Summer 1985 // Volume 23 // Number 2 // Feature Articles // 2FEA2

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Cooperation: A Key for Extension

The success of ag agencies working together.

Freddie L. Barnard
Extension Economist
Agricultural Economics
Purdue University - West Lafayette

Coordinated Financial Statements for Agriculture (CFSA) burst on the Extension scene in the summer of 1983, when the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) adopted that farm financial accounting system. With that adoption came a tremendous educational opportunity in financial management for the farm population of America. The teachable moment was at hand.

The Extension program developed to train FmHA borrowers on CFSA proves that "two heads are better than one." The two heads in this case were the personnel from the Cooperative Extension Service in Indiana (CES) and the Farmers Home Administration in Indiana (FmHA).

The Challenge

The major challenge facing the FmHA on adoption of CFSA was its implementation, which included training not only the FmHA field staff, but also the FmHA borrowers.

A series of two and one-half day workshops were held across the IJ.S. during the summer and fall of 1983 to train national, state, and county FmHA employees on CFSA. Two of these workshops were held in Indiana. This helped to satisfy the training requirement for FmHA employees.

However, FmHA borrowers would be required to complete a balance sheet as of December 31, 1983, and a projected cash flow statement for 1984. So a training program was also needed for FmHA borrowers during the fall of 1983. Since state Extension Services have ongoing educational programs on the use of financial statements, FmHA officials in Indiana asked the Cooperative Extension Service to help train FmHA borrowers. Extension welcomed the opportunity to participate and began work with state FmHA officials in June on a plan for training FmHA borrowers.

A preliminary training plan was developed for FmHA borrowers, and was announced at the first workshop for FmHA employees in Indiana, which was conducted in July. The time of that announcement was critical in gaining support for CFSA from the FmHA field staff because Purdue Extension economists attending the workshop were prepared to offer their help in conducting workshops for FmHA borrowers. That offer relieved some of the anxiety felt by FmHA staff members toward CFSA, and helped form an initial bond between the staffs of the two organizations.

A Cooperative Training Program

A training program was developed that consisted of a series of 1-day training workshops, held in each of the 45 Indiana counties with an FmHA office. The workshops were conducted during a two-week period (December 5-16, 1983), and were taught by state Extension specialists and FmHA employees. That time period was selected so the training workshops would be as close as possible to the time the actual statements would need to be completed by borrowers.

Handout materials used in the training program consisted of a case example that was used to complete a balance sheet and a projected cash flow statement. After the practical exercise was completed, an answer sheet was then distributed to the borrowers.

To train county agricultural Extension agents on CFSA and to get their input on the handout materials and workshop format, a three-hour block of instruction was given to all agents two months before the workshop with farmers. This exposed the agents to the same CFSA handout materials and practical exercises used in the county workshops. Agricultural Extension agents and FmHA county supervisors then worked together to schedule each workshop and to coordinate the logistical support for that workshop. During the workshop, they answered questions on the case example. Following the workshop, county ag agents served as resource people for answering questions from farmers completing their own financial statements.

Each workshop was open to the public and to other lenders in the community, but efforts were made to limit the attendance to 50 people-40-45 FmHA borrowers and the remainder non-FmHA borrowers interested in CFSA. Two additional workshops were held in the state due to large registrations, which brought the total number of workshops to 47.


Over 2,900 people attended the 47 county workshops, for an average attendance of 62 per meeting. The goal stressed in each workshop was to use CFSA to help borrowers better understand their farm businesses. That helped to transform the workshop into a learning experience rather than just an exercise for completing CFSA forms.

Several benefits resulted for each of the parties involved with the training program. The major benefit for farmers was the hands-on experience with CFSA before having to complete their own statements. Borrowers appreciated the fact a training program had been developed, rather than simply receiving a set of blank forms to be completed by a certain deadline.

Another benefit for FmHA borrowers was the identification of several resource people (county ag agents, FmHA county staff, Purdue specialists) who could be called on if the borrowers had questions later.

For the FmHA staff, the major benefit was a relatively smooth transition period compared to what was anticipated. But perhaps just as important, was the additional exposure to CFSA received by the FmHA county staffs. This enabled county staffs to feel more comfortable working with CFSA.

The Cooperative Extension Service also benefited because it allowed ag agents and Extension economists to be a part of a program helping farmers. County Extension agents were also identified as resource people, who could be called on if a farm borrower had questions. Furthermore, many of those attending weren't regular participants in Extension activities. Thus, more people were exposed to the Cooperative Extension Service, and county Extension agents were able to expand their mailing lists.

Also, the training program set the stage for a closer working relationship between the CES and FmHA. In fact, a follow-up training program on CFSA was held in the fall of 1984.

Finally, lenders from other lending institutions often attended the workshops and became better acquainted with the county agent and other lenders in the community. This contact has resulted in several subsequent meetings on financial management with not only FmHA borrowers, but also with the borrowers of other lenders. Many of those meetings were sponsored by one or more lenders.


The training program developed by the CES and FmHA staffs would never have been more than an idea if it hadn't been for the cooperative attitude displayed throughout by both organizations. Hopefully, in the years ahead, such a cooperative approach to adult education programs will become the norm rather than the exception.