Family Farms

Family Farms: How to Properly Plan for Your Estate and Preserve the American Heritage

The majority of farms in this country are family owned and operated. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Census of Agriculture, family farms account for almost 96% of the 2,204,792 farms in the United States. According to this census, there are three basic types of family farms: (1) Very large with gross sales over $500,000; (2) Large with gross sales between $250,000-$500,000; and (3) Small with gross sales under $250,000.

Regardless of the size of your family farm, the greatest threat to survival is not droughts, floods, high interest rates, or competition from foreign imports. The greatest threat to your family farm is the rising costs of healthcare. All politicians, regardless of their political party, have promised to protect our family farms. Yet rising health care costs and current health care policy is hurting our family farms in this country.

The US Department of Agriculture has determined that our family farmers make little to no income from farming operations. The latest data from the US Department of Agriculture and Georgia Statistics System states that net farm incomes in Brooks, Colquitt, Decatur, Grady, Mitchell, and Thomas Counties in Georgia decreased 5% to an average of $35,448. How then are our family farmers going to pay for their health and long-term care?

Family Farms Are At Risk

Unless a family farmer has significant income from other sources, cash reserves, or long-term care insurance to pay these enormous costs, then he or she will be forced to seek government assistance; but at what cost to our farmers and their families? If an individual seeks government assistance for their long-term care needs in the form of Medicaid, then the State of Georgia has the right to recover benefits paid against a family farm.

How are the heirs of family farmers to pay for their long-term care? Should they use their parent’s or grandparent’s savings? Should they take a loan against the farm? Or will they be forced to sell all or a part of the family farm to pay for long-term care? Data from the Georgia Statistics System suggests the number of farms in southwest Georgia farm have decreased 26.5% since 2002 and the estimated fair market value of farm land and buildings is $2,794.50 per acre. Family farms are already being abandoned and/or sold at an alarming rate, and the values are low.

As it stands now, we will continue to lose more of our family farms. We encourage everyone to proactively plan for their long-term care now when there is ample time to help protect the family farm. Should you or a loved one have any questions concerning elder care and long-term planning, please do not hesitate to call my office (229) 226-8183 or email [email protected].