As Farm Credit wraps up a year of celebrating its 100-year anniversary, we are focused on ensuring that we are well positioned to support agriculture and rural communities with reliable and consistent credit for the next 100 years.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that about a third of principal farm operators are at least 65 years old, which has sparked interest in the transfer of land to the next generation of landowners and agricultural producers. The next generation, like those before it, will face high barriers to entry, volatile commodity prices, increasing input costs, uncertain markets and weather patterns, and attacks against public policy programs that support their industry.
Yet in the face of those headwinds, Farm Credit originated more than 62,000 loans to young producers (under age 36) last year and 80,000 loans to those falling in the category of beginning producers (10 years or less experience). This is evidence that there is great interest in agriculture and that the future is bright despite limited incentives and inherent risks.
As Farm Credit marked its centennial milestone by paying tribute to those who came before us, we also pay tribute to those who endeavor to continue what the previous generations started. And the best way to honor their commitment and dedication is to ensure Farm Credit is financially strong and prepared to use that strength to support our customers and the rural communities we serve throughout the country. Today, Farm Credit is financially the strongest it has ever been.
As a result, Farm Credit is able to go beyond just providing loans to young or beginning farmers. In many cases, those loans come with special incentives, education and other support. Farm Credit lenders across the country offer training and seminars on topics such as intergenerational transfer of family farms, risk management techniques, and establishing and maintaining effective business plans — regardless of whether those entering agriculture are focused on traditional, organic, direct-to-retail or other emerging business models.
In addition, Farm Credit has an important mission beyond agriculture. We provide financing for rural homeownership as well as to companies that provide vital infrastructure for rural communities and help improve the quality of life for rural families. Rural communities and agriculture are at the heart of what we do because we exist to provide reliable access to credit to help both thrive.
While the marketplace today has its challenges, we continue to have a positive long-term outlook. Farmers, ranchers and rural Americans remain enterprising, entrepreneurial and committed to their way of life. We are equally committed to working in the best interest of our borrower-owners, and look forward to the next 100 years of Farm Credit.
– Stan Ray