Challenges of Today Present Opportunities for Tomorrow

The following was adapted from a speech Doug Stark, our president and CEO, made to young and beginning producers at the Progressive Farmer’s Ag Summit in Chicago.

We all know that agriculture is laden with risks, and managing them is a critical part of what producers do every day. But to manage risks you must actually take risks. That’s not always easy for young and beginning producers, particularly when it comes to one of their biggest hurdles – access to land.

At one of our annual Side by Side Conferences for young and beginning producers, three of our Directors – two of them still relatively young – were asked what they would do differently if they could go back and do it again. “Buy more land,” two of these successful farmers responded.

When I visit our customers, I hear this same regret. With great pride, customers show me their operation, its evolution and the land they added.

Then, inevitably, they point to the tract they should have bought.

Passing Up Opportunities

Now, I’m not encouraging producers to throw caution to the wind and plunge into debt to buy every piece of land for sale. Rather, the lesson is that these producers had opportunities they didn’t take and, with hindsight, recognized that they could have made them work.

Taking risks is foundational to growing your operation, especially for young producers. The key is to understand the risks and the steps needed to manage them.

Consider a drive I took with one of our Directors. He had a nice start on his operation and wanted me to see an adjacent tract. If he wanted to own it, he told me, he would have to pay a record per-acre price for his county. Understanding his apprehension, I posed a series of questions:

  • How long will you own it? “Forever,” he said.
  • Where will land prices be in 30 to 40 years? “Probably higher,” he acknowledged.
  • Can you make the payments? “Yes,” he said.
  • Even under two to three years of adversity? “I think so,” he said.

There were additional – critical – facts we didn’t explicitly cover that day, including his cost of production and how the new purchase would affect his fixed and variable expenses. He understood his financials, with and without the land purchase.

Commit to Your Goals

Other young and beginning producers will come across their own land opportunities in the next couple of years, either as the result of producers retiring, adjusting their operations or deciding to exit the business.

Also, some non-farming landowners looking at higher interest rates and declining land values will decide this is a good time to sell, and leased land will change hands as agriculture searches for a cash-rent balance.

Prepare yourself for these opportunities by asking: “What would it take if I . . .”

  • had to buy the farm I lease?
  • could add another lease to my operation?
  • wanted to double my operation in five to seven years?

After you identify how you can position yourself for opportunities, take the next step. Commit to your goals. This might mean doing things differently, sitting down with a broker to devise a better marketing plan or developing relationships with trusted advisors.

It has never been easy to get started in production agriculture. But I’d offer that despite today’s challenging conditions, there are going to be more opportunities than ever.

This is an exciting time to be in agriculture.

Farm Credit Continues Strong Support for America’s Young, Beginning, and Small Farmers and Ranchers

Farm Credit Council News Release from WASHINGTON, D.C.

Farm Credit continued its strong support last year for young, beginning, and small farmers across the country, according to figures released by the Farm Credit Administration today. By the end of 2016, Farm Credit had increased outstanding loan volume to all three categories, despite the current difficult economic cycle affecting U.S. farmers and ranchers.

“I compliment them [Farm Credit] on their work. Part of it is making loans, but more important is that YBS customers are supported after the loan is made,” said FCA Board Member Jeff Hall today when the FCA Board reviewed the figures at its monthly meeting.

According to FCA, Farm Credit loans outstanding to young farmers (age 35 and younger) increased 2.6% over 2015 levels, to $27.8 billion. Loans outstanding to beginning farmers (10 years or less in farming) rose 3.2%, to $42.8 billion, and loans outstanding to small farmers (gross sales of less than $250,000) rose 2.1%, to $47.7 billion.

“Young and beginning farmers have unique financing needs and face real challenges in launching their businesses, especially during tough economic cycles like we’re experiencing today,” said Farm Credit Council president and CEO Todd Van Hoose. “The numbers released today by FCA demonstrate that Farm Credit is leaning in to this cycle and delivering on our commitment to young and beginning producers.”

“Small farm operations remain a core part of Farm Credit’s mission and we continued to meet their needs last year in the face of low farm commodity prices,” said Van Hoose. FCA figures revealed that at the end of 2016, Farm Credit had more than 500,000 loans outstanding to small farmers, which accounted for just over 48% of all Farm Credit farm loans outstanding.

Somewhat reflecting the difficult conditions in the farm economy, the number of new loans made to young, beginning, and small farmers remained largely flat compared to 2015, with slight decreases of 0.2%, 0.6%, and 0.2%, respectively, according to FCA’s figures.

The Farm Credit Administration (FCA) is an independent federal regulatory agency charged with oversight of the Farm Credit System. It annually reviews Farm Credit’s performance on meeting the needs of beginning farmers and ranchers and reports its findings to Congress.


  • Farm Credit made almost $13 billion in new loans to beginning farmers and ranchers in 2016.
    • Even as concerns rise about lower commodity prices pressuring farm profit margins, Farm Credit loaned more as a percentage of new loan volume to beginning farmers last year.
    • Farm Credit’s experienced loan officers understand the unique challenges the cyclical agricultural economy poses for beginning farmers.
  • In 2016, Farm Credit made almost $1.5 million in loans to beginning farmers every hour of every day.
    • Farm Credit’s cooperative structure promotes the best interests of our customer-owners and U.S. agriculture.
    • Farm Credit’s knowledge of local agricultural conditions and its ability to tailor financing programs positions its lenders to meet the unique needs of beginning producers.
  • In 2016, more than one in five Farm Credit loans was made to beginning farmers.
    • Last year more than 21 percent of the new loans made by Farm Credit were to beginning producers.
    • Over the past 10 years, Farm Credit has increased the number of new loans made to beginning farmers by more than 23 percent.
  • In 2016, Farm Credit made more than 149,000 loans to small farmers.
    • Last year 41% of new farm loans made by Farm Credit institutions were made to small farmers and ranchers.
  • In reporting the results of their qualitative survey of Farm Credit associations, FCA noted:
    • Increased coordination in the delivery programs for YBS farmers and ranchers with partners outside Farm Credit, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and commercial banks
    • An increase in services and tools provided by local Farm Credit associations
    • An increase in outreach, training and education to first-generation immigrants, veterans, women, minorities, youth groups, high schools, and colleges

Farm Credit supports rural communities and agriculture with reliable, consistent credit and financial services, today and tomorrow. It has been fulfilling its mission of helping rural America grow and thrive for more than a century with the capital necessary to make businesses successful and by financing vital infrastructure and communication services. For more information, visit

Supporting Young and Beginning Producers with Education

Frontier Farm Credit and Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica) welcomes more than 200 young and beginning producers to Omaha this week for our Side By Side (SXS) conference. Customers who accepted our invitation to attend this unique educational conference, will spend two days networking with fellow young and beginning farmers and ranchers and learning from industry experts on topics as diverse as financial fundamentals, family business planning and weather management.

Side By Side reflects our commitment to support young and beginning producers. The same commitment is found throughout the Farm Credit System. In 2015 alone, the Farm Credit System originated $9.4 billion in new loans to 62,000-plus young producers, defined as those 35 and younger. Beginning producers – those with 10 or few years of farming experience – represented 22 percent of new loans in 2015, totaling $12.7 billion System wide.

“Farm Credit makes extraordinary efforts to support young, beginning and small farmers and ranchers,” said Doug Stark, our CEO said in testimony before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry in May 2016. “To put Farm Credit’s lending to small farmers and ranchers into perspective, at year-end 2015 Farm Credit had just over 1 million loans of all kinds outstanding, and slightly more than 500,000 of those loans outstanding were to small farmers and ranchers.”

Follow #SXSOmaha on Twitter, beginning Wednesday evening, to learn what advice industry experts have for young and beginning customers.