Lenders learn ways to help farmers through stressful times

Linda Benedict  |  10/12/2016 8:16:28 PM

(10/12/16) CROWLEY, La. – The LSU AgCenter held the first of three seminars for agricultural lenders on Oct. 11 to acquaint them with the challenges facing farmers.

The second session will be held at 9 a.m. on Oct. 13 in the Brumfield Caffey Annex on the LSU of Alexandria campus, and the final one will be at 9 a.m. Oct. 18 in the West Monroe Civic Center. Registration is $25.

Rogers Leonard, LSU AgCenter associate vice president, said the series is being held to help financial institutions understand the complexity of farming under the current farm bill and other federal assistance.

“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,” he said.

Lenders attending the sessions are hearing from representatives of the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Bureau, Federal Risk Management Agency, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, as well as the LSU AgCenter.

More than 90 people attended Tuesday’s event held at the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station.

Leonard said the series of meetings is timely because many farmers are facing difficult challenges with low prices combined with severe losses caused by flooding.

The group heard from a farmer affected by flooding. Jeff Durand, of St. Martin Parish, said he and his brothers had heavy losses from the flood in August. “We lost a lot of our second-crop rice and our late-planted rice. We hope we’ll have a good crawfish season to get us through the year.”

He said they have used several NRCS and FSA programs aimed at conservation to improve their operation.

“We believe improving our farm and making them more efficient is the way to go,” Durand said, adding that many of the programs provide assistance through a cost-share incentive.

Rene Simon of LDAF said a federal aid package for Louisiana farmers hurt by recent flooding is being pursued in Washington, D.C., by LDAF Commissioner Mike Strain and Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Simon said this year’s flooding in north Louisiana in the spring and in south Louisiana in August could be catastrophic for some farmers across the state. “Without some help, they may go out of business,” he said.

He urged audience members to visit farmers to learn more about their individual problems. “These are very stressful times for them,” he said.

Mike Salassi, LSU AgCenter economist and head of the LSU Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, gave an overview of the market forces in agriculture. He said prices tend to creep upward slowly when demand increases or supply is low. But prices fall quickly when supply eventually exceeds demand.

Salassi said farmers should determine their break-even price for their commodity to determine what they need to cover production costs. He said during low prices, land rental rates may need to be reduced to help farmers.

LSU AgCenter economist Mike Deliberto said crop insurance options vary for farmers. “There is no one-size-fits-all for risk,” he said.

Most rice farmers opt for the Price Loss Coverage, he said, while soybean and corn farmers use the Agriculture Risk Coverage plan. Catastrophic crop insurance plans also are available, he said, to protect farmers from losses caused by weather events.

David Savoie, sales manager for the John Deere dealer Sunshine Quality Solutions, said farm equipment dealers now have a glut of returned leased equipment that will be available for purchase for a good price..

Kurt Guidry, LSU AgCenter economist, said tax considerations should not be the only reason for buying new farm equipment.

He also said having grain storage allows farmers more flexibility for selling their crop, but long-term storage may not be cost-effective in the long run.

Brian Breaux, of the Louisiana Farm Bureau, explained the intricacies of the current farm bill. He said some commodities are treated more favorably than others under the farm bill. “Rice is probably sitting on one of the best deals because of the low reference price,” he said.

He said passage of the 2018 farm bill will be even more difficult than the current farm bill because different groups will be attempting to make changes in the structure.

Steve Dooley, of the FSA, described the different crop insurance options under the farm bill with Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage programs.

Darren Boudreaux, of the NRCS, described different conservation programs available to help farmers.

David Trahan, of Crowley Grain, said the company lets farmers buy products on credit. “We end up being a supplier of financing also,” he said.

Agricultural consultant Doug Leonards said he helps farmers solve their problems by providing advice based on his experience and continuing education. “It is my job to transfer that to the farmers,” he said.

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Crop consultant Doug Leonards, of Crowley, explains what he does for farmers during a meeting held Oct. 11 by the LSU AgCenter to help lenders understand the financial challenges facing farmers. Two more meetings are scheduled, at the LSU-A campus on Oct. 13, and in West Monroe on Oct. 18. Photo by Bruce Schultz

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