The Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri has developed an online tool to help farmers build budgets for their farms. It’s the Farm Cost and Return Tool – or Farm CART, according to Peter Zimmel, an agricultural economist at FAPRI.
“The tool allows beginning farmers or ranchers all over the country to play a kind of a what-if game on the web,” said Zimmel, in an interview provided by the University of Missouri. “They can develop a farm with how many acres they want, how many animals they want, and they can look at what it will look like financially over the next five years.”
The tool was developed to help producers who are either beginning to farm or are thinking of growing their operation. But the tool can be used by anyone to help make financial decisions about their farms, said Zimmel.
“Then they can go back and say, ‘you know, I’m thinking about maybe adding soybeans to my operation,’” said Zimmel. “Now they can add soybeans and they can see what’s the difference financially, is it a positive, is it a negative, then they can go back and make a better-informed decision. Should they grow their farm that way?”
Zimmel says Farm CART is designed to be easy to use. Baseline projections based on FAPRI’s, as well as USDA’s annual data, are programmed into the site. In addition, all the numbers can be customized to a producer’s specific operation.
“And one of the big benefits of this tool is, for a producer who is either getting ready to start farming or wants to make a change to their farming operation, they can look at it before they actually go out there and spend the money to try and do it,” he said.
Farm CART was developed with the help of a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant from USDA.