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ICBA Urges OCC to Renew Pilot Program

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Washington, D.C. (May 26, 2004) - The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) is urging the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to renew its three-year lending limit pilot program allowing well-rated national banks headquartered in states with higher lending limits for residential real estate loans or small business loans to apply and use the higher lending limits.

"Although ICBA is disappointed that OCC is not proposing at this time to make the pilot program permanent, ICBA strongly supports the renewal of the program," said Karen Thomas, executive vice president of ICBA. "Community banks with national charters in states with higher lending limits for state chartered banks face a competitive disadvantage. Because of lower national bank lending limits, they are often unable to meet customer needs. Increasing the lending limit for residential real estate and small business loans allows participating community banks to better serve their most creditworthy customers."

ICBA also urged the OCC to expand the pilot program to include secured agricultural loans, noting this would be especially beneficial for community banks in rural markets that are dependent on agricultural lending and that face serious competition from state-chartered banks and the Farm Credit System. ICBA also favors doubling the $10 million cap for single borrowers and the 100-percent-of- capital aggregate cap for a bank's loans made under the pilot program. This would allow larger community banks to use the program, and allow banks to make more than a handful of loans under the program.

According to the OCC, as of February 2004, 169 national banks headquartered in 23 states have received approval to participate in the pilot program.