There are many ways that today’s agriculture is different than farming of a generation or two ago. But one of the biggest changes has been the growing importance of financial margin management required to keep farms thriving, according to Dave Miller, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s (IFBF) director of research and commodity services.

“Farmers just have more cash on the line than ever before with high prices for land, rent and all production inputs,” Miller said. “Added to that is the volatility we continue to see in the commodity markets.”

That’s why strategies for successfully managing operating and marketing margins will be a key focus of the 2016 Iowa Farm Bureau Economic Summit next week in West Des Moines, Miller said. “These are really some of the most salient topics we have in agriculture today.”

The one-day summit, set for June 27, will feature a discussion of margin management by Iowa State University (ISU) economist Chad Hart, as well as financially-focused presentations by leading ag lenders and economists.

In addition, the IFBF Economic Summit will feature a discussion of using big data to make better management decisions and improve farm profits.

The 2016 IFBF Economic Sum­­mit will be held June 27 at the IFBF headquarters at 5400 University Ave. in West Des Moines. The summit, which will begin at 7:30 a.m., will also feature panels on other key issues facing farmers today, such as export trends, overall outlook for the U.S. economy, interest rates and the effect of the U.S. election on the agricultural economy.

Registration for the summit in West Des Moines is $100 per person. Information about the summit, including online registration form and agenda, can be found here.

This spring’s crop markets have really underscored the risk and volatility that farmers face today, Miller said. A relatively minor reduction in South America’s corn and soybean harvest, combined with an unsettled weather pattern in the United States, have pumped unexpected strength into both corn and soybeans futures, he said.

“We really are in a period when small changes in supplies or demand can have big impacts on commodity markets, both positive and negative,” Miller said. “Having strategies in place to capture positive operating margins and limiting exposure to large losses is so critical today.”

Also at the IFBF summit, ISU’s Matt Darr will discuss ways that farmers can use data to improve profits.

“We have enormous amounts of data today, but it’s important to find ways to use it to improve our ability to make management decisions with it,” Miller said. “When we can identify things in that stream of data that help us make a decision, such as where or when it is optimal to treat a field with pesticides, or how to improve fertilizer utilization, then that data can really be valuable.”