Agriculture Loans Critical to Many Credit Unions in Farm States
MADISON, Wis. - For credit unions situated in states that rely heavily on farmers, agriculture loans have been a boon. According to a CUNA Home & Family Finance Resource Center article, credit unions in Indiana, Minnesota, and North Dakota have the highest visibility in agriculture credit. Between 1996 and 2001, lending in this area doubled for credit unions even as agencies such as the Farm Credit Services, Farm Service Agency, commercial lenders, private banks and individuals continued to make most agriculture loans. The loans have been popular at credit unions for several reasons, CUNA found: small banks have disappeared through mergers; larger, national banks have left the agricultural lending arena because they see the loans as risky; the loans are not large enough to consider pursuing; and decisions are not made locally. For the most part, the loans are used by farmers to buy machinery and other equipment, plant crops, invest in more farmland or purchase livestock. CUNA also found that members turn to credit unions for agriculture loans because of the local service; they know the lenders who live and work in the neighborhood; and they fill a financing need for small to mid-sized farms.