The Impact of Tax Reform on Agriculture

At the end of 2017, President Trump signed into law the 2018 tax reform bill. The bill, which includes hundreds of structural changes to the tax code, has been supported by several agriculture industry representatives. This is because the bill will hopefully lower tax liabilities and simplify the process for tax management.

The bill offers four main benefits to farmers and ranchers.

1.  Tax relief for pass-through business income

According to Forbes1, one of the most significant changes under this new bill is the tax treatment of businesses. “The new law states that business income that passes through to an individual from a pass-through entity and­ income attributable to sole proprietorship will be taxed at individual tax rates less a deduction of up to 20% to bring the rate lower.”

National Cotton Council President/CEO Gary Adams commented, “As you know, many family farms are structured as pass-through entities, and we appreciate the provisions to specifically provide tax relief for these entities.”

The 2018 tax reform will allow farmers to take a 20% deduction off business income

This section of the new tax code, known as the Section 199A deduction, is already familiar to cooperative members. It replaced the Section 199 domestic production deduction and provides significant tax savings on grain sold to cooperatives. To qualify for the deduction, the farmer must sell to the co-op and be a patron of the co-op.  The Section 199A deduction allows the farmer to deduct 20% of the value of his grain sales to the co-op from his taxable income.

The new Section 199A deduction has already created controversy, as private or publically traded grain companies have rightly noted that this provision favors grain sold to a cooperative over sales to privates. For example, considering a farmer with $5 million in sales to a co-op and $4 million in expenses, the 20-percent deduction would be worth the entire $1 million in profit, leaving no taxable income.

But a farmer who isn’t a co-op member would have to take the 20-percent deduction against the $1 million in earnings, leaving taxable income of $800,000—and a tax liability of $296,000.

Republican Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and John Hoeven of North Dakota, who helped write the co-op provisions in the tax bill, are now trying to revise the legislation to address the complaints.

2. Lowered individual tax rates

94 percent of farmers pay taxes as individuals and will benefit from lowered tax rates. Because 94% of farmers and ranchers pay taxes as individuals, the lower individual tax rates associated with the new tax bill will provide a benefit. “The lowering of individual tax rates will further help alleviate the tax burden on families,” stated Adams.

Pat Wolff, a tax specialist with the American Farm Bureau, noted that the bill also leaves intact some important tax tools for farmers. “The bill also maintains all of the important deductions and credits that farmers rely on. So, farmers have all the tools that they’ve always had to manage their businesses.”

3. Estate tax exemption

Estate taxes, long opposed by many farm groups, can make it financially difficult for farmers to transition their operations to the next generation. The new tax bill doubles the estate tax exemption to $11 million per person, which should eliminate this concern for the vast majority of farmers and ranchers.

4. Expensing capital investments

The reformed tax code also allows businesses, like farms, to immediately write off the cost of new assets. Prime examples for the farmer would be new combines, tractors and other equipment.

One drawback—this provision has a five-year lifespan, at which point it will either expire or need to be re-enacted by Congress.

Temporary solutions

Like the capital expense provision, many of the new individual and small-business tax provisions are temporary. Ag advocacy groups, like the American Farm Bureau, are working to make these 2018 tax reforms permanent.

NOTE: VistaComm does not provide financial advice. We recommend you contact your tax professional with any questions you have concerning the new tax laws.

  1. What Tax Reform Means For Small Businesses & Pass Through Entities, Forbes

Article Source Here: The Impact of Tax Reform on Agriculture

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Zen and the Art of Merger Communication

It is the new normal in American business. Acquisitions, mergers and consolidations are a fact of corporate life. Whether you’re a startup or a Fortune 500 firm, the odds of experiencing one of these events are good and getting better. According to accounting giant Deloitte, “Corporate and private equity executives foresee an acceleration of merger and acquisition activity in 2018.”1

Whatever part you play in the transaction—acquirer or acquired, this is the time for great and clear communication. What are the essential dos and don’ts of merger messaging?

Here are our top 6.

company merger1. What’s your story?

Rather than a recitation of facts and bottom-line financial benefits, craft a story. Part history, part economics lesson and part vision-casting, your story should paint a picture. It should include what brought the parties involved to this place, the most pertinent and impactful numbers and, most importantly, some picture of the future. Everyone—and especially employees—wants you to answer this question: “What’s in it for me?”

Consider your stakeholders. Take the time to prepare a compelling story. Tell it well.

2. Have a plan

The communication plan needs to be formulated well in advance of the actual event—before there is even certainty that it will occur. Create a timeline for communication, with the understanding that there must be flexibility. Formulate an action plan that includes both parties in the transaction. Assign key roles and responsibilities.

Plan to utilize various communication styles and channels. Hold meetings, utilize your website, intranet and printed materials. The multi-channel approach will reach a high percentage of your stakeholders.

3. Equip your front line

Employees will seek information from people they trust and work with every day. As a part of your communication plan, make sure that your front-line managers are kept up to date with the latest information. Treat them as insiders and equip them so they are comfortable with what to say—and, also, what not to say.

4. Prepare for rumors

The news will get out. It almost always does. Determine how you will handle leaks, and who will be the point person. Consider preparing messaging and materials in advance to address rumors quickly when they surface.

5. Answer questions openly

One of the most effective ways to combat rumors is to be as honest and up-front as possible when questions come your way. Anticipate the questions you’re likely to field and create an FAQ. As questions are received from stakeholders, incorporate them into a Q&A document that can be regularly updated. When you receive questions that cannot yet be answered, give your audience a status report or a date when you will know more. Creating a master FAQ will also ensure that language is consistent across executives and managers.

6. Tell the story again . . . and again

Once the merger is official, the need for further communication is over, right? Wrong.

The proposed union may have been ratified, but the success of that union is far from guaranteed. In fact, the crucial blending of systems and culture is still ahead. Much must be accomplished to secure the benefits of this union for customers and employees. Talent and sales may be lost if you do not continue to talk about the progress, the challenges and the reasons for the merger.

Issue regular progress reports after effective date of the union. In these reports, highlight the headway you are making at unifying both systems and cultures. When a glitch occurs—and it will—apologize to both customers and employees. Thank them for their patience, and spell out the steps being taken to correct the problem.

Even after the vote is taken and all the official papers are signed, keep telling your customers and employees why you did what you did. Don’t assume they remember. This persistence in communication will give you the “honeymoon” you need to get your unified organization on an even keel and growing into the future.

If your business needs help communicating change or even initiating a communication plan, put VistaComm’s expertise to work. Call 844-453-9261 to begin the conversation. And remember, digital communication is immediate and effective, especially in merger situations.

Contact us today

  1. Deloitte, The state of the deal: M&A trends 2018,,

Learn More Here: Zen and the Art of Merger Communication

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Healthy Organizations Actually Solicit Input

Not long ago, many co-op directors and management groups would actually duck member input. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief if the final gavel fell at the annual members meeting without anyone rising to make a comment—especially a complaint. “No news is good news,” was the consensus. “We’re safe for another year.”

I ought to know. I’ve been employed as a member relations director for a local cooperative and I’ve worked in the field of co-op communications for over 40 years. But that’s not how it is anymore.

Co-ops are consolidating at a record pace. The healthy co-ops usually come out on top. These are the ones who regularly take an organizational check of their member-customers—and their employees. They ASK for comments, and they USE the information they get.

VistaComm is privileged to have several of these co-ops as clients.

The CEO of one client, a local agronomy and energy cooperative, regularly solicits customer input at the end of his newsletter article. “My door is always open,” he states.

This client not only maintains an open-door policy, but proactively solicits member input every 3-4 years. Their customer surveys ask telling questions like, “What do we do well?” and tough questions like, “What could we do better?” The co-op sticks its neck out by giving member-owners a voice and promising our “board and management will use the results of our member surveys to guide our decisions.” They’ve been asking for customer input to help direct the future course of the company for the past 12 years.

Not surprisingly, this medium-sized company has flourished among the giants, even in a tough ag economy, as it listened to its members’ advice to provide them exceptional service and innovation.

This company also regularly solicits input (also in the form of a survey) from its employees. Because VistaComm manages the survey assuring complete anonymity, this co-op has been able to get 100% of its employees to participate.

What about you? Could your organization use a health check?

VistaComm can help with:

  • Teasers, news articles and cover letters promoting your surveys
  • Design and administration of both print and electronic survey instruments
  • Third-party follow-up to assure maximum participation
  • Tabulation and cross correlation of results in an easy-to-use format

To find out how our services can help you gather the information you need to put your company “back in the pink” contact VistaComm today.

Source Here: Healthy Organizations Actually Solicit Input

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Acknowledging Your Customers for the Holidays

‘Tis the season to show your appreciation for those who make your business tick, the bread and butter of your profits. 2018 is on the horizon, and what an opportunity to share a small token in recognition of the year gone by. Read on for guidance in selecting the best notion for your customer list.

Determine your ‘love’ list

All this talk might have you wondering how to pay homage to such an important relationship, especially when there may be 1000s of customers to recognize. The first step is to determine how many you would like to thank. Is there a core set of customers who account for a majority of your business? If so, maybe it makes sense to create a more personal, physical gift—one that’s delivered. Is your customer list significantly more in number? Well, you’re in luck! Social media, email marketing and the online world make it easy to reach a broad audience. Consider current customers, prospects, sub-contractors and vendors.

Quantify your budget

Putting a price tag on appreciation can be the trickiest part of any gift-giving scenario—after all, these relationships are what make your world go ‘round. But alas, it must be done. Determine how much capital, and, most importantly, TIME you can afford to spend on this task. This will help make the final choice in this equation.

Find the best fit for your audience

YouTube Video: If you’re looking for an option with a very personal touch, custom messaging and easy distribution, a recorded message involving key players or the entire staff may be a good fit. This can be easily distributed to a large audience through social media and email marketing fairly economically. This content would also be very trackable.

Email: Depending on your budget and audience, this may take several different forms. A large audience may call for a templated emailed with some personalization fields. A custom email written by you might make more sense for a short email list. Either way, content options abound for this channel and can fit just about any budget and audience. Keep in mind, this messaging can carry through to your website!

Postcard or Holiday Card: Most offices receive oodles of holiday mail circulate around the building this time of year. It’s a classic that can be as unique, budget-friendly and personal as you care to make it. Consider integrating a unique feature. Confetti? Hand-written signatures? Interactive content?

Gift: This can take on SO MANY shapes and sizes. But my best advice—make it useful. Each year VistaComm conducts an employee photo contest that we then publish into a desktop calendar to share with our clients during the holiday season. It’s rewarding for our employees to share their talents in a new way, and to see their work on display when visiting clients! Alternatives might involve inviting them to your location for a free gift. Or, if you work B2B with an office anything like ours, food deliveries are always a hit!

Offer a Compelling Reward: This option walks a thin line between selling and thanking, but done properly, this can be a valued offer for both parties involved. Make sure the reward is worthy of your appreciation. Keep the reason for your offer in mind—it shouldn’t be given with the main intention of boosting sales and profits. But ultimately, your customer loves what your business offers, so they’ll be delighted to have additional access to these resources! Check out a few examples.

Host an Event: If your clientele is near, invite them in and show them a good time! This option may tend toward the pricier side, but no doubt can show the full breadth of your appreciation.

Donate to a charity: The heartfelt action of providing for those in need, especially during the holidays when those needs are most apparent, can be a rewarding gift for all involved in the giving gesture. Consider choosing a local charity, one that aligns with your business or a charity chosen by your customer. But no matter your choice, make sure to share the story of your giving. Maybe make this donation in the name of your customer for an extra personal touch.

It’s such a gift in itself to have a customer to show appreciation for. Don’t overlook these important relationships this holiday season. This is not a ‘selling’ opportunity, but rather a chance to strengthen your brand. Keeping your message pure and focused, void of marketing language now, can boost marketing efforts down the road. If you’re looking for more ideas or help in assembling the perfect appreciation, don’t delay—contact VistaComm today! After all, Christmas is less than 39 days away!

Contact us today


Read More Here: Acknowledging Your Customers for the Holidays

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When Is It Time for a Website Refresh?

Perhaps this upcoming New Year has you doing more than updating your resolutions. When is the last time you did an audit of your company website? We all know the power of owning a website lies in its ability to share up-to-the-minute information about your company. After all, your site’s ability to grow and fluctuate with your business is one of its best assets.

Some might find that this fluidity makes it difficult to discern when a website needs a little more TLC that just some updated news stories, though. Here are some guidelines to determining when your site needs an overhaul.

Does your site look great on your laptop… and your tablet… and your phone?

Technology presenting a good-looking website at any size on any device has been in use for quite some time now. If your site isn’t utilizing this, stop reading right now—your site needs to be translated into a responsive, user-friendly format PRONTO!

Is the identity of your company still consistent with what it was when you launched the site?

When you first launched your site, (hopefully) a lot of care and coordination ensured the look-and-feel of your website best portrayed what your company was about at the time. While your brand principals will likely remain unchanged, over time you may evolve other parts of your brand identity—think colors, taglines, overall look-and-feel and social media links. Maybe the rugged, historic nature of your previous look has been replaced with a more modern approach in your other materials. Your website should reflect these updates.

Is your content current?

How many times in a week are your employees receiving a call from a user looking for something on your website? Or maybe, how often are they requesting something that could be delivered via the website, but isn’t today? Having outdated content can negatively influence your user’s perception of your company. Make sure any new services or locations are incorporated within the appropriate sections on your website. Are your images dated? A professional photographer capturing the best side of your employees, facilities and services might add a lot of value to not only your website, but other communication pieces as well.

What is analytics telling you?

Analytics is a great free service that run behind the scenes of your website. They track valuable information like who your primary user groups are, what devices they are viewing your website from, where they are spending the most time and how are they finding you. This can be very revealing over time and prove a great source for action items on website improvements. If you notice shifts in particular areas (good or bad) it can guide you on where to make adjustments on your site.

Can you make updates to your site easily?

Having a Content Management System (CMS) that allows you to adjust your site over time can help keep your site from getting stale sooner than it should. If your current provider charges you for every change you’d like to make, it might be time to find a partner that has a more inclusive package with content updates included or a system in place that allows you to make them yourself. Remove any barriers between you and your ability to keep your site fresh and current.

Listen to your customers.

Most customers are not shy when it comes to letting you know something isn’t meeting their expectations. The level of technology in our world today keeps user expectations high. Does your site load too slowly? Is there information missing? Don’t brush these comments aside. Your outdated website could drive users towards the competition.

Assess the mess

Can you identify with one or more of the points above? If so, it’s time to consider making some updates. The next question is how much work does your website really need? Start the New Year out right with a website that corresponds with your company goals and objectives for 2018. Contact VistaComm today to discuss how we can help update your content, look-and-feel or even launch an all-new site website today.

Contact us today

Original Post Here: When Is It Time for a Website Refresh?

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Top 7 Tips to Speak Human

Ever watch reruns of The Dating Game? On each episode, a bachelorette would ask questions to each of the three bachelors, who were hidden from her view. The men’s replies helped the bachelorette decide which guy to date.

The men whose comments came off as arrogant, self-absorbed, or boring rarely fared well. Those who sounded personable, intriguing, and intelligent often won the date. No surprise there, right?

That’s the power of speaking human. It works just as well in business as it did on The Dating Game.

Speaking human captures people’s attention. It helps form an instant connection with your clients and prospects. Above all, it sparks “ah-ha” moments where people say, “This company gets me.”

Speaking human also sets you apart from the competition and can help grow your business, especially in a world cluttered with information overload.

7 tips to speak human

So how to do you connect with customers and prospects in a real way? Try these 7 tips:

  1. Write the way you talk. What’s your company all about and why should anyone care? Too often, companies use verbiage like this: “In 1990, the company was restructured with a specific goal in mind: Building a responsive member-driven information system that delivers value.” Not very engaging, right? It’s not even easy to decipher. What if it were written like this? “You need the right software to increase your efficiency and save you money. For nearly 30 years, we’ve designed cost-effective solutions that can be tailored to your specific needs.” Same information, but much easier to understand. Speaking human makes it much more likely that your audience will listen and take action.
  2. Simplify the complex. Too often companies complicate what they’re trying to say. It’s the simplicity of our favorite communicators, brands, and products that build loyalty, because we get what they’re saying. Granted, it takes a lot of hard work to make something so complex look so simple. Some call it brilliance. I call it speaking human.
  3. Unleash the power of stories. One of the best ways to simplify the complex is to tell a story. In business, a story or case study can describe a real-life challenge, detail your solution, and show the benefits that resulted from this solution. Consider stories and case studies the ultimate “power tools” to speak human
  4. Mix it up. Storytelling is an art and a science. When you’re sharing stories and case studies, speak to the head and the heart. A story well-told will capture the imagination, while a story supported with relevant data can convince the mind. Both elements help create messages that address people’s deepest needs and position you as the expert who can help.
  5. Don’t be afraid to reveal that (gasp!) you’re not perfect. It’s so tempting to portray everything as perfect, totally under control, no problems. Real life isn’t perfect, though. Your clients know this. While you don’t want to come off as incompetent, there is a time and a place to reveal an area of vulnerability, especially if this issue has been addressed and corrected. When an ag cooperative’s earnings were lower than expected, this company used an article in its newsletter to explain that tight grain margins were a big part of the challenge. The article also highlighted other measures of financial strength that were driven by the co-op’s skilled, dedicated team. That’s speaking human.
  6. Beware of the curse of knowledge. You’re intimately familiar with your company’s products and services. In fact, you’re such an expert on them that it’s probably hard for you to remember what it was like not to know everything about them, right? This is the curse of knowledge, and it can make it tough for you to explain your product to non-experts—i.e., your customers and prospects. Speaking human helps you overcome the curse of knowledge, because it encourages you to think like your audience and communicate in ways that connects with them.
  7. Seek someone outside your company to help. Speaking human may sound like a “duh” concept, but it can be extremely difficult to do. Why? We all get stuck in our silos where we only see the world from our perspective. Your world is not your target audience’s world, though. What keeps your clients and prospects up at night? What do they aspire to? If your marketing doesn’t speak to these needs, your messages will fall flat. At best, they’ll be ignored. At worst, you’ll sound tone deaf and drive customers away. Often an outside perspective is the only effective way to help you break out of your silo, identify connections that will help you speak human and create messages that resonate.

Ready to speak human? VistaComm’s team of journalists, designers and marketers are here to help you craft messages that create a match between you and your ideal customers. Just contact us, and we’ll set up a time to chat. It’s a date!

Top 10 Tips to speak human

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2017 VistaComm Photo Contest Winners

Every year VistaComm holds an internal photo contest among its associates. A different theme is chosen each year to ensure that the photos have a similar feel. This is a fun way to show off our talents, and have a little friendly competition at the same time. All of the photos go into our library of images used in various VistaComm publications, while the top photos find their way into a calendar we send to our clients each year. Congratulations to Darcy Maulsby who took home 3 out of the top 4 spots in our voting-a pretty impressive feat when you consider you can only submit 3 photos for voting!


DARCY MAULSBY: Native grasses and wildlife habitat co-exist enhance this farm just down the road from where I live, reminding me that both conservation and production agriculture are essential components of the countryside.

Darcy Maulsby 1st place photo



BURKE PERRY: My son and I had been running around the countryside trying to get some “golden light” shots of wheat harvest. We managed to track down some combines and get some nice shots. This was just a scene that appeared as we were headed home after sunset. Good end to a good day…and some really rich twilight.

Burke Perry 2nd place photo



DARCY MAULSBY: If you didn’t know this was corn, you might wonder why this structure appears to be “buried” in the shifting desert sands. Truly a bountiful harvest here in the Iowa countryside.

Darcy Maulsby 3rd place photo



DARCY MAULSBY: The fact that someone felt patriotic enough to display a flag at the end of their lane near this pasture inspired patriotism in me, too. With the bales in the background, this image reflects the independence that defines America, especially rural America.

Darcy Maulsby 3rd place photo

Involving employees, and even your community, in a contest is a great way to generate photos, videos and stories that you can use in your marketing and communication efforts.

To our clients: Be on the lookout for next year’s calendar, featuring these photos and more, as we head into the holiday season.

See More Here: 2017 VistaComm Photo Contest Winners

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