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Community Banks Serve Rural America. Community banks are four times more likely to operate offices in rural counties and remain the only banking presence in over one-third of all U.S. counties. There are over 1100 agricultural banks (25 percent of portfolios in agriculture). While community banks hold 25 percent of total banking industry assets, they make nearly 90 percent of the banking industry’s farm loans.
In 2021, agricultural loans were extended by over 4,000 banks while 67 FCS institutions held agricultural loans. However, the FCS now holds 22 percent more farm loans than banks due to their rapid growth in tax-free real estate lending, which increased by 45 percent and $45 billion between 2015 to 2020, a growth rate over twice that of commercial banks. Congress should pass legislation similar to ECORA (H.R. 1977 / S. 2202) from the previous Congress (to be renamed the “Access to Credit for our Rural Economy Act of 2023” (ACRE) in the 118th Congress) to address this disparity.
Farm Credit System. As the only GSE competing directly against private lenders the FCS was granted tax and funding advantages by Congress to serve bona-fidefarmers and ranchers and a narrow group of farm-related businesses that provide on-farm services.
Through its regulator, the FCS has sought non-farm lending opportunities through “investment bonds” even though such lending exceeds the constraints of the Farm Credit Act. The FCS also seeks blanket authority to approve their “investments” in lieu of obtaining their regulator’s approval. ICBA opposes granting the FCS’s blanket approval authorities.
Congress should reform and refocus the FCS’s authorities in order to limit FCS’s non-farm and non-statutory lending.
March 17, 2021
Washington, D.C. (March 17, 2021) — The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) today said it strongly supports the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America Act (ECORA) to support farmers, ranchers and rural homeowners.
Authored by Reps. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa), the bill would exempt from taxation interest income on farm real estate and rural mortgage loans, allowing community banks to lower loan rates and more efficiently serve these borrowers.
“With community banks making 80 percent of banking industry agricultural loans, ICBA strongly supports the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America Act (ECORA) to help them offer lower rates to certain rural borrowers and homeowners," ICBA President and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey said. "This important legislation will help sustain and revive rural economies struggling to overcome the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic while providing community bank lenders with benefits they can pass on to customers, similar to other rural credit providers."
With rural America and the agricultural sector facing continued challenges, ECORA will:
ICBA looks forward to working with Congress to advance this critical legislation.
The Independent Community Bankers of America creates and promotes an environment where community banks flourish. ICBA is dedicated exclusively to representing the interests of the community banking industry and its membership through effective advocacy, best-in-class education, and high-quality products and services.
With nearly 50,000 locations nationwide, community banks constitute 99 percent of all banks, employ more than 700,000 Americans and are the only physical banking presence in one in three U.S. counties. Holding more than $5 trillion in assets, over $4.4 trillion in deposits, and more than $3.4 trillion in loans to consumers, small businesses and the agricultural community, community banks channel local deposits into the Main Streets and neighborhoods they serve, spurring job creation, fostering innovation and fueling their customers’ dreams in communities throughout America. For more information, visit ICBA’s website at www.icba.org.