Loyalty is a core value in rural America. Farm Credit stands behind agriculture and rural communities, staying true to our mission to provide reliable, competitive credit in good times and bad. Likewise, the nation’s agriculture industry has expressed its support for Farm Credit as a source of stable financing vital to the success of farmers, ranchers and rural America.
Recently, 42 ag and rural organizations penned a letter calling for collaboration among credit providers to ensure that agriculture and rural communities have access to funding. The letter was sent to the American Bankers Association, a commercial banking trade and lobbying group that wants Congress to put limits on the Farm Credit System, or even eliminate it altogether.
Unfortunately, the people who would be hurt by such limitations are the memberborrowers throughout rural America who benefit from Farm Credit’s presence in the marketplace.
But the agriculture sector does not support reduced competition, as the letter points out. From general farm organizations like the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union to specific commodity organizations including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Cotton Council, the industry stepped forward in a united voice to speak up for Farm Credit.
The Farm Credit System exists because our country needs a reliable source of credit for agriculture. Some lenders transition in and out of the market when conditions shift, so Congress established Farm Credit as a network of privately owned cooperatives that would be responsive to local needs. In the process, Congress provided some benefits, such as certain tax exemptions that flow to member-borrowers as a result of Farm Credit’s cooperative business structure.
The banking lobby has referred to Farm Credit as tax-subsidized, but Farm Credit’s funding, federal regulator and insurance fund involve no federal dollars. The System also has strong capital and liquidity that enabled it to weather the recent recession, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. By comparison, in addition to enjoying its own tax benefits, the banking industry has access to federally subsidized deposit insurance and received direct government assistance during the recent financial crisis.
Congress has broadened Farm Credit’s mission over the years, enabling the System to partner with the commercial banking industry and diversify its loan portfolio. Today, in addition to making traditional loans to farmers and ranchers, Farm Credit extends credit to large agribusinesses and related entities, rural utilities and infrastructure, rural homeowners, and those who want a place in the country just because it’s a great lifestyle.
Farm Credit has authority to serve the breadth of agriculture and rural America in order to be a competitive counterbalance in the marketplace and to have a diverse portfolio to help ensure its own safety and soundness. This benefits rural communities, and it’s what prompted the 42 rural and ag groups to call for continued collaboration between Farm Credit and commercial banks in their letter.
As a Farm Credit borrower, it is important that you share your story with your elected officials. Members of Congress need to know that you support your Farm Credit association and that it is an important part of your local community. If public policy leaders only hear one side of the story, their perception could become reality, and the value that Farm Credit provides could be diminished.
Farm Credit has a great story to tell; and you, as a member-owner, are just the one to tell it.