Our Position

Reform and Refocus the Farm Credit System

Position

  • Farm Credit System (FCS) lenders enjoy unfair competitive advantages over rural community banks, leveraging their tax and funding advantages as government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) to siphon the best loans from community banks’ loan portfolios. The FCS’s abusive tactic of undercutting market pricing to obtain the best loans jeopardizes the viability of many community banks and the economic strength of the thousands of rural communities they serve.
  • ICBA strenuously opposes the Farm Credit Administration’s (FCA’s) initiative to allow FCS to engage in non-farm financing labeled as investments or investment bonds. This initiative is a successor to the “Rural Community Investments” proposal, which was previously withdrawn.
  • ICBA rejects legislation proposed by the Farm Credit Council to allow blanket approval authority of these FCS “investments” without FCA’s case-by-case review and approval.
  • ICBA opposes allowing FCS lenders to become the equivalent of rural banks with powers to establish checking and savings accounts, take deposits, or establish a consumer-oriented deposit insurance plan within the FCA. FCS lenders also must not have access to the Federal Reserve’s ACH system for clearing electronic credit and debit transfers.
  • ICBA opposes expansion of FCS authorities and supports legislative and regulatory provisions to ensure FCS’s adherence to its historical mission of serving bona fidefarmers and ranchers and a limited number of businesses that provide on-farm services.
  • Congress should reform the FCS’s ‘similar entity’ authorities by which FCS lenders make loans to large non-rural and publicly traded corporations.

Background

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.

Staff Contact

Mark K. Scanlan

SVP, Agriculture and Rural Policy

ICBA

[email protected]

Ag News

Farm Credit posts regulatory plan

Oct. 19, 2021

The Farm Credit Administration posted its latest regulatory projects plan. The plan cites pending regulations on a Farm Credit System bridge bank; an annual strategic plan on young, beginning, and small farmers; collateral evaluation regulations; and more.

Appraisals: On the proposed collateral evaluation regulations, ICBA this year told the agency that it should not provide Farm Credit System lenders with lower standards for appraisals and valuations than those required of community banks.

Grassroots: ICBA continues encouraging community bankers to use ICBA’s Be Heard grassroots alert urging congressional support for legislation to exempt from taxation interest income on community banks’ farm real estate and rural mortgage loans.