ABA Banking Journal - January 2009 - (Page 16)
Community Banking AG PULSE 2025 AN ABA BANKING JOURNAL ROUNDTABLE Our allies the Farm Credit System? That’s just one of the startling predictions for ag banking in the year 2025 I n the weird 1960’s hit song, “In the year 2525,” we never actually find out what songwriter Rick Evans predicted for 2525, because his opening stanza launches his song straight into the year 3535, and beyond. But ask veteran ag banker Dennis Everson about his business in the year 2025, and he’s got some very definite ideas, including one shocker to current thinking: U.S. farm banks will by then have stopped seeing the Farm Credit System as an advantaged mega-competitor to banks; instead, they will see the Farm Credit System’s institutions as allies. “We’ll see some unique things happening between us and our government-sponsored entities,” says Everson. “I think we will see a lot more partnership.” Beating swords into loanshares There is much behind Everson’s argument, but one factor is human nature. “This current generation of bankers that has done nothing but fight with the Farm Credit System will have all retired” by 2025, says Everson, who is president of the Agri-Business Division at First Dakota National Bank, Yankton, S.D., (and winner of the ABA’s 2008 Bruning Award for commitment to agricultural banking). This will clear the way for a fresh perspective. Part of what may bulldoze the way for such change, and for that fresh thinking, may be a shift in the future status of the federal Farm Credit System, suggests Samuel Miller, senior vice-president, agri-business and food banking, at M&I Marshall & Ilsley Bank. Miller thinks the partnering up—which has been seen now and then in individual markets—may come even sooner than 2025. “Farm Credit may get to the point where they say, ‘We need more By Steve Cocheo, executive editor capital, and we need more predictable capital’,” says Miller. “I can see a scenario where they give up their cooperative status and become a for-profit bank. And that will level the playing field.” What would drive such an evolution, when the present is marked by relations that range from competitive to downright cutthroat? Miller suggests regulatory reform might be one driver. Much is going to be looked at in the new Congress, and a look at Farm Credit isn’t inconceivable, even though the mortgage market is center stage. But the other is a market-driven need to evolve. “As the number of farmers shrinks,” says Miller, “so does their potential customer base. And if they want to get into other lines of business”—a seemingly perennial goal—“that means that they have to level that playing field.” What events could lead to banking and Farm Credit going from institutional enemies to cooperators? Everson and Miller were two of five participants in a telephone roundtable panel discussion assembled by ABA Banking Journal and the ABA Agricultural Bankers Division in November to discuss the future of ag banking and agriculture. The group included a noted ag economist, three American ag bankers, and an ag banker from Canada. (See the roster on page 20.) Farm country’s changing demographics As Sam Miller’s answer presaged, shrinkage and consolidation were frequently predicted for agricultural America by the panelists, who addressed these topics at a similar session, also pegged to the quarter-century mark, at ABA’s National Agricultural Bankers Conference in later November. The group addressed trends among both farms and farm lenders. Everson had done some number crunching to reach his conSubscribe at www.ababj.com 16 JANUARY 2009/ABA BANKING JOURNAL
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