| Published: April 23, 2020

Farm Contingency Plan Basics

We recently interviewed Phil Taylor. As an ag business consultant, Phil works with farm families to develop contingency plans for their operations. He discusses farm contingency plans including why they are important and what aspects are included in a plan.

There's no doubt that the COVID-19 crisis is impacting agriculture. From your perspective, why is contingency planning important? 

Contingency planning provides a plan of implementation for what we’re going to do in a specific situation. It is a road map for business operators to follow, providing the opportunity to think through the reaction to a future crisis or problem.

A contingency plan allows for a clear communication with employees and family members about what will happen should there be a crisis and which aspects of the plan they are responsible for carrying out. It’s all about being prepared. 

What are the key aspects of a written contingency plan? 

The first part of the contingency plan is identifying the situation. What situation are you in? What specific situations require implementation of a contingency plan?

For example, if you get a phone call from an employee who says they can’t come to work because they are sick, you will need to consider what type of sickness that employee might have. Is it potentially COVID-19 or some other illness? The answer will determine the situation.

Or what if you find out that a delivery driver for a supplier tested positive? You find out that the delivery driver interacted with two or three employees on your farm while making a delivery earlier in the week. That situation would cause a different set of plans.

The second part of a plan is to identify the contacts that you need to alert should a situation arise. Who needs to do something in a certain situation? This could include family members, employees, customers and vendors.

The third critical aspect of contingency plans is identifying the actions. What are you going to do about the situation? What specific actions need to be taken?

From your discussions with farm families in putting together contingency plans, what have been key takeaways for the farm businesses?

This process helps farm families understand the potential harm that could come to people or the business, particularly families with older family members or those who are most susceptible. It encourages thinking through the specific measures that can be taken to reduce the potential for people to become infected such as implementing protocols for cleaning, social distancing and visitor or customer access.

Many farms are frustrated with aspects of the situation that they can’t control and therefore can’t easily plan for. Examples of this include orders to reduce milk shipments and disruptions in the supply chain. Contingency planning helps to minimize the impact of things farms can’t control.

Are there any other final insights you'd like to share? 

By creating a contingency plan and informing your family, your employees and their families, your vendors and customers, it shows that you’ve done some preplanning and it helps instill trust in those people and that you care for their well-being.

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