Farm Credit & Country Mortgages Welcomes Debbie Shifflett to the Harrisonburg Team

Debbie Shifflett has joined Farm Credit & Country Mortgages’ Harrisonburg office as the new AgBiz Loan Processor. Shifflett currently resides in Elkton, VA but lived in Greene County for ten years. Debbie was just recently married to her husband, Steve, who she has been with for the past 30 years. She has two children, Drew and DeLisa as well as one grandchild, Noah. She has worked for BB&T for the past 11 years and has a total of more than 20 years of retail and loan experience which she gathered while working in multiple counties. Debbie looks forward to serving and meeting the customers of Farm Credit.

Farm Credit of the Virginias provides over $1.5 billion dollars in financing to more than 10,000 farmers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners throughout Virginia, West Virginia and western Maryland. Farm Credit is a cooperative capitalized largely through investments made by farmers, ranchers and the rural homeowners and businesses that borrow from them.  Farm Credit helps maintain and improve the quality of life in rural America and on the farm through its constant commitment to competitive lending,  expert financial services and for facilitating and sharing knowledge and resources through the Farm Credit Knowledge Center.   For more information, visit www.FarmCreditKnowledgeCenter.com or www.FarmCreditofVirginias.com.

Categories: General Information

March 2015 Preview: Women’s History Month, Crop Insurance Deadline and AgDay

Unless you are reading this from Florida, the view out your window, or nearby, likely includes a dusting (or more) of snow. This year’s record-breaking winter has increased hay demand and stalled the maple syrup season. And while March 1 is considered the meteorological spring in the United States, we will have to wait until March 20 to officially welcome Spring and a prelude to a bevy of planting activity as farmers work to get early crops into the ground.

The month ahead offers some welcome distractions from winter’s last gasps. March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day are on the horizon – we hope you’ll take a moment to thank America’s farmers and ranchers for their contributions in helping us celebrate these holidays and other events in our day-to-day lives.

Here’s what else is happening this month:

  • March is Women’s History Month, and nowhere are women’s contributions more important than in agriculture. Women have been integral to the success of farms and ranches for centuries; today, nearly 1 million women are actively farming, and 14 percent of our nation’s 2.1 million farms have a woman as principal operator. Follow #WomenInAg on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about these female operators and check out our Women in Agriculture board on Pinterest.
  • The deadline for purchasing crop insurance for Spring crops is March 16. This will also be the last chance for commodity producers to choose one of two new risk mitigation programs included in the 2014 Farm Bill. Be sure to talk with your insurance agent to review and update your plan, and to talk about these new options – your choice this year will be in place for the next five years.
  • Take a moment to appreciate U.S. farmers and ranchers on National Ag Day, March 18. In addition to growing the food that graces all our tables, these 2.1 million dedicated producers are responsible for revenues of more than $394 billion, a significant portion of our national economy. Will you be participating in your state’s Ag Day activities? We want to hear from you! Post your photos to our Facebook page or tweet using the hashtag #AgDay.
  • Two of Farm Credit’s National Contributions Partners will host events focused on the future of agriculture: Agriculture Future of America will be holding the 2015 Policy Institute in Washington, DC, March 16-19, and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) will be hosting the 30th Annual Career Fair and Training Conference from March 26 – 28 in Houston, Texas.

 

Categories: General Information

From the Field: National Black Growers Council

For generations, black farmers and ranchers have proven to be important contributors to the American agricultural dichotomy, as they’ve contributed to the daunting task of providing food to our nation and the world. With unwavering dedication and passion, these men and women faced hurdles and endured systematic barriers that thwarted their ability to access government funding and federal programs. Barriers so debilitating that for some it stifled their ability to grow and for others, these hardships forced them out of business altogether.

These troubling realities are quantified in the statistics which document the overall decline in the number of black producers in the farming and ranching industries during the past century. Although data show a 9 percent increase in the number of black agricultural producers from 2007 to 2012, with 2012 recording 44,629 or 2.1 percent of the agricultural producers in the United States being black; the sobering facts show that from 1920 to recent times, the ratio of black farmers to non-black farmers declined from one in seven in 1920, to nearly one in 50 today.

Challenges and barriers withstanding, black farmers and ranchers remain diligent, strong, and proud in their commitment to provide a much needed resource to a greatly underserved and sometimes forgotten population. Organizations including the National Black Growers Council, an industry alliance established to help “improve the efficiency, productivity, and sustainability” of black farmers, represent a collective voice for farmers and ranchers while providing a venue by which they can share information and resources, and an organized way to establish educational forums to ensure that the next generation of farmers and ranchers is being mentored and trained.

P. J. Haynie, Director and Secretary-Treasurer of the Council and a fifth generation grain farmer, said, “We need to change our mindset. Many of these challenges are in the past, and we need to look forward.” To that end, the Council is focused on networking with independent black farmers and ranchers to connect them with each other in order to establish a stronger consortium and eliminate the isolation black farmers often experience as they continue to operate in an industry dominated by white agricultural producers. Still, in order to move forward, today’s farmers must identify and address those challenges that remain prevalent and relevant.

One such challenge is the need to attract and nurture the next generation of black farmers and ranchers to ensure the continued existence and growth of blacks in agriculture. Another priority of the Council is to educate black youth on the opportunities available in the agricultural industry. This has proven especially challenging because of the negative stigma that associates farming with slavery; coupled with the fact that many black youth harbor disparaging perceptions about the industry after witnessing their parents and other farmers struggling to maintain, and in some cases losing, their businesses. Seeing and experiencing such hardships has left many black youth less than enthusiastic about the prospects of following in their parents’ footsteps by choosing agriculture as a career.

Financing has proven to be another challenge faced by black farmers and ranchers today. Leigh Allen, Executive Director of the National Black Growers Council points out a challenge that supersedes black farmers’ ability to obtain credit, and that is their ability to acquire accurate information about how to properly apply for credit.

At a recent meeting with Farm Credit representatives from across the country, the Council shared these challenges as well as the Council’s strategies for helping America’s black agricultural producers succeed. One key program is an annual series of Model Farms field days where black growers gather to learn first-hand about practices and technologies that improve efficiencies and increase yields. However, before programs like Model Farms can be effective the Council must locate the black agricultural producers it aims to help – those black farmers outside of the Council’s membership. While the current membership represents 11 southern states between Virginia and Texas, responsible for farming approximately 60,000 acres of farmland, due to the aforementioned isolation of black farmers throughout the United States, finding those who would most benefit from the Council’s support is difficult.

In its new alliance, Farm Credit has committed to helping the National Black Growers Council and its constituents by lending its support to the Council’s efforts to excel in its mission of improving the efficiency, productivity, and sustainability of the black farming community.

If you are a black farmer or rancher who is not a member of the National Black Growers Council, visit their website to learn more about their resources and benefits, and become a member.

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of diversity, Rodney Patterson brings a wealth of knowledge to his position as Diversity Resource for the Farm Credit System. In his role, Mr. Patterson is responsible for driving diversity, inclusion and engagement throughout the Farm Credit System.

Lisa Summerour is a dynamic motivational speaker, author, consultant, coach, and facilitator. She graduates in May with a doctorate in ethical leadership from Olivet Nazarene University. Ms. Summerour’s current projects include developing women’s empowerment seminars and job search workshops.

 

Categories: General Information

Black Farmers: Historical Trends and Contemporary Challenges

Like everyone in agriculture, African-American farmers are grappling with demographic and economic trends that can make it difficult to keep a farm in the family. Consolidation, while it makes farming far more efficient, has reduced the number of black-owned farms from more than one million a century ago to only about 18,000 today. In addition, like their white counterparts, black farmers sometimes face challenges enticing the next generation to stay on the farm and pursue agriculture as a career.

The reasons cited for the decline in the number of black farmers vary. For one, in the past, black farmers faced a number of challenges that white farmers didn’t, including discriminatory lending practices. Today, discriminatory lending has been vastly reduced thanks to federal laws prohibiting those practices. In addition, lenders like the Farm Credit System have programs specifically designed to help young, beginning, small and racial/ethnically diverse farming operations.

The shrinking number of black farmers is a concern for us all as we look to diversify the agriculture industry and prepare to meet future demands. To that end, the Farm Credit System supports black farmers across the country by partnering with organizations like the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, MANNRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences), the Minority Landowner Conference, the Color of Food and others. In 2013, three Farm Credit System organizations – AgCarolina Farm Credit, AgFirst and CoBank – provided a $72,000 grant to the Roanoke Electric Cooperative’s Sustainable Forestry and African-American Land Retention project. The grant will be used for training and educational forums, legal and technical assistance and business planning. Additionally, the grant will provide career educational opportunities for youth.

Farm Credit’s goal is to make sure that any credit-worthy individual, regardless of race, has access to the credit they need to be successful in agriculture. As Farm Credit continues to do its part, we hope to see the number of black famers remain steady and even grow in the future.

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of diversity, Rodney Patterson brings a wealth of knowledge to his position as Corporate Diversity and Talent Management Officer for CoBank, the Farm Credit bank serving associations in 23 states and agribusinesses nationwide. In this role, Mr. Patterson is responsible for driving diversity, inclusion and engagement throughout CoBank and the Farm Credit System.

Categories: General Information

Business of Agriculture: Common Hurdles to Success in Succession Planning

Rick Hermonot and Jon Jaffe are consultants with Farm Credit East, working out of the Dayville office. Rick has been with Farm Credit for 27 years, and Jon has been with the organization for 31 years.

Succession planning is something most farmers and ranchers know they ought to do to protect the agricultural operations they’ve built and to provide for their families. Unfortunately, it’s also a topic rife with emotion and that requires sometimes awkward conversations, so it’s often postponed. Below are five common reasons why a farmer or rancher will put off their succession planning, along with suggestions to resolve these issues.

  1. Giving up control. Agricultural producers work hard every day to raise the animals and crops that feed the nation. Over time, they’ve established a strategy and created processes that have contributed to their success, and it can be hard to imagine turning over the reins. As much as we don’t like to think about it, though, those reins are going to be turned over sooner or later. One way to work through this concern is to establish an LLC with the older generation as the majority decision makers, and turning over management responsibility and ownership to, the younger generation gradually over time as they prove themselves as worthy successors.
  2. Equal versus Equitable. The question of how to treat all children equitably is a challenging one – parents want to be fair to all their children, yet often can’t see how that can be accomplished when one child is working side-by-side with their parents, taking a minimum salary for decades as profits are reinvested in the operation, and another is working off-farm, earning a good salary and building a retirement fund. The first step in addressing this issue is talking about it, perhaps engaging an outside professional to facilitate what can be a difficult discussion. For example, one way to address the issue is to separate the business operation from the land on which it sits, which is often the single most valuable of the parents’ assets. The operation can then be transitioned to the family member working on the farm, and shares of the land entity can be divided equitably among the children with the farm operation controlling/leasing what it needs.
  3. Lack of mutual respect. Whenever generations work together, there are communication challenges. The older generation may believe the younger doesn’t respect their values, the work they’ve put in and the risks they’ve taken; the younger generation may believe that the older doesn’t respect their insights, education or the new ideas they bring. This creates a roadblock to succession planning that can be overcome with compromise on both sides. Often communication is the solution, so the older generation learns that the younger does, indeed, respect them and their knowledge, and the younger generation can learn that the older does admire their learning and ideas but is fearful of the perceived risk of implementing them. Once both parties understand that there is a platform of mutual respect, the transition plan can move forward.
  4. Concern over affordability. Both generations may believe that they can’t afford a transition: the older may think they won’t have enough money to support them through the end of their lives, and the younger may think that they can’t afford to buy out the operation at full price. It’s no secret that many farming operations don’t see large profits as margins may be minimal and revenues are reinvested year after year to improve operations. Effective succession planning is facilitated when profitability is strong, so this is key to a smooth transition. This will give the older generation increased savings, and create a business that the younger is optimistic about taking over. Interestingly, sometimes operations are only perceived as non-profitable, or the younger generation actually can afford to purchase it; a concrete understanding of the actual financial situation is necessary to effective succession planning.
  5. Lack of communication. Underscoring each of these hurdles is the need for open and honest conversation, but often the generations are hesitant to reveal their true thoughts because they fear judgment. The older generation may actually not want to work so hard anymore, but fear that admitting so will make them look weak. Perhaps the younger generation would prefer not to work on Sundays to spend time with their family, but fear that their father will think they’re slacking. Ignoring these issues will lead to resentment, another roadblock to planning a smooth operational transfer. The solution is to discuss needs and wants openly and honestly, sharing perspectives to create a foundation of understanding. Sometimes an outside facilitator is helpful in these efforts, at least at the beginning. Then regular meetings with established protocols support continued communication.
Categories: General Information

Farm Credit & Country Mortgages Welcomes Sarah Broyles to the Wytheville Team

Sarah Broyles

Sarah Broyles has joined Farm Credit & Country Mortgages’ Wytheville office as a Loan Assistant. Broyles is originally from and currently resides in Cana, Virginia where she farms with her family. The family operation consists of free range chickens, an apple orchard, small-scale gardening, as well as produce and beekeeping. She was an active member of the local 4-H as a youth member and is an active member of Gladesboro Lutheran Church in Gladesboro, VA today where she attends with her daughter. Sarah has an Associate’s degree in General Studies from Wytheville Community College and is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in Human Services. Sarah comes to Farm Credit with a variety of experiences in the agriculture industry and looks forward to helping assist customers in their agricultural endeavors.

Farm Credit of the Virginias provides over $1.5 billion dollars in financing to more than 10,000 farmers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners throughout Virginia, West Virginia and western Maryland. Farm Credit is a cooperative capitalized largely through investments made by farmers, ranchers and the rural homeowners and businesses that borrow from them.  Farm Credit helps maintain and improve the quality of life in rural America and on the farm through its constant commitment to competitive lending,  expert financial services and for facilitating and sharing knowledge and resources through the Farm Credit Knowledge Center.   For more information, visit www.FarmCreditKnowledgeCenter.com or www.FarmCreditofVirginias.com.

Categories: General Information

February 2015 Preview: Black History Month, Industry Events and Celebrations

The shortest month of the year is chock full of celebrations and events, from honoring the contributions of our nation’s black citizens to celebrating love. Here’s what’s happening this month:

Black History Month
Each year in February, we take the opportunity to celebrate and recognize the importance of our African American citizens to the fabric of the nation. Nowhere is their contribution more apparent than in agriculture: nearly 46,000 Black farmers and ranchers work diligently every day to provide the food, fuel and fiber on which we all depend. The number of black principal farm and ranch operators is rising – up 12 percent between 2007 and 2012 – demonstrating even more the critical role this group of producers plays.

In addition to the farmers and ranchers to whom Farm Credit provides financing, we also help support industry groups that focus on the future of black participation in agriculture, including Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANNRS) and the National Black Growers Council.

Industry Events

Days of Celebrations and Recognition

  • Groundhog Day, 2/2, which if you trust Punxsutawney Phil, lets farmers and ranchers know when winter will end and they can start their spring planting.
  • Valentine’s Day, 2/14, a time for to give flowers to those you love
  • Presidents Day, 2/16, when Farm Credit recognizes two presidents in particular: Woodrow Wilson who signed the Farm Loan Act in 1916 which marked the founding of the Farm Credit System, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt who was instrumental in completing the process of building the System in the 1930s.
  • Mardi Gras, 2/17, celebrated throughout the country but nowhere with as much enthusiasm as in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Categories: General Information
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