password security image

Password Practices Have Power to Protect

Passwords are the first line of defense for most online accounts. However, creating and remembering complex passwords for dozens of accounts is a major challenge. Follow these tips to help manage your passwords, strengthen your online security, and protect your personal and business information online.

Length is Strength

As your password grows in length, it becomes harder for hackers to crack. Each additional letter, number or symbol, increases the possible combinations exponentially. When possible, use a passphrase composed of a short sentence or series of random words, such as:

  • I take my coffee break at 3:30 pm
  • Mosquito-daze-battery-February

These types of passwords are harder for computers to guess and often easier for humans to remember. Varying your capitalization, substituting symbols for letters, and incorporating numbers into your phrase are all great ways to strengthen your passphrase.

Nothing Personal

Try to avoid incorporating personal information into your passwords. Important dates like birthdays and anniversaries, home towns, high schools and names of relatives can all be discovered by hackers. A good rule for selecting passwords: If something about you can be discovered on social media, don’t include it.

Don’t Recycle

Reusing passwords across different accounts is a major security risk. If hackers gain access to one account, they wil try to use the same credentials to access your other  accounts. Don’t make it easier for hackers; make each password unique.

Keep it Manageable

A password manager is a great way to keep track of all your accounts and passwords. Password managers are computer applications that securely store passwords in an encrypted vault. Now you only have one password to remember — the password to your password manager. Popular password managers include:

Setting up strong passwords across all your accounts is an important step toward limiting your exposure to risk online. When you don’t have a system in place to manage your important accounts, you leave yourself and your business exposed to outside threats.


Frontier Farm Credit offer AgriPoint® and mobile apps with your convenience and security in mind. Customers who create and securely store strong passwords/pass phrases are adding additional layers of protection. But Kris Plambeck, our business solutions manager, advises customers to follow a few additional Dos and Don’ts.

Do’s and Don’ts

Keyboard wih Password Button

DO…

  • Change passwords frequently
  • Use screen lock on mobile devices
  • Use biometrics (fingerprints, facial ID) to gain access to devices and accounts

DON’T…

  • Create passwords to AgriPoint or our mobile apps using Social Security/tax identification numbers; familiar dates, such as birthdates and anniversaries; yours or your children’s name
  • Repeat the same username or password across apps
  • Save your username or password in a spreadsheet on your mobile phone, laptop, etc.
  • Share your usernames or passwords with others
cyber security

Rural Locations Provide No Defense Against Phone, Internet Hackers

You live and do business in a rural area in the middle of America, far from big cities and their daily traffic jams. So that means your farm or ranch is immune from hackers who have disrupted businesses and governments around the world by taking advantage of weaknesses in Internet or smart phone security, right?

“Farmers and ranchers should be equally as concerned about computer and phone system hacking as any other business enterprise.”
– Rex Earl, chief security officer for Frontier Farm Credit

“The internet has no boundaries. To an attacker, you’re just an IP address. They probe systems for vulnerabilities. If they find a crack, they exploit them, and they do it at the speed of light,” Earl says.

The new generation of smart phones has become a target for enterprising hackers, and every company, large or small, should take care to guard against the loss of sensitive information. Earl advises companies to insist that if such phones are used for business purposes, they need to be encrypted and capable of being wiped clean remotely if they are lost or stolen.

The Weak Link

“Fifteen years ago I’d have said that defending your enterprise was all about technology, building firewalls and doing everything you could to secure your system,” Earl says. “But we’ve learned that the most vulnerable part of any business is the human element.”

Hackers targeting a company will try to find a weak link somewhere in the system. One approach, Earl says, is for hackers to call into a company posing as a vendor.

“They’ll ask an employee to transfer funds to an outside account, usually in another country,” he explains. “They have account numbers and just enough other information to make them sound legitimate. It’s important for the business to have a list of questions that enables family members and employees to determine without a doubt that the caller is not attempting fraud.”

Create a Security Culture

The key to upgrading internal security is to create what Earl calls a “security culture.” Here are three suggestions for producers to consider:

  • The question is not if you can get hacked, but more likely when it’s going to happen. No matter where your business is located, you’re not immune to these attacks.
  • Practice defense in depth. Raise security awareness among family members and employees. Be sure your technology, both hardware and software, is up to date and is being actively managed. Insist that your vendors have secure systems as well. And be looking down the road to keep an eye out for the next incursion.
  • Don’t be the easiest target. That’s what hackers are looking for. If you are well prepared, they’ll skip you and look another place.

What to do if your security is breached

Contact your financial partners immediately. This increases the chances of recovering funds.

Change passwords and security questions/answers on all accounts that use the compromised password. Ensure the security questions are unique to you and known only by you or, when necessary, a few trusted individuals. Learn more about creating strong passwords to protect your online accounts.

Submit a police report. Many local authorities now have a cybercrime team that can investigate locally, as well as share information with the FBI and/or Homeland Security.

Contact your cybersecurity insurance carrier if you have one.

Working Capital: The Original Risk Management Tool

Frontier Farm Credit and Farm Credit Services of America are co-sponsoring a five-part webinar series, Two Economists and a Lender. The fourth webinar, featuring Agriculture Economic Insights (AEI) co-founders David Widmar and Brent Gloy and Chris Williams, a financial officer in our Manhattan, Kansas office, focused on working capital. Register for our next free webinar, Machinery Investment, on Thursday, October 24 at 12:30 p.m. CDT.

Below are highlights from their discussion, as well as the full webinar.


Working capital is one of the most talked-about indicators of financial well-being in today’s agricultural industry – and for good reason. Working capital is a producer’s first line of defense in challenging times. On the flip side, it is critical to capitalizing on opportunity.

The definition of working capital is current assets minus current liabilities. Current assets are those that are expected to be converted to cash within a year: cash/savings, grain or livestock inventories, and input inventory. Current liabilities are those due within the next year: bills to be paid and this year’s portion of long-term debt payments.

Which measure?

Brent Gloy and David Widmar shared several ways to look at working capital. The measures included:

  • Total dollars
  • Dollars per acre or per head
  • Current ratio: current assets/current liabilities
  • As a share of gross revenue

“Benchmarking against ratios can help you get a feel for where you are,” Widmar said. But “don’t get hung up on the nuances; just choose one that works for you to track.”

Widmar also advised producers to be mindful of the risk associated with asset valuation.

“A dollar in your bank account is not the same as a bushel of grain in a bin,” he said. “It’s really important to be aware of price changes that can significantly affect your cash on hand.”

By using the same measurement/s to track working capital, producers can identify trends and take corrective measures if needed, the economists said.

Set a goal and chart your course

As a general rule, Frontier Farm Credit advises producers to aim for $200 per acre in working capital. But many factors can influence available working capital, including:

  • Owned vs. rented farmland
  • Enterprises
  • Outlook for the next year
  • Personal preferences and plans (i.e. an operator’s risk tolerance, pace of growth . . .)
  • A lender’s expectations.

If an operation needs to improve working capital, producers have options, said Chris Williams, who works with borrowers out of our Manhattan, Kan. office.

“Maybe there are some underutilized assets that can be sold. Or maybe there are ways of restructuring assets to free up cash,” he said. “However, those are short term. Ultimately, operational changes and profits from the business are the long-term answer.”

 

corn stalks

2019 Decision Time: ARC vs PLC

Frontier Farm Credit and Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica) are co-sponsoring a five-part webinar series, Two Economists and a Lender. The third webinar, featuring Agriculture Economic Insights (AEI) co-founders David Widmar and Brent Gloy and Melissa Elstermeier, a financial officer with FCSAmerica, focused on ARC vs. PLC ahead of Farm Program signup. Register for our next free webinar, Working Capital, on September 26 at 12:30 p.m. CDT.

Below are highlights from their discussion, as well as a link to the full webinar.


Farm Program signup for the 2019 and 2020 crop years begins September 3. But producers have until March 15, 2020, to choose between ARC (revenue coverage) and PLC (price coverage). The experts advised taking time to fully understand how each impacts your operation before making a final decision.

“There is no rush,” David Widmar said. “By the time we get into 2020, you will know a lot more about your 2019 yields and price prospects.”

Current economic conditions are important to understanding how the features of ARC and PLC will impact your operation. The economists shared a map of counties where ARC payments over the life of the 2014 farm bill were higher or lower than PLC payments. In most of Nebraska, corn ARC performed better than PLC by more than $50 to $100 an acre, Widmar pointed out. “In southern Iowa, however, it performed about $50/acre worse than PLC.” In general, PLC worked better for wheat, he added.

arc-co payments less estimated plc payments

Based on several factors, including tweaks in the 2018 farm bill and several years of poor returns, the Congressional Budget Office believes the pendulum generally has swung from favoring ARC to favoring PLC. USDA’s August projection that 2019 corn will average $3.60 implies a PLC payment of 10 cents per bushel.

However, Widmar cautioned, two bad strategies are repeating your 2014 decision and automatically picking PLC. One reason for this: The change in ARC benchmark yields. Many counties saw corn yields improve by 21 to 40 bu./acre and a substantial number saw their averages rise by more than 40 bu./acre under the current Farm Program.

“That will be a big benefit for some counties that had outstanding yields the past few years,” Brent Gloy said. (See map.) The same is true for soybeans.

“So, particularly if your yield in 2019 is really bad, ARC may be a better choice because of its higher yield guarantee,“ Gloy said.

estimated change in corn arc-co benchmark yields

“Given tight margins, it’s critical we all make good decisions and not leave dollars on the table,” Gloy said. “Use all the risk management options you have and view these government programs as a supplement.”

Watch the full half-hour webinar below.

farmland

Farmland Values Relatively Stable, Despite Downward Pressure

Farmland values slipped some in the first half of 2019. But on the whole, the real estate market for cropland in eastern Kansas and the grain states of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota remained stable as values continue to slowly adjust to the current margin environment

The value of 71 benchmark farms tracked by Frontier Farm Credit and Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica) declined an average of 0.83% in the first six months of 2019.

“Despite continued tight commodity price margins in 2018, real estate values remained stable and were supported by a favorable interest rate environment, market facilitation payments and equilibrium in the supply and demand levels for real estate,” said Tim Koch, chief credit officer for the alliance of Frontier Farm Credit and FCSAmerica.

Farmland values in eastern Kansas declined 3%, as a whole, in the first six months of 2019, the largest decline in Frontier Farm Credit’s and FCSAmerica’s latest benchmark farmland study. Compared to a year ago, cropland values are down 1.8% and pasture land is down 3.1%.

While Iowa farmland experienced a decline in 2019, values still are up 2.7% compared to a year ago. Modest declines in Nebraska and South Dakota in the later half 2018 extended into 2019 for a drop of 1.4% and 1.3% since last July.

State (No. of benchmark farms) Six Month One Year Five Year Ten Year
Kansas (7) -3.0% -2.4% Not available Not available
Iowa (21) -1.3% 2.7% -15.3% 71.3%
Nebraska (18) -0.4% -1.4% -15.7% 103.1%
South Dakota (23) -0.7% -1.3% -8.9% 91%
Wyoming (2) 6.5% 9.8% 35.9% 45.9%

 

Three of the seven benchmark farms in eastern Kansas lost some value in the first half of 2019, two increased and two showed no change.

Of Iowa’s 21 benchmark farms, 10 decreased in value, three increased and eight saw no change. Ten benchmark farms in Nebraska lost value, five increased and three were unchanged. In South Dakota, values dropped on five farms. The remaining 18 farms held even. Wyoming continues to see values for cropland and pastureland increase. However, the limited number of farmland sales in the state makes it difficult to accurately track trends.

Farmland sales across the Associations’ territory were down in the first two quarters of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. Sales in eastern Kansas fell by more than 52%, although public auctions were up 6% compared to the first two quarters of 2018.

South Dakota saw 26.7% fewer sales. In Iowa, sales were down 11%, while Nebraska’s combined sales for irrigated and dry cropland dropped 18.4%.

The average quality of land has not changed in the past year, and buyer demand for high quality ground remains strong.