.
Wyoming SRM also held its second annual Pro-Am Challenge, an event partnering an undergraduate student with a professional for the URME and Plant Identification. Eric Ramerth of UW and Thad Berrett of the U.S. Forest Service came in first in the URME, and in Plant Identification, BJ Bender of UW and Julie Kraft of Sublette County Weed and Pest District topped the contest.
This year’s High School Youth Forum had youth from Upton and Green River. This event allows high school students to prepare and present about a rangeland topic of their choice. The youth with the highest score has the opportunity to attend and deliver their presentation at the International Society for Range Management’s annual meeting – an all-expense-paid trip. Karen Lambert of Upton High School had this year’s top score with her presentation titled Studying the Impacts of Cattle Trailing in Weston County.
Congratulations to everyone!
We want to thank our partners in resource management, conference sponsors and tradeshow vendors for another great meeting! Your continued support is appreciated.
Selling a Farm or Ranch: What You Need to KnowWritten by Chris Nolt
By Chris Nolt, Solid Rock Wealth Management
There can be significant tax consequences to selling a farm or ranch that has appreciated in value. Fortunately, financial tools exist that can defer these taxes. This article will briefly discuss these tax saving tools and some common issues families face when selling their farm or ranch.
Taxation of assets
Various tax rates and tax treatments apply to the different types of assets involved with the sale of a farm or ranch. How you allocate the sales price to the assets of your farm or ranch will determine the tax you may ultimately pay.
It is imperative that you seek direction from your tax advisors when purchase price allocation is being negotiated.
Two financial tools are commonly used to defer or avoid tax on the sale of highly appreciated or depreciated property – IRC Section 1031 Exchange and IRC Section 664 Charitable Remainder Trust. Using one or a combination of these tools with a sale will save tax.
By using these tools successfully, money that would have gone to paying taxes can be invested to generate retirement income.
IRC Section 1031 tax-deferred exchange
IRC Section 1031 Exchange allows a taxpayer to sell property and purchase other property without currently recognizing capital gains tax on the sale.
To quote the tax code, “No gain or loss shall be recognized on the exchange of property held for productive use in a trade or business or for investment purposes if such property is exchanged solely for property of a like-kind which is to be held for either productive use in trade or business.”
Farm or ranch land may be exchanged for other types of commercial property, such as office buildings or apartment complexes, that may offer higher cash-flow returns than farm/ranch property.
IRC Section 664 charitable remainder trust
A charitable remainder trust (CRT), sometimes referred to as a capital gains avoidance trust, can be another powerful tool to defer or entirely avoid capital gains tax on the sale of appreciated real estate.
In addition to avoiding tax on the sale of real estate, a CRT can also be used to avoid tax on the sale of other assets such as livestock, machinery and equipment.
One does not have to use a CRT for the entire sale. Combining a CRT with a 1031 exchange can be a powerful combination for preserving wealth, diversifying investment assets and generating passive retirement income. A CRT also generates a charitable income tax deduction that can reduce tax on cash proceeds from a sale.
IRC Section 121 personal residence exclusion
IRC Section 121 allows an individual to exclude up to $250,000 of taxable gain from the sale of a principal residence and a married couple filing a joint return to exclude up to $500,000 of gain.
To help maximize the amount of tax-free cash you may receive from the sale of a farm or ranch containing the personal residence, one may include additional acreage with the home.
Make sure to discuss this strategy with your real estate agent and certified public accountant.
Real estate comprised of multiple,
separately deeded parcels
Farms and ranches are often composed of multiple, separately-deeded parcels with varying cost basis figures.
If you are considering a 1031 exchange or charitable remainder trust for part of the sale, a potentially effective tax-saving strategy is to obtain separate buy-sell agreements on each parcel so you can exchange or gift the low-basis parcels and take cash out of the high basis parcels.
Owning farm/ranch real estate inside an entity
How you own your farm or ranch impacts the tax treatment and planning options available to you.
Typical entities that own farm or ranch real estate include general corporation, also known as a “C” corporation; subchapter S corporation; or a partnership/Limited Liability Company.
When a C corporation sells appreciated real estate, it will owe tax on the profit at the corporate tax rate. When sale proceeds are distributed to the shareholders as dividends, shareholders will also pay tax on this income at their personal tax rate.
Consequently, due to this double taxation, tax due from the sale of appreciated real estate in a C corporation can exceed 50 percent.
Property owned by multiple partners/shareholders
Owning appreciated real estate in an entity with multiple partners/shareholders can create problems when selling property.
For example, if two people own appreciated land in partnership and one partner would like to do a 1031 exchange or CRT and one partner would like to pay tax and take the after-tax proceeds, there is a problem. One way to deal with this problem is to distribute the property out of the entity prior to a sale.
It is critical in these situations to seek counsel from qualified tax and legal professionals.
If you are considering selling your farm or ranch and you wish to save taxes on the sale, it is critical to engage in planning prior to a sale. It’s also critically important that the advisors you work with have extensive experience in farm or ranch sale planning.
For more information on these tax saving tools and other planning strategies for selling a farm or ranch, you may request a free Wealth Guide by calling 406-582-1264. For more information, visit solidrockwealth.com and solidrockproperty.com.
Chris Nolt is the owner of Solid Rock Wealth Management, Inc. and Solid Rock Realty Advisors, LLC, sister companies dedicated to working with families throughout the country who are selling a farm or ranch and transitioning into retirement. Chris helps families to save tax on the sale of their farm or ranch and create passive income from the sale proceeds.
Report Highlights Restoration Progress Made Despite ChallengesWritten by USDA
By the United States Department of Agriculture
The U.S. Forest Service has increased the pace and scale of forest restoration by nine percent since 2011, according to a report released on Nov. 10. The significant progress comes in the face of mounting challenges to the agency, including record droughts, longer wildfire seasons and the increasing percentage of the agency’s budget spent fighting wildland fires.
Despite the gains, at least 65 million National Forest System acres are still in need of restoration work. The rising cost of wildfire suppression, as fires have become more intense and more expensive to fight in recent years, has taken funding away from restoration, watershed and wildlife programs, limiting the Forest Service’s ability to do the work that would prevent fires in the first place.
With a record 52 percent of the Forest Service’s budget dedicated to fighting wildfire in 2015, compared to just 16 percent in 1995, the Forest Service’s ability to do more restoration work within the current budget structure is severely constrained by the increasing proportion of resources spent on fire.
Before a single fire broke out in 2015, the Forest Service started the fiscal year with a budget of $115 million less for all work not related to fire than the previous year. Budget constraints have also reduced staffing for restoration, watersheds and recreation by nearly 40 percent, from about 18,000 in 1998 to fewer than 11,000 people in 2015.
“The Forest Service has made tremendous progress in conducting restoration work to keep our forests healthy and resilient. However, because of the growing cost of fighting more frequent and dangerous wildfires, much of the work that supports healthy forests is being starved,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “The magnitude of the crisis demands that we cannot go another year without a solution to the Forest Service’s broken fire budget. There is broad agreement that we need to fix the way we pay for wildfires. We have provided Congress with a straightforward solution to enable us to do the work we need to do and now it is up to Congress to act.”
The bipartisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, already introduced in the House and Senate, is an important step forward in addressing the funding problems. The proposed legislation, which mirrors a similar proposal in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget, would provide a fiscally responsible mechanism to treat wildfires more like other natural disasters, end “fire transfers” and partially replenish the ability to restore resilient forests and protect against future fire outbreaks. The bill would increase the acres the Forest Service could treat annually by one million acres and increase timber outputs by 300 million board feet annually.
The Restoration Report shows that in 2014 the Forest Service treated more than 4.6 million acres, an area larger than New Jersey and an increase of nine percent, or 400,000 acres, compared to restoration activities performed in 2011. These treatments reduced the potential impact of future wildfires and produced 2.8 billion boardfeet of timber volume, enough for 93,000 single-family homes, compared to 2.5 billion boardfeet in 2011.
Healthy forests and grasslands provide Americans with clean air and water, wood products, energy, recreation opportunities and habitat for fish and wildlife. Healthy forests are also better able to withstand the stresses of drought, a changing climate and wildfire.
The report puts a spotlight on key partners that are helping the Forest Service increase the pace, scale and impact of restoration work. It also examines the Forest Service’s expansion of the bipartisan Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLR) to high-priority landscapes in 15 states. CFLR has reduced the risk of catastrophic wildfire on 1.45 million acres of forest and generated more than $661 million in local income and helped create or maintain an average of 4,360 jobs per year.
Some other highlights contained in the report note that the agency helped facilitate investment in more than 230 wood-to-energy projects with a combined investment of nearly $1 billion in grants, loans and loan guarantees since 2009.
Since 2011, the Forest Service has restored 1.2 million acres of insect and disease-infested forests, resulting in 470,000 green tons of biomass.
Since 2012, the Forest Service has identified more than 300 priority watersheds and completed restoration work to improve the condition of 53 of those watersheds.
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the U.S. Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.
Visit the U.S. Forest Service online at fs.fed.us.