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Strategic Planning

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us... Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Someday in the future we may look back and think this excerpt from the opening paragraph of Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities sums up the situation facing production agriculture in the mid 1990's.

Dickens was writing about the blood bath of the French Revolution. The times are changing in American agriculture. The new farm program with the acronym FAIR will impact all of agriculture, not just the major program crops. Genetically engineered plants and their companion chemicals will change the cost structure and yield potential of crop production.

Input suppliers, crop and livestock producers and commodity processors will employ new management and marketing strategies. Agriculture is beginning a technology-management-absence of government support 'revolution' that will turn into a financial blood bath for unsuspecting producers who do not adapt quickly to the new environment.

To the left is the opening paragraph of my August 1996 NF Ag News and Views article, which is still mostly applicable today. Many will have difficulty identifying the elements of "the best of times." As I write, the House has approved an $8.7 billion farm relief package, but even this hefty amount draws complaints that it isn't enough money to relieve financially stressed farmers and stockmen who are suffering from the combined perils of the weather and depressed world markets. Times are difficult for all in agriculture and downright tough for some. If you have not recently assessed your place in agriculture's future, you'd better hurry before it's gone!

In an effort to identify our future position, the Noble Research Institute Agricultural Division has embarked on a strategic planning process designed to help an organization or farm business recognize and anticipate problems and opportunities. Many of you who completed the survey about a year ago have helped assess where we are now. We currently are determining our future role and will develop a plan to implement it. Mostly, the process is about adapting to change! Have you thought about the forces of change that affect your agricultural operation?

We have identified the internal and external forces that are changing the Noble Research Institute Agricultural Division. One significant force affecting us is population growth within our work area. Are you aware that Dallas and Tarrant counties in Texas are more populated than the entire state of Oklahoma? What is occurring outside your farm/ranch operation that will alter your future? Is the infrastructure that provides your inputs and purchases your production strong and viable? In some areas where agricultural production is declining, the infrastructure to support the remaining producers is in jeopardy.

These comments are not intended to spread despair but to encourage you to assess the changes around you and plan for your future. The Noble Research Institute consultation teams are becoming adept at the strategic planning process. If you desire assistance in developing a plan for the future of your agricultural operation, let us know and we will do our best to help you.

It is a bad plan that admits of no modification. Publilius Syrus (first century B.C.)