From Main Street to Capital Hill: Telling the Success Stories of YBS Farmers
First in a series of articles on YBS Farmers.
When it comes to building and protecting the reputation of the Farm Credit System, the number and value of loans made to farmers are always impressive. But even more important are the success stories behind those numbers. Case in point: loans made to Young, Beginning and Small Farmers (YBS).
Since 1980, the Farm Credit Banks have annually reported their YBS lending activity to the Farm Credit Administration, the independent regulatory agency that oversees System activities.
In 2007, the Farm Credit System reported the following loan activity to YBS Farmers:
- 50,550 loans totaling more than $6.3 billion to young farmers (35 or younger)
- 64,178 loans totaling more than $10.4 billion to beginning farmers (10 years or less experience)
- 155,154 loans totaling over $13 billion to small farmers (annual gross ag sales of $250,000 or less)
Those figures point to the overwhelming success of Farm Credit and its lending to YBS Farmers. But it’s just the beginning, says Gary Matteson, VP, Young, Beginning, Small Farmer Programs and Outreach with the Farm Credit Council in Washington, D.C.
Gary Matteson is on a YBS Mission
When people within Farm Credit talk to stakeholders, regulators and members of Congress, what hits home best are the success stories of those borrowers, says Matteson. “It’s quick and easy to talk about the billions of dollars in YBS lending. But the true measure of success is in the field, on the farm and about the opportunities provided to individual farmers, ranchers and fishermen.”
Matteson says that success stories about YBS Farmers go a long way to spreading the good news about Farm Credit, especially if they’re about creating new opportunities in agriculture. “If you have an example that illustrates how Farm Credit helped a young farmer use creative financing and loan guarantees to
build a unique and memorable business, that can have a huge impact. Like the young farmer who put in a flock of pigeons that he raises as squab and sells to high-end restaurants. The local association got him started so he could find a niche market that he can make money in and be successful at, and use some of the low-priced corn that’s available in that area to develop a new business with an entirely new business model. Stories with unforgettable details and exceptional qualities are the ones that get told over and over,” says Matteson.
Last summer, the FCC conducted a survey of FCS lending Associations about their policies, programs and procedures to serve the needs of YBS farmers. The survey showed that virtually all Associations reported using some type of credit enhancements for YBS borrowers. It also pointed out that Associations provide a broad range of financial assistance and educational programs, such as leadership development training, through their Associations, Cooperative Extension educators, 4-H and FFA.
Matteson says the survey results lay the groundwork for communicating the scope and helpfulness of YBS programs, but also points out the need to tell success stories on the local, state and national level. “I would encourage Associations to discover those great stories and write them down, use them in their own publications, which many of them already do, and try to find a way to aggregate those stories and contribute them to the Farm Credit Council so we can tell them at a national level.”
Recently, Matteson discovered a success story on his own at a leadership training meeting. He asked the audience for their opinion on the effectiveness of the YBS Farmer programs. “A man raised his hand and said ‘I believe I am a success story’” says Matteson. “He said he was in the first class in 1993 of Southwest Farm Credit’s Young Beginning Small Farmer training institute. He said it opened his eyes to a new world of what his farm business could do. The next year his two brothers went through the training, and then together they built their family vegetable operation from 50 to 500 employees, and now he has been elected to Southwest’s board of directors. To be able to have a pocketful of stories like that showing how association YBS programs help real farmers achieve their best is invaluable for telling the Farm Credit story.”
Having a lot of great narratives to work with would help him and others at the FCC in their lobbying efforts, but those same stories are important to define who we are to our association customers, adds Matteson. “When Farm Credit tells the success stories of our customers to illustrate our YBS farmer mission, it amounts to putting our best foot forward. We are a Government Sponsored Entity. As we establish relationships with new congressmen or farm groups, we need to let them know that along with providing credit to all of agriculture, we have a specific mission to provide assistance to young, beginning, and small farmers. And that’s a great story to tell about our commitment to the future of agriculture.”
If you have a success story about YBS Farmer lending, AgriBank would love to hear about it. We will forward it to Gary Matteson at the Farm Credit Council for his lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., and consider it for publication in the Advocate. Please email your story, including the name and phone number of the YBS Farmer and other relevant details, to