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Landscapes, Summer 2009

FARM CREDIT COMMENTARY

Advocating for the Agriculture Industry

When Farm Credit has the opportunity to tell its story to policy-makers in Washington, we tell it in two parts.

First, despite the troubled economy, the Farm Credit System’s 2008 financial results reflected record earnings and lending activity to agriculture. The results underscore that the System is focused on its mission to ensure access to credit for the agriculture industry, while maintaining credit quality and financial strength for the future. Moreover, the customer-owned lending institutions in our five-state region returned $152 million — more than half of 2008 earnings — in patronage dividends to the farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses who borrow money from us. Overall, Farm Credit is a competitive and reliable source of credit in rural America.

The second part of the story, however, is that the economic stress being felt throughout the world has a ripple effect that impacts the industry Farm Credit serves. Before the financial crisis, the strong agriculture industry benefited the U.S. economy, but today producers are under pressure from commodity price volatility and increased input costs. These factors, coupled with the poor overall economy, are causing many in the agriculture industry to struggle in their important role of providing a reliable and affordable food supply to consumers. In fact, the USDA is predicting a dramatic $16-billion decline in farm income in 2009.

As owners of the Farm Credit System, borrowers have the opportunity to help share this story with their representatives in Congress — to encourage them to support policies that strengthen the agricultural sector and oppose efforts that diminish it.

When contacting your congressional representative and advocating your interests in Washington, the best strategy is to not rely on any single option, but to pursue as many avenues as possible. Members of Congress are bombarded by multiple issues and perspectives every day, so it’s a challenge to be heard. Nevertheless, it is important that the agriculture industry persists; otherwise, those who may not have agriculture’s best interests at heart will be the ones influencing the decisions on agricultural issues.

The Farm Credit System and the agriculture industry have a compelling story to tell — don’t be shy about telling it.