As we approach the fall and harvest season for many parts of the country, I’m reminded of the resiliency and productiveness of U.S. farmers and ranchers.
I’m also reminded how we as ag bankers know our customers and our communities, and how we care for and help both. This is despite the challenges we face, including, but not limited to, burdensome regulations, unfair competition from the Farm Credit System and credit unions, and much more.
Of course, the ag economy is cyclical, and there are clouds on the horizon. Still, there is no doubt that ag banks are ready for the challenge, with the majority in great financial condition. (See ABA’s Farm Bank Performance Report.)
We at the Center for Agricultural and Rural Banking are here to serve you and the unique needs of your farm, ranch and rural clientele. No other association or group has a dedicated team of professionals, including a lobbyist, economist, convention director and professionals in research, event planning, regulations, tax policy, marketing, compliance, and much, much more. We are here at your service.
The Center — under the leadership of ABA Agricultural and Rural Bankers Committee Chairman Mike Hein and Vice Chairman Joe Kessie — is working on a number of issues, including:
- Advocating with the Appraisal Qualifications Board of the Appraisal Subcommittee for the recruitment of rural appraisers, including establishing a simplified path to licensing. This is an important issue for many of you. The average age of a rural appraiser is 60-plus and many are retiring with no new entrants to replace them because of the restrictive path and expense of becoming an appraiser.
- Reforming the Farm Credit System, with two hearings in the last six months, one in the House and one in the Senate. Both hearings exposed and highlighted the tax-advantaged FCS abuses and over-reach, and the inability of the FCA, the System’s regulator, to oversee these practices. (See more at reformfarmcredit.org.)
- Pressing for Congress to rein in the over-expansion of credit unions into business and agricultural lending.
- Continuing to press Congress for additional funding, flexibility and staffing for the loan guaranteed programs of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. As we enter a period of distress in the ag economy, these programs will be a critical component in helping our farmers and ranchers.
- Preparing for the 2016 ABA National Agricultural Bankers Conference, Nov. 13-16 at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis, the home of the Indy 500. This year the focus will be on preparing for the challenges on the road ahead. Will you be prepared for the race? Can you win? (Register.)
- Other issues, such as crop insurance, rural mortgage lending, tailored regulation for small banks, service issues with FSA, affordable and convenient education for new ag bankers, and more.
We’ve got other initiatives in the works for you, including enhanced communications, research materials and flyers to use with your customers.
This message from me is the first of many more to come on a quarterly basis. I appreciate your feedback, and your support of ABA. We’re committed to serving your needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team with any questions, issues and concerns.