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ICBA: Community Banks Vital to Agriculture Economy

Community Banking Month Celebrated During April

Washington, D.C. (April 24, 2008)—The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) - as part of recognizing Community Banking Month in April - is calling attention to the positive role community banks have on America's agricultural and rural economy.

"Community banks, with their extensive delivery network in thousands of rural communities, are the economic engines serving agriculture, small businesses and general rural economic activity," said Cynthia L. Blankenship, ICBA chairman and vice chairman and chief operating officer of Bank of the West, Irving, Texas. "Community banks are vital to the financial success of rural America and finance a significant portion of our agriculture credit needs. In fact, more than any other lender segment, community bankers serve their rural customers in good times and bad. We stick with our customers through thick and thin as a community bank's success is tied to the success of its community."

In addition to supporting agricultural activities, community banks drive rural economies in many ways: creating off-farm jobs; maintaining the local tax base; and facilitating the development of the infrastructure and public services necessary to keep rural communities vibrant.

"Community banks have consistently been the largest provider of agricultural credit within the commercial banking sector providing over half of all commercial bank agricultural financing," said Blankenship. "Community bankers are often the catalysts for new and expanded business opportunities within their communities to ensure the long-term economic viability of their communities."

Each year, thousands of community banks participate in the annual ICBA Community Banking Month through special events and programs. ICBA member community banks employ 282,000 people in 20,350 locations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories. Of the 8,300 community banks in America, nearly 5,000 are members of ICBA, including 700 publicly traded community banks.

For more information about ICBA and ICBA Community Banking Month, visit www.icba.org.

Note to editors: Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is scheduled to speak at ICBA's Washington Policy Summit April 28 at approximately 7 p.m. at the Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, DC.