Often agricultural business is family business, even large scale farms and ranches are primarily family owned and operated. As the years have passed and farms and ranches have grown, the need for hired help has also grown. Employees can be the essence of the success of your agricultural business, but they can also be your biggest challenge.

We’ve seen the devastating videos of negligence and abuse in animal agriculture exploited by animal rights groups. How will you keep your agricultural business safe from such a crisis?

Evaluate your business: Do you have a hiring program? Do you have an employee handbook? Do you have documents to protect yourself and your business if an employee takes legal action?

Ashley Ellixson and Paul Goeringer, Extension Legal Specialists, from the University of Maryland remind us that “the best defense is a good offense” when it comes to managing employees and protecting your business.

  • Require signature on employment applications to ensure all information is true
  • Ask about group affiliations- this might be a red flag for their employment intentions
  • Ask for any prior names or aliases- important for background checks
  • Ask for permission to check references
  • Check the applicant’s social media pages: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
  • Get applicant’s consent for background check
  • Create and employee handbook and include a code of conduct that employees must sign.
  • Post signs throughout the work place: “Employees must wear eye protection in this zone”
  • Explicitly prohibit abusive behavior in livestock businesses
  • Use long-time trusted employees to oversee the conduct of the new employee day-to-day
  • Cell Phone use: provide that any photos/videos are property of the company.
  • Business owners/ managers must also comply with appropriate conduct.
  • Enforce conduct and appropriate consequences with ALL employees
  • Consistently enforce best practices for your farm or ranch

In order to ensure successful future for your business is to maintain a proactive approach and to be prepared with appropriate reactions to crisis if necessary. In most instances, the business has been in the family for years and change may not be the most comfortable topic. Developing or improving hiring practices is not easy, but your business will benefit from it.

This blog post was based on a workshop held at the 2017 American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Convention and Trade Show in January 2017. Become a Montana Farm Bureau member today to join in on these excellent educational opportunities: www.mfbf.org/