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ISU online site aids farm producers’ decision-making

By Staff | Mar 27, 2009

Above is the home page for ISU’s Ag Decision Maker online program. It is accessed at www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm.

AMES – There’s a new tool out there for producers and lenders alike to help them make cost-effective choices.

Whether a producer is thinking about doing custom field work for a neighbor, but not sure what the rates are; or may be confused about the new government crop insurance programs; or a lender who needs to understand the costs of crop production, this program is ideally suited for them.

Iowa State University’s Ag Decision Maker is just a click away to help answer those questions and even more.

AgDM is a decision-oriented agricultural business Web site designed for farmers, lenders, farm managers, agriculture instructors and others and is written by economics and farm management specialists at ISU and other universities and institutions across the Midwest.

The site features information calculating land values, custom rates, farmland leases, figuring worksheets on crop production costs, government programs and business planning.

Don Hofstrand, ISU Extension farm management specialist, said AgDM was started in November 2005 and is a Web version of the “Farm Management Handbook,” that he helped start in 1979.

“The Farm Management Handbook was a way to get information into people’s hands and was for those that needed information on the business end of helping farmers,” said Hofstrand. “We would send out updated information so the handbook always had the latest information.”

It was when the information was put online that the Farm Management Handbook’s name was changed to Ag Decision Maker.

Hofstrand said ISU still offers the hard copy version in addition to the Web version.

“We have a variety of different ways to present information to people,” said Hofstrand. “And the information focuses on just agricultural economics and business topics.”

Hofstrand said AgDM features a monthly newsletter, information files, decision tools, teaching activities and voiced media presentations.

The newsletter provides analysis and insight to many of the issues facing modern agriculture and the site features all of the articles that have appeared on the AgDM since its inception.

The different elements of the program include:

  • Information Files. Hofstrand said that these fact sheets feature three- to five-page written descriptions and explanation of the subject matter.

Some files also include companion tools, while an audio and visual presentation of the information is provided in the Voiced Media Presentation.

  • Decision Tools. These are electronic spreadsheets, Hofstrand noted, which are for online computation where users can enter their own figures into the spreadsheet to conduct an analysis for their individual situation and then save the analysis as a file on their computers.
  • Teaching Activities. These can be used, Hofstrand said, in the classroom. Students can complete the activities from information provided in the Information Files section of the AgDM.

Many of the Teaching Activities contain answer keys at a secure location on the site and can be accessed by contacting AgDM for a username and password.

Contributors to AgDM are primarily ISU Extension such as economists on campus and area farm management specialists.

Hofstrand said the site gets about 2,500 visitors a day with each visit lasting an average length of about 20 minutes. Of those users, he said, 25 percent of them are lenders; 20 percent are farmers; 17 percent are Extension personnel; 11 percent are agri-businesses, with teachers, farm managers and others in the agriculture industry making up the 27 percent balance.

The most popular uses on the AgDM site, Hofstrand said, have been the cash rent survey, custom rates, land values and information on the new Farm Bill.

AgDM offers update notifications whenever newsletters, decision files, decision aids or teaching activities are posted onto the Web site.

People can sign up for the update notifications or subscribe to the hard-copy version or order a CD-ROM subscription by visiting the site at: www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm.

You can contact Kriss Nelson by e-mail at jknelson@frontiernet.net.

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