April 9, 2020

Northwest FCS News

As the COVID-19 disruptor spreads throughout the globe and specifically in the United States, it is analogous to being on an airplane with extreme turbulence. Even as a seasoned traveler who has logged over 9 million air miles, sometimes being tossed around by mother nature can be very unsettling. 

Tension increases as one watches daily summaries of COVID-19 exposures and death counts, along with stay-at-home orders and requirements for social distancing. This, in addition to the economic news of volatility in the stock market and increased job layoffs, is enough to make you want to throw in the towel.

However, we have survived difficult times before and can benefit from past lessons learned. Dusting off my experiences working through the 1980’s farm and ranch crisis, there were some necessary macro and micro actions for businesses and families to work through the turbulence. Let's examine a game plan to allow one to maintain a sense of balance. 

An action plan for the macro level is called bridging. Governments, agricultural lenders, businesses and personal households will need to develop plans and strategies to bridge the gap between pre-coronavirus expectations and the current reality of economic, business and personal disruptions. At this point, we do not know how short-term or long-term the bridge will need to be.

Governments will need to provide programs to help with revenue loss during this crisis, such as the financial stimulus package and central bank action. Lenders may assist businesses and personal households directly or indirectly impacted by this “black swan” event with plans that reduce debt service commitments without compromising the institution's financial viability.

Businesses and individual households will need to develop a plan given a wide range of scenarios. This written plan needs to include farm and ranch budgets, as well as family budget projections compared to actuals on a monthly basis. Continue to evaluate the budgets as economic turbulence changes both in the U.S. and globally. Emphasis needs to be placed on prioritizing needs versus wants and how the situation will impact your cash position and liquidity. It will be a group effort, working together at multiple levels, to weather the storm.

Next, reestablish your goals and objectives. Loss minimization versus profit maximization may be the best option. Re-examine both your financial and nonfinancial family and personal goals to determine their importance and priority given this unforeseen environment.

Finally, develop a communication plan with your lender, family and advisory team. Simplification and focus will be very important in an environment of intense economic and behavioral change. Let’s continue to look for the silver lining in these storm clouds created by COVID-19.