Recently I took a Road Warrior stop at the Super Bowl of Agricultural Management – The Executive Program for Agricultural Producers (TEPAP) – in Austin, TX. If any of you want a high-energy jolt to your business, put this event on the calendar. Yes, it is quite costly, but the information, networking and sharing of expertise is second to none.

This year’s group financials provide some interesting perspectives. The average business debt-to-asset ratio was 46%, ranging up to a high of 88%. Average financial withdrawals from the operation by management were $119,789.

Persons attending TEPAP averaged 2,975 hours working in their business, ranging from a low of 2,100 hours to a high of 3,888 hours. The rate of return on assets for the group was 12.8%, with a return on equity of 26%.

The recent run-up in commodity prices resulted in a significantly higher operating profit margin of 18% this year, contrasted to 10% in past years. It will be interesting to see if this holds true in future years with higher input costs.

This information was provided by my good friend Dick Wittman of Wittman Consulting Services, one of the leading agricultural financial consulting companies in the U.S.

The 2008 class was full of youthful energy with participants under 45 years of age. Dr. Danny Klinefelter, the director, and I commented during the session that the whole week was full of excitement, tempered with a cautious outlook to the future of the industry.

Editor’s note: Dave Kohl, The Corn And Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist specializing in business management and ag finance. He recently retired from Virginia Tech, but continues to conduct applied research and travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada, teaching ag and banking seminars and speaking to producer and agribusiness groups. He can be reached at sullylab@vt.edu.