Farmer Focus: Brilliant farm banking in the USA

Not much has changed in Kansas since I last wrote. The winter continues to see-saw from cold to warm and back again, with more cold than warm. All of you in the UK who have suffered through the recent floods have my sympathy, especially those with livestock to tend to.

One constant in my farming operation during the past 28 years has been the need to borrow money. In many of the old Hollywood westerns, the family farm or ranch is under constant threat of foreclosure by the evil town banker. Fortunately for me, I’ve not run into a banker like that yet.

I borrow money from two sources, my overdraft and Frontier Farm Credit (FFC), the area branch of the Farm Credit Administration. Not only does it offer lending services, but it offers crop insurance, livestock risk insurance and leasing. All borrowers also own stock.

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During several of the droughts I received a letter stating if there was a problem making my payments FFC would work with me and accept a payment of interest only, deferring the principal to the end of the loan.

Several years ago FFC started paying patronage to customers. In the first year, with no announcement being previously made, I opened the mailbox one day and had several checks totalling about a thousand dollars. When I called the office the explanation was the decision had been made by the board to share some of the profits with borrowers. The decision to share profits was one of the best customer relations moves a lender could make and cemented in my mind that the board truly considers their customers “partners”.

“Side by side, season by season” is the motto of the FFC. I’ve not endured anything like the 1980s or the Great Depression to really test my relationship with my lender, but today I feel confident I am dealing with a lender that will work with me through thick and thin, unlike the bankers portrayed on the big screen.

Brian Hind farms 1,250ha of prairie land in Greenwood county, Kansas, America, of which 770ha is family owned plus the rest is rented. Of this, 330ha is arable cropping with maize, soya, grain sorghum, alfalfa plus a mix of rye, triticale and turnips for grazing by 200 beef cattle. Grassland is used to produce hay.