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Farm finances

Farm finances

There was a line in one of those corny comedy/action-adventure movies that made me roll my eyes recently. A character asked, “What’s in Kansas?” in reference to them being unable to understand why a mutual friend moved to Kansas. That’s not the line that made me roll my eyes. I am a transplant myself and know from experience that Kansas doesn’t seem to be very exciting until you get to know what makes it such a wonderful place to live.

The line I am still thinking about was the response, “she married a rich rancher.” The insinuation that the only thing making Kansas attractive to a highly affluent, college educated woman is lots of money, makes me little concerned about how many people think all ranchers and farmers are rich.

Since Tax Day is this week, I thought it would be appropriate to dive into how much money farmers make and why people have so many misconceptions about the topic.

In my opinion, there are several culprits creating mystery around farm income levels. The first is non-farm people. I find it humorous to watch an outsider ask a farmer how many acres or cows they have. Some farmers see that as asking point-blank, “What’s your salary?” The poor outsider is probably just trying to show interest and wouldn’t have a clue if 500 or 5,000 acres was normal, let alone have any insight on the value of a cow.

Farmers also contribute to the problem. Growing up, my parents had off-farm jobs, so I never really thought about if our dairy made money. In college, I meet farm kids who somewhat proudly talked about getting Pell grants because their parents had a low income or at least had a low taxable income. I never liked that attitude and was glad to meet other farmers who were content to pay taxes because that meant their business was successful and they were being productive members of society.

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Photo Credit: gettyimages-vwalakte

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