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Updated: March 30, 2021
By Shannon Dill

It is important for your farm business to project financial statements for the next 3-5 years depending on a loan application, long-term goals, or a new enterprise decision. Projected financial statements are also referred to as pro forma budgets. By projecting your business’s financial statements, you discover whether your business will anticipate a profit over the long term.

Creating a financial plan can be a complex process.  You may need additional spreadsheets to assemble information and budget totals.  For help and examples visit Maryland Rural Enterprise Development Center.

The income and cash flow statements are used to make projections. Projections are a businesses’ best estimate of income and expenses over a period of time. Being conservative and realistic with your projections will help your business in the long run.

The best way to start making any projections is to review your enterprise budgets and financial statements. From there you will be able to predict average costs and expenses over time. Your implementation strategy and sales projections should be reflected in the pro forma financial statement.

Financial Statements help you:

  • Determine your farm’s solvency, profitability and liquidity
  • Make important production, financing, and investment decisions
  • Help with credit and lending applications
  • Develop budgets for farm enterprises

Along with projections your farm may also want to conduct financial ratio analysis. This will look, long term, at projections and costs and answer questions regarding liquidity, profitability, and debt.

The financial position and performance of a farm can be described with three financial statements. These statements are generated by organizing and analyzing your business’s accounting activities. While financial statements take some research and homework, they are very beneficial to your farm business.

The three financial statements show different financial measures for a business.

Balance Sheet (Solvency)

Balance Sheet (Solvency) - is a detailed listing of assets, liabilities, and net worth at a given point in time. It answers the basic question, “How much is your farm business worth?”

Importance—Net worth is the best measure of a farm business’s financial position. It organizes what the business owns (assets) and what it owes (liabilities), which ultimately determines farm solvency. What is your farm business’s financial position?

Income Statement (Profitability)

Income Statement (Profitability) - is a listing of income, expense, and profit for a farm operation in a calendar year. This statement includes inventories and depreciation.

Importance—Profitability is the summary of all resources that have come into the farm (revenue) and all resources that have left the farm (expense). This equals the net income or net loss. How did the farm business do last year?

Cash Flow (Liquidity)

Cash Flow (Liquidity) - records time and size of cash inflows and outflows that occur over a calendar year. Liquidity differs from profitability because the cash flow statement only includes cash income or expenses, whereas the income statement also includes non-cash items such as depreciation and inventory adjustments.

Importance—Liquidity is the ability of your farm to generate enough cash to meet financial obligations as they come due without disrupting the normal operation of the farm business. The cash flow statement is a critical component of the business plan and will be reviewed by lenders. Where is cash used and can bills be paid on time?

Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is formatted with assets on the left hand side and liabilities and net worth on the right hand side.

  • Assets—are items owned by the farm business, such as land, buildings, machinery, livestock, crops in storage, and supplies.
  • Liabilities—are the debts owed by the farm business, such as notes payable, interest, taxes, loans and rent.

Farm assets and liabilities are divided into three categories according to their length of life, cash liquidity, and effect on production in the farm business. The categories are current, intermediate, and long term. A fourth category lists non-farm assets.

When estimating asset value there are two possible methods: Market Value or Cost Approach.

  • Market Value: values assets at the estimated current market value.
  • Cost Approach: values assets at their original cost plus cost of improvements minus depreciation.

Current Assets/Liabilities

Current Assets/Liabilities - are those with a life less than one year. Assets include cash, accounts receivable, and other assets easily converted to cash within a year. These can include prepaid expenses, supplies, crops, and livestock on hand. Liabilities consist of accounts payable and accrued expenses such as rent, interest, and taxes that will be paid within one year. Short-term notes and the current principal due on longer-term liabilities are also listed.

Intermediate Assets/Liabilities

Intermediate Assets/Liabilities - are those with a life more than one year but less than 10 years. Assets include breeding livestock, tools, vehicles, machinery, and equipment. Liabilities consist of loans for breeding livestock, machinery, and equipment.

Long-term Assets/Liabilities

Long-term Assets/Liabilities - are those with a useful life of more than 10 years. Assets include farmland, buildings, and improvements. Liabilities consist of mortgages and contracts owed on farmland and loans for buildings and improvements.

Non-farm Assets/Liabilities

Non-farm Assets/Liabilities - these are personal items not considered part of the farm operation. Assets include the home, furnishings, and vehicles.

Net Worth is sometimes referred to as owner’s equity. It is the difference between the value of farm assets and the liabilities against those assets.

Text that reads, Net Worth equals Assets minus Liabilities

Projected Income Statement

A projected income statement, sometimes called the projected profit and loss statement, is developed to forecast farm profitability. It estimates future income, expenses, and profit for the business. The projected income statement will cover a given accounting period such as a calendar year or other fiscal period.

Projecting an income statement is made easier if there are historical income statements to use as a reference point. Another aid in projecting an income statement is the enterprise budgets. Enterprise budgets estimate income and expenses on a per unit bases. Taking the various enterprise budgets for the business and multiplying the income and expenses by their respective total number of units in the business and then adding them together will approximate the projected income statement.

During start up and transition periods some businesses will need to develop projected income statements over several years.  Long-term projections are especially important for businesses that will have escalating sales volume over multiple years, large inventory differences from year to year such as perennial crops or nonperishable goods and businesses with enterprises starting on different years. 

Cash Farm Income - List sources and values of your cash farm income. Include revenues from sales of crops, livestock, livestock products, and government payments from commodity programs. Also include income received for custom work, co-op dividends, and others.

Cash Operating Expenses - Include those expenses associated with the operation of the farm business. In addition to variable production expenses such as feed, seed, fertilizer, short-term interest on operation capital and supplies, include fixed cash expenses such as taxes, insurance, and interest on intermediate and long-term loans.

Depreciation - Even though depreciation is not a cash cost to the operation, it should be included in the income statement because it represents the loss in value of buildings, machinery, and other assets that wear out as a result of production. Without it, the income statement will not account for these economic losses. Historical depreciation can be a starting point for estimating future depreciation, but you must also consider the depreciation for future machinery and building purchases that are included in the business plan. A simple way to estimate the annual depreciation is to take the purchase price (beginning value) of the equipment and buildings, subtract out the salvage value (ending value) that will exist at the end its life and divide by the number of years of useful life.

Text that reads, Depreciation equals the beginning value minus the ending value all divided by years of useful life

Profit or Loss - The projected income statement should give a picture of future business profit. As the business changes there is often a transition period where profits may vary year to year. If this is the case, you may want to develop and projected income statement for each year until the business reaches a steady state. As your plans progress you will want to have a good accounting system in order to construct historical income statements to analyze the progress of your business.

Cash Flow Budget

Another important financial statement is the cash flow budget. This budget estimates the flow of money in and out of the business. It is similar to the projected income statement in that it estimates the cash income and cash expenses. However, there are important differences. The cash flow budget does not include depreciation since this is not a cash expenses. Rather it will include the actual purchase prices for capital purchases - machinery and buildings. It will include sales of capital assets. It will include cash flowing into the business from loans including loans for machinery and buildings. It will also include loan principal payments. It includes other receipts from non-farm sources as well as withdrawals from the business.

The cash flow budget estimates the timing and size of cash inflows and outflows that occur over a given accounting period, normally one year. The period is broken down into smaller time periods such as quarters or months. Think of the cash flow budget as a checkbook for the farm with an accounting of deposits and withdrawals. Here is an explanation of these.

Cash Inflows

  • Crops and livestock sales—these are the primary source of cash for your farm business and are critical to maintain the liquidity reserve.
  • Other farm receipts—this includes payments from government programs, custom work,   and co-op dividends.
  • Non-farm receipts—include items such as income from an off-farm job, savings, investments, interest earned and capital.
  • Capital sales—includes the sporadic cash inflows from the sale of land, buildings, machinery, breeding livestock, and tools.
  • Borrowed money—is considered a residual source of cash used to maintain your liquidity reserve when cash outflows exceed the sometimes sporadic inflow. 

Cash Outflows

  • Production expenses—are a large draw on your liquidity reserve. They include seed, feed, fertilizer, chemicals, hired labor, and repairs.
  • Capital expenditures—include cash outlays for replacing and adding machinery, breeding livestock, land, and buildings. These are important to your farm but should be planned with care.
  • Loan payments—are payments on borrowed money. Consider this when formulating your loan payment schedules and the seasonality of your farm business.
  • Family living expenditures or withdrawal—are sometimes overlooked as being secondary to the other cash outflows

The cash flow budget is projected at the beginning of the year to forecast the inflows and outflows and estimate the ending cash balance for each quarter or month. As the year progresses, keep an actual cash flow statement to record cash transactions as they take place. Then compare the actual cash flow statement with the projected cash flow statement to see if things are going as planned, to devise remedies for previously unforeseen problems, or to take advantage of opportunities not anticipated. At the end of the year, use the actual cash flow statement to estimate the projected cash flow for the next year. This is especially important for agricultural businesses because of production cycles and the seasonality of the business.

Additional Resources

Review of Lender Requirements for Beginning Farmer Loan Programs
FS-975, December 2013
Center For Agricultural & Natural Resource Policy
Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of Maryland

Financing Your Farm: Guidance for Beginning Farmers
IP#420, National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

Grant Writing Assistance Program (website)
University of Maryland Extension

Financial Matters
Maryland Rural Enterprise Development Center
University of Maryland Extension