Agricultural business managers oversee the business operations of a farm by providing leadership and organization during the production process. From contacting creditors to selecting seeds for the planting season and buying new farming equipment, it is their responsibility to ensure that the production and distribution of produce, grain or livestock abides by government and environmental regulations at the best rate of profit. They may have a number of duties, including selecting and supervising workers, planning a budget, organizing routine maintenance, keeping records and communicating with potential product buyers. Agricultural business managers usually specialize in crops, horticulture or livestock, and these workers may oversee more than one facility.
Most agricultural business managers are employed full time and work long hours during the planting and harvesting seasons. They may conduct administrative tasks in an office and spend the rest of their time directing activities on the farm. Managers who work for large operations may travel to handle business with farmers or farm supervisors.
Many agricultural business managers begin their training with hands-on experience either by growing up on a farm or by working as a farmhand. Today, the demand for agricultural business managers with knowledge of business administration, accounting, finance and farming technology has risen with the need to apply modern business concepts to farming operations. For this reason, many aspiring agricultural business managers obtain a bachelor's degree in an area such as agriculture, farm management or agricultural economics.
Relevant courses may include environmental law, biotechnology, agricultural markets, U.S. agricultural policies, computer science and business management. Those who work at livestock or dairy facilities may choose to pursue programs in veterinary or dairy science. Students who have not had practical training may be able to participate in government-sponsored internships or apprenticeships under experienced farmers.
Agricultural business managers can earn an optional certification, which may increase their job prospects. The American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA) offers the Accredited Farm Manager designation, which requires completion of a sample farm management plan, ASFMRA-sponsored management courses and a certification exam. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree and four years of farm or ranch management experience to be eligible.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that agricultural business managers need:
- Excellent business skills, including knowledge of accounting and bookkeeping, in order to manage financial records and client transactions
- Superb communication skills
- Employee management and decision-making skills
Employment and Salary Outlook
According to the BLS, the overall employment of agricultural workers was expected to decrease 6% from 2014-2024; however, the consolidation of privately-owned farms into larger operations should result in an increased demand for the expertise of agricultural business managers. The median annual salary for people in this field was $64,170 in 2015, as reported by the BLS.
The job of an agricultural business manager is varied, with duties ranging from working on administrative tasks in the office to managing workers out on the farm.