DeDe Jones, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service risk management program specialist for the past 19 years, was recognized with the agency’s Superior Service Award for program specialist Jan. 9 at the annual Texas A&M AgriLife conference in College Station.
Jones continually strives to educate farmers and ranchers as well as other AgriLife Extension personnel on effective financial management, meaningful report generation, farm policy, environmental impacts and many other risk management-related topics, according to her nomination.
Her primary role is to serve as an active member on the FARM Assistance Team. FARM Assistance is a concentrated, highly specialized AgriLife Extension effort initiated by the Texas legislature to assist producers with strategic planning and risk management. Through this program, Jones develops comprehensive financial reports for individual producers through a series of one-on-one meetings.
Regular program promotion and superior customer service within her district has resulted in positive evaluations and continued interest, the nomination stated. Approximately 50% of Texas Panhandle FARM Assistance participants choose to go through the program annually
Tommy Cartrite, a producer in Sherman County, stated, “DeDe is highly proficient in applying all her expertise to our business. She has created a FARM Assistance Program report for us for numerous years. She is always honest and upfront about what changes can do for or against our business, and where we need to improve or areas we excel.”
Since joining AgriLife Extension in October 2000, Jones has completed 542 FARM Assistance analyses for farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses. In the last five years, she has analyzed 158 operations in 22 Texas counties from Dallam in the northwest to Deaf Smith in the southwest to Lipscomb and Hall in the east. These operations encompass over 600,000 acres with a combined net worth of $394 million.
From 2014-2019, she also evaluated 62 alternative courses of action for FARM Assistance participants, such as planting different crops, buying new land, increasing cattle numbers, etc. These alternative decisions are worth over $156,000 per operation.
Jones works closely with the Farm Service Agency to conduct FARM Assistance analysis on new, minority and high-risk producers, the nomination stated. Going through her program allows FSA clients to meet their financial and production training requirements and become eligible for guaranteed loans.
Amanda Cook, an FSA district director in Amarillo, said, “The feedback from this training has been entirely positive, with some producers attributing their success in some difficult years to this (FARM Assistance) training.”
In addition to individualized reports, Jones regularly presents and publishes cumulative program results and post updates to the FARM Assistance Facebook page, currently with 913 followers.
While conducting FARM Assistance analysis, Jones realized that producers needed to learn better record-keeping practices, the nomination stated. As a result, she developed curriculum and submitted grants to buy a computer lab and teach multiple workshops on QuickBooks Accounting Software. Course material was designed to focus on the financial needs of farmers and ranchers.
Since 2004, she has conducted 46 QuickBooks classes with 626 people attending. These attendees farm over 490,000 crop acres and run 103,000 head of livestock on approximately 500,000 acres of pasture. Workshops are limited to just 15 participants to provide a hands-on understanding of common program tasks and deliver “real world” examples.
While QuickBooks courses initially only targeted the Texas Panhandle, Jones has recently expanded her outreach to include other areas, such as Austin, Stephenville, San Angelo and Midland. She is also developing a QuickBooks online curriculum that should be completed by summer 2020.
In addition to QuickBooks and FARM Assistance, Jones’ position involves presenting educational programs at both the county and regional level. Over the last five years, she has spoken at 155 producer meetings with 5,676 attendees on topics ranging from farm financial management to commodity outlooks to legislative updates and conservation programs.
Jones has been involved in multiple farm bill educational plans through a coordinated effort between AgriLife Extension economists, county agricultural agents and district FSA directors. She also regularly partners with commodity groups, other state and federal agencies and agribusinesses to create publications and manuals to promote the risk management initiative.