House Ag subcommittee holds credit hearing
Farm bank leaders from the Farm Credit System, the Independent Community Bankers of America and the American Bankers Association all told the House Agriculture Commodity Exchanges, Energy and Credit Subcommittee that farmers are under stress and that conditions could worsen in 2020.
Marc Knisely, president and CEO of AgCountry Farm Credit Services in Fargo, N.D., who represented the Farm Credit System, said that farmers with low yields are struggling the most and noted that 100,000 acres of sugar beets had to be left in the field this year due to weather problems.
Knisely said farmers’ “expert management can only go so far” and that they need to see higher prices.
Steve Handke, regional president and chief administrative officer of the First Option Bank in Osawatomie, Kan., who represented the Independent Community Bankers of America, said that the Trump administration’s Market Facilitation Program trade aid payment “should continue until the trade situation is straightened out.”
Shan Hanes, president and CEO of Heartland Tri-State Bank in Elkhart, Kan., who represented the American Bankers Association, said Congress should pass H.R. 1872, the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America Act (ECORA), which he said would allow commercial banks to provide farm real estate loans at a lower interest rate.
ECORA would modify the requirements for calculating taxable income to exclude from gross income interest received by a lender from real estate loans secured by agricultural real estate or by a leasehold mortgage (with a status as a lien) on agricultural real estate.
Handke and Hanes both criticized the Farm Credit System as unfair competition, while Knisely noted that Farm Credit announced the same day it is working with the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union and Michigan State University to identify signs of stress in customers and provide techniques to get customers the help they might need to manage that stress.
Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., chairman of the subcommittee, emphasized that he believes the House Agriculture Committee should consider legislation to address the stress, including a program to help farmers anticipate weather disasters.