Qualified Professional Shortage Looms

Katie Micik Dehlinger
By  Katie Micik Dehlinger , Farm Business Editor
(Getty images; Photo illustration by Barry Falkner)

Agriculture often discusses ways to encourage the next generation of farmers, but it needs to bring the same level of interest to the next generation of agricultural professionals. There's growing worry about the declining number of attorneys, accountants, bankers and veterinarians, just to name a few.

"The concerning thing that we're seeing is the number of CPAs [certified public accountants] that are just quitting," DTN tax columnist Rod Mauszycki says, adding that frequent changes to the tax code and the high penalties for mistakes are fueling a wave of retirements. There just aren't enough young CPAs with agricultural knowledge to take their place.

"So, some rural communities are not going to have a CPA. They're not going to have an attorney that knows agriculture," Mauszycki says. "And, there are a lot of people like me that would love to help but know they just can't."

He turned away at least 30 prospective clients last year because he didn't have any availability, advising them to look for a professional with at least 15 to 20 years left in their career, "because in five years, they'll be full. You're not going to have skilled professionals unless you lock younger ones down now."

If you already have a team in place, it's worth asking what their career horizon looks like and their plans for a business successor. You may want to start building a relationship with someone else now, knowing that you may need to make a change down the road.

Building the pipeline of young professionals to support farms does not have a clear or easy solution. I don't pretend to know the answers, but this is an issue that will get worse unless there are more conscious efforts to make it better.


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