Most people don’t love keeping the books. Even fewer get all that enthusiastic about a software program. But Rose Graydon is the exception. Farm Credit Canada’s AgExpert software has made her life much easier, and she wants others to know about it.
Graydon says she likes working with AgExpert mostly because of its GST calculator, but also because of the ease in adding (or dropping) accounts and commodities and the support offered by its maker, Farm Credit Canada.
“The GST calculator is the best part of the program,” she says. “It uses the same form as the government, it keeps a running total of the GST as I enter income and expenses, and when I’m done entering (data) the GST is automatically ready to send in.” Graydon, husband Cliff, and son Warren run a grain and purebred Charolais beef farm east of the Red River at Woodmore, Man.
Graydon places a high value on ease of use and having software that will work for income tax, AgriStability and GST, but she also wants a quick answer when she has a question and gives FCC high marks in that regard. “The support system is great,” says Rose.
FCC product specialist Sean McDougall says all of the employees at the FCC Care Centre have a farm background, understand the business and speak the same language as farmers. He says AgExpert is used by full-time farmers, dual-career farmers, large-and small-scale farmers, truckers and others.
Originally designed for Western Canada grain farmers, FCC has adapted and updated AgExpert so it works for a wide variety of farmers, from cranberry growers in B.C. to dairy and poultry producers in Ontario and Quebec.
It is bilingual and can be used for everything from fairly simple records (such as GST or income/ expense statements for tax purposes) to very complex enterprise analysis. You can, as Graydon does, send in the GST calculation electronically, or print off a paper copy of the GST form to mail in.
All records start with mandatory accounts such as crops and livestock but then you can break them down or personalize the records by adding specific crops, types of livestock, on-farm businesses, and so on. And if you don’t need that specific crop or animal category next year, it’s easy to delete it from the records.
AgExpert also allows users to keep records for the old year open while they start ones for the new year. This allows you to start the new year early, before bills and receipts pile up, yet leave your last year open for those last-minute entries, inventory changes, and so on, a feature Rose particularly likes because it works well for AgriStability record keeping.
“If we do the ending inventory for the year before correctly, then adjust the inventory for calves born, replacements sold, grain harvested and sold, (then) the inventory numbers are up to date,” says Graydon, who is planning on using the software’s payroll system next year.
McDougall says younger farmers like the enterprise analysis and benchmarking features of the software.
“Colleges are teaching farm business analysis, and AgExpert is great for that,” he says.
At tax time, AgExpert has more categories than needed for filing income tax. So some categories get combined, but it’s not a big deal. It’s better from the management point of view to have more categories than fewer so the Graydons can easily examine specific costs. It can be used for farm corporations, partnerships and sole proprietorships, and can handle as many accounts as a farmer can think of.
AgExpert costs $399 to start, a price which includes full backup and tutoring for a year. After that, updates cost $299 per year which includes a free tutorial. There is also a PDF tutorial that can answer pretty well any question a farmer may have. The software runs on any modern computer with a decent amount of ram. On a PC, the software will run on Windows 7, Windows XP and Vista. For Mac computers, you will need an extra installation. High-speed Internet is useful since the system does move a lot of data around. AgExpert can be ordered online at www.fccsoftware.ca or by calling FCC at 1-800-667-7893.
If you’re thinking of using record-keeping software or changing the one you currently use, now is a good time to make the move. You’ll have a couple months to get used to the system and be ready to start keeping records in January, 2011.