Farm Credit System Is Proactive on FCA’s Rule on Diversity & Inclusion
The new Farm Credit Administration rule addresses internal aspects of the workforce and governance, and how Farm Credit organizations are reaching out to new and diverse markets.
The Farm Credit Administration (FCA) last month released its “Final Rule on Diversity and Inclusion.” The amended regulation requires the board of directors of each Farm Credit System institution to adopt an operational and strategic business plan to include, among other things, outreach toward diversity and inclusion.
Corporate Diversity and Talent Management Officer for CoBank
Rodney Patterson is the corporate diversity and talent management officer for CoBank. He also coordinates and facilitates the activity of Farm Credit’s Diversity Workgroup. In this interview, Patterson provides insight into what the new Federal Rule means to the Farm Credit System, its Banks and Associations.
What are the key takeaways for Farm Credit Banks and Associations as it relates to the new FCA rule on Diversity and Inclusions?
It’s time to begin planning for the 2013 implementation of the FCA rule at the organizational level. The rule talks about human capital planning, which encompasses understanding the mix of employees you have and their backgrounds and work styles, thoughtfully putting teams together, succession planning and other strategic initiatives related to building and maintaining an effective, diverse and engaged workforce. It is a charge to reach out and serve creditworthy, underserved and diverse markets, which the Farm Credit System has been doing for 95 years.
There are both internal and external implications of the FCA rule. Internally, it will help ensure that our leadership is being mindful and inclusive in their planning and business objectives. The other big piece of the rule falls under marketing. Are you, as an organization, reaching all the credit worthy markets in your territory? There are areas with racial, ethnic and other types of diversity throughout America that must be taken into consideration. That’s why it’s critical to build an internal planning team that includes HR, sales, marketing and other senior leaders who play a role in creating a comprehensive business strategy for the organization.
How long has the FCA rule been in the works?
It’s been in the planning stages for some time. The draft rule was issued by the FCA in April 2011. During the comment period, Farm Credit organizations were able to submit their questions and concerns about the proposed rule, which the FCA board took into consideration before releasing the final rule. With the final rule now in place, diversity and inclusion has become an issue that’s at the forefront for all Farm Credit organizations as they develop their 2013 business plans.
How is Farm Credit’s Diversity Workgroup structured?
The Diversity Workgroup is a system-wide group that includes representatives from all of the District Banks and some Associations. Each of the Banks is represented by both a staffer and a director. It was organized in 2005 and, since then, there has been a lot of good work done around Farm Credit’s Diversity & Inclusion initiatives. The group creates resources and coordinates activity at the national level, but the specific diversity-related planning is created and implemented at the local level. Many Farm Credit Banks and Associations already have robust Diversity and Inclusion programs underway.
How can Banks and Associations begin planning their outreach efforts?
Talking to peers within the System can be a great place to start. By sharing ideas and recognizing what’s working in terms of diversity and inclusion efforts in individual organizations, we can identify ways to replicate those efforts across the system.
First though, it’s important to understand your market and look at the diversity and inclusion data that exists. There are some parts of the country, specifically in the heartland, where there’s not a lot of ethnic and racial diversity.
However, there is a growing trend toward agriculture in cities and the desire for agricultural resources to be more accessible to folks in urban areas, and Farm Credit can play a role in that process. Some organizations are getting involved in urban farming and the local foods market. An Association on the east coast is creating a micro-loan program. Many times, these initiatives are part of the associations’ Young, Beginning, Small Farmer programs, which already exist across the System.
Rural America isn’t always the most diverse place. Farm Credit must find ways to bridge that gap between rural and urban America.
How can Farm Credit employees and customers get more information about system-wide Diversity and Inclusion efforts?
A really good place to start is to reach out to your organization or district’s representative on the Diversity & Inclusion workgroup. Next, consider attending one of the upcoming Diversity & Inclusion training sessions. They are available to all Farm Credit System employees, and are designed to meet the needs of organizations and leaders at various stages of their Diversity & Inclusion journeys.
Additionally, employees can access a variety of resources at www.farmcredit.com/diversity or drop us a line at email@example.com and the national communication team can provide the appropriate resources.