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ICBA Ag-Rural America Committee Sets 2004 Agenda

Broad Goals to Address Needs of Rural America

Washington, D.C. (May 13, 2004) - The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) has announced its agricultural legislative and regulatory policy agenda for the remainder of the year. The ICBA Agriculture-Rural America Committee's priority plan addresses key challenges-including depopulation, technology, jobs and education-facing rural communities as well as the competitive landscape facing rural banks.

The committee's agenda was developed this week during the ICBA annual Joint Committee Meetings in Washington, D.C. More than 300 ICBA leadership bankers from across America attended the meetings to discuss industry challenges and to lobby legislators on priority issues. "Our members reported some of the best agricultural conditions in recent years, thanks to strong market prices favoring several commodities," stated John Evans Jr., Agriculture-Rural America Committee chairman. "However, not all commodities are doing well, and some agricultural regions are threatened by drought-like conditions."

2004 Priorities for ICBA's Agriculture-Rural America Committee include:

Urge that any new Farm Credit System regulations not be aimed at expanding lending and deposit-taking activities that undermine the ability of rural banks to fund loans and maintain their customer base.

Work with farm groups and other organizations to maintain funding levels for farm bill and crop insurance programs, especially since the farm bill is estimated to cost $15 billion less than projected through 2006.

Seek new opportunities and partnerships to increase funding options for community banks to better serve rural America.

Set the stage for achieving a more level playing field for rural community banks in the next Congress.

Draw attention to trends leading to the depopulation of key rural regions and promote strategies to improve technology, jobs and educational opportunities in those areas.

"Our bankers discussed the reality that, although agriculture prices are good for most commodities, these times are often cyclical and short-lived, and we need to be prepared for the next downturn," stated Mark Scanlan, director of ICBA's Office of Agriculture and Rural Policy. "In addition, we need to ensure that community banks have ongoing sources of funding to finance the needs of rural America as we seek to further address some of the broader challenges-depopulation, technology, jobs and education-facing our rural communities."

ICBA Agriculture & Rural America committee members will serve until March 2005, when new officers are elected at the ICBA national convention in San Antonio, TX.