<p>BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Peter Skaalen, executive vice president of the Minnesota Credit Union Network left for St. Andrew, Jamaica on Feb. 4 to mentor and provide professional guidance to the struggling People's Cooperative Bank, an agricultural lending institution in St. Andrew, Jamaica near the capital city of Kingston. Skaalen's work, expected to last until March 9, is part of Land O'Lakes' worldwide Farmer-to-Farmer program. Funded by the U.S. Agency of International Development, Land O'Lakes administers the program in Jamaica, the Windward Islands, Mexico, South Africa and Malawi and provides technical assistance in the agricultural sectors of these areas. The goal of the Farmer-to-Farmer program in Jamaica is to increase private sector agricultural production and to improve the economic conditions of Jamaica's rural population by providing short-term technical assistance to targeted private sector agribusinesses, lending institutions, and producers. Skaalen will be dealing with the financial side of farming and working with the People's Cooperative Bank to identify problems and recommend solutions to increase profitability. As part of his work in St. Andrew, Skaalen will assess the co-op bank's current practices and make recommendations to improve efficiency. The bank has suffered from some "fairly substantial" losses in the past few years, Skaalen said. He will also be assessing the Island-wide PC bank system and meeting with the Agricultural Credit Board, Federation of Cooperatives, and other bank managers to determine where follow-up assistance is needed and can be provided. Before coming to MCUN in 1999, Skaalen spent 12 years working at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and prior to that he was co-manager of the Harmony State Bank in Minnesota. He held numerous positions during that time, including head of operations and asset liability management; cashier; vice president of commercial, agricultural and mortgage lending; vice president of investments; and compliance officer.</p>

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