Farmers and ranchers are innovative businesspeople who are not afraid to take risks. Many operators are always thinking about ways to increase revenues. Sometimes that means expanding into areas that can include commercial activities, like seed conditioning, hauling other peoples' grain, custom spraying, or even agritourism or a farm stand.
We’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 things you should consider whenever you have a discussion about expanding your farm or ranch business. The bottom line: It's important to do your homework, and be sure to contact your insurance agent.
1. Check federal, state and county laws and ordinances
Check to see what building codes, permits or licenses may be needed prior to starting any new business or adding new construction.
2. Environmental impact
Be a good land steward and consider any impact your expansion could have on the environment. Check with your local Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Department of Transportation (DOT) and county engineers on how you can protect the environment as you grow your operation.
3. Consider your neighbors
Will an expansion of your operation impact your neighbors in any way? If you think the answer to that question may be yes, consider informing them early of your plans.
4. Increased traffic
Inviting the public onto your property brings with it special liability concerns. You will need to post signs to warn visitors of any potential dangers. Are your premises ADA compliant? Will you provide restroom or hand-washing facilities?
5. Product safety
You may need to initiate proper controls and safe handling programs for any product you are processing or selling to prevent property damage or bodily injury to others.
6. More employees
If the expanded operations will require hiring additional employees, you may need to provide training and safety materials. If the additional employees increase your operation to over 50, you will need to comply with OSHA standards. Be sure you’ve obtained adequate insurance to protect both your employees and your operation.
7. Safety and security
Consider if you need to take additional steps to protect your property or operation from burglary, theft or other crimes.
8. Manage outside risks
Be sure to obtain signed contracts and certificates of insurance for any expansion operations that involve other businesses coming onto your farm or ranch or for businesses you hire to do work for you and your operation.
9. Have a contingency plan
If your operation suffers a setback, have a plan in place with steps to follow that allow you to continue your operations. Having a documented contingency plan can help you get your operation back up and running more quickly.
10. Review your insurance
Depending on the type of operations you’re considering, your farm insurance policy may no longer be adequate; you may need a general liability policy. Invite your insurance agent out to review your operations and talk through your expansion plans. Your agent can help address any new coverage needs or gaps and provide guidance. Reviewing your insurance is a critical step to help ensure you’re protecting your assets as you expand your business.