Lenders hear about updated ag programs

Karol Osborne  |  10/28/2016 8:47:06 PM

(10/28/16) WEST MONROE, La. – The AgCenter held the third of three seminars Oct. 18 in West Monroe for northeast area agricultural lenders to provide updated resources in light of challenges facing production agriculture.

The focus of the training series is to help financial institutions understand the complexity of farming in order to advise farmers on financial plans.

Rogers Leonard, LSU AgCenter associate vice president, said challenges created by the farm economy and new U.S. farm bill require producers to make well-informed farm management decisions.

“We’re trying to provide them with an appreciation for the programs that exist and are available to help Louisiana farmers. The purpose of this event is to make that bridge,” Leonard said.

Bankers and crop suppliers heard from a panel of representatives on topics including beneficial farm and conservation programs, agricultural risk management, financing, and production and marketing alternatives.

The training is particularly timely because many farmers are facing difficult challenges with low prices combined with severe losses because of flooding, Leonard said.

About 100 people attended the Oct. 18 event at the West Monroe Convention Center.

“Agriculture serves as the backbone of the economy in northeast Louisiana,” said Tara Smith, AgCenter northeast region director. “This event provided information on updated resources and crop economics to assist lenders in helping producers make informed decisions for their farming operations.”

Several factors, including untimely rains during the planting and early harvest seasons, as well as reduced prices for agricultural commodities, have strained many of farming operations during 2016, Smith said.

“There are producers that are struggling, and their equity is running out, so they don’t have much to borrow against anymore,” said Keith Collins, AgCenter county agent in Richland Parish.

Many times lines of credit for the seed, fertilizer and chemicals producers need are separate from what is borrowed from an agricultural lender, so bringing both lenders and crop suppliers to the table could potentially help producers to keep going, he said.

The material and speakers were valuable for lenders to become more aware of programs available for producers, said Tensas Parish farmer Jay Hardwick.

Farmers are being cast more as a contract provider of services and goods for general programs for money received, he said. Popular programs, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Stewardship Program, are competitive, with funding awarded based on what producers are willing to do on their farms to support conservation efforts.

“We’re moving from an entitlement recipient of funds that every farmer has access to, dependent upon his yield and acreage, to one of what can you do for us, rather than what we can do for you,” Hardwick said.

Updated resources for the sessions were provided by AgCenter experts and representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Louisiana Farm Bureau, Federal Risk Management Agency and Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

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LSU AgCenter economist Kurt Guidry, right, discusses farm management updates with Tripp Shepherd, representative with RABO Agrifinance, at the recent ag lender training meeting in West Monroe. Photo by Karol Osborne

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