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Farm Credit Fly-In

Dave Janish & Kate Lambert at Farm Credit Fly-In

This summer, nearly 750 members, employees and directors of the Farm Credit System gathered in Washington, D.C., to share with our nation’s legislators the story of how Farm Credit is fulfilling its mission of supporting American farmers, agriculture and rural communities. During their visit in the capital, they met with their local lawmakers and talked about the importance of supporting agriculture during the current ag cycle downturn, passage of the proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to create market opportunities for America’s farmers and ranchers, and bipartisan legislation to strengthen our nation’s infrastructure, including specific provisions focused on the unique needs of rural communities and agriculture.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Reps. David Scott (D-GA), Austin Scott (R-GA), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and Angie Craig (D-MN) addressed the attendees at various times throughout the visit. Plus, a congressional reception and marketplace drew more than 1,000 people to sample products produced by Farm Credit members. FCS Financial featured popcorn grown and packaged by Gavin Spoor of Spoor Farms in central Missouri, and meat sticks grown and produced by Marc Vianello of Pellestrina Farms in southwest Missouri. Guests were able to learn about the producer’s story behind the product and how FCS Financial supports their operation and success. In addition to Missouri’s producers, other products showcased by Farm Credit associations included Pacific Northwest oysters, Kentucky bourbon, Kansas popped sorghum, Texas pecans and New York maple syrup.

Joining FCS Financial directors and employees were two young, beginning producers from the FCS Financial Higginsville office. Tim Barnes and Robert Williams reflect on their experiences and the messages they conveyed.

Tim Barnes Farm Credit Fly-InTim Barnes is a young, beginning farmer who grows corn and soybeans with his uncle, Greg Bertz, in Mayview, Mo.  Sharing equipment and labor between individually owned and shared acreage allows them to farm about 1,500 acres in total.

“Farming is a capital-intensive business,” Barnes says. “It takes a lot of money to put in a crop, purchase equipment, and buy land and most of us, especially young and beginning farmers, must rely on lenders to obtain that capital.”

Barnes earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from Missouri State University. While in Washington, D.C., Barnes experience in communication served him well as he shared his message and stressed the importance of a strong Farm Credit System to provide funding for the ever-changing credit needs of agriculture and rural America. 

“During times of economic downturn in agriculture, like we are in right now, some lending institutions tend to back away from ag lending.  FCS Financial, however, does not,” he says. “FCS Financial is a partner that is there for me in good times and bad.”

Senator Josh Hawley with FCS Financial Trade and tariff situations and the need for passage of the USMCA is also important to Barnes. His visit gave him the opportunity to share his thoughts with Congress members. 

“I understand why our government has engaged in this ‘trade war’ but I think it is unfortunate that export markets developed by various agriculture commodity groups are the political pawns being used,” he says. “I’m afraid redevelopment of these export channels will take a long time, if ever, once this situation is resolved.”

Barnes knows that others across the state share the same challenges he faces. The opportunity to tell his story to legislators allows those voices to be heard. This is important for the 36-year-old producer who is building an operation for his family including girlfriend, Amalee, and their one-year old son, Blake. 

“I really do think that each and every one of us can make a difference if we choose to engage our elected officials,” Barnes reflects. “We as agriculturalists have enjoyed great influence and impact on government and politics in this country over the years but as the number of us in production agriculture continues to decline, we need to make every effort to continue to make our voices heard.  It is important that we keep agriculture and our issues at the forefront of our elected official’s minds.”

FCS Financial at the CapitolAs a member of FCS Financial, Barnes understands that the cooperative offers many benefits for him in addition to serving his finance needs. He participated in FCS Financial Connect’s educational program, which is a two-year course designed to help young, beginning farmers succeed. Topics include the cooperative’s history and structure, communication strategies, marketing tactics, business planning and credit awareness.

“The Connect program provided me with knowledge, skills and resources that I have taken home and implemented on my own farm,” he says. “It is also a great way to network with my peers who are facing a lot of the same challenges that I am.”

Barnes also appreciates the friendly, professional staff at his local office in Higginsville noting that his loan officer, Stephanie Tyler, and the entire office staff are outstanding at their jobs. 

“By being a customer, I am also a member-owner. The patronage program where FCS Financial’s success is shared by all the member-owners is a benefit to my operation,” he says. “I also am really impressed by FCS Financial’s commitment to giving back to the local communities they serve. I know I am glad that the small towns in my county have an ally like FCS Financial.  FCS Financial and its employees are always there to help when needed.”

Robert Williams is a 30-year-old, third-generation farmer from Richmond, Mo. He and his father grow corn, soybeans and wheat on about 3,000 acres. 

FCS Financial meets with USDA FSA staffThis year has not been easy for them and many others as Missouri faced flooding for months leaving destruction when the water finally receded. So it is no surprise that during his visit on the Hill, Williams felt it was important to discuss Missouri River flooding.

“This spring the Missouri River Basin saw river levels hit record highs three different times. More areas than not had break after break on their river levees,” Williams says. “This led to flooding which not only devastated farms but homes as well. If memory serves correct, there were 116 reported levees overtopped this year alone in the Corps of Engineers Kansas City District.”

As the water retreated and the true nature of the disaster was revealed, farmers across the state did what they do best – they persevered. Williams believes there are solutions to the increase in flooding that Missouri has witnessed over the last few years and offered his thoughts to legislators.

“I personally feel this is due in large part to mismanagement by the Corps of Engineer to properly release water out of upstream reservoirs in a timely manner because water was stock piled for recreational purposes,” Williams says. “There were a couple freak weather events that played into the river hitting record highs, but had the river flow been managed better before these events it would have been a moot point in my opinion.”

The importance of strong trade agreements was also top on the mind of this young producer as he talked with lawmakers. He sees farmers facing a weak commodity market with rising input costs leaving a slim profit margin.

"The global trade markets are essential to the American farmer,” Williams says. “Without a strong export market, the price of our commodities stay at a level that makes it tough for the average farm operation to stay profitable. The price of our inputs is always on the rise yet our commodity markets stay flat or keep getting lower.”

An FCS Financial member for more than 10 years, Williams notes that the cooperative was the first lender to loan him money and did so at a young age when other lenders would not. Through his membership, he has participated in FCS Financial Connect and served on the Young, Beginning, Small Farmer stockholder advisory committee.

“These programs helped me see an area in my operation that I was weak in but didn’t realize it until I completed the Connect program,” he says. “It strengthened my financial knowledge which strengthened my farming operation.”

Building a successful operation is a goal for Williams and his wife, Carleigh as they raise their children Parker and JoJo to be the fourth generation on the farm. Williams experience with FCS Financial combined with his associate’s degree in ag science prepared him to share his story about agriculture in Missouri.

“It truly surprised me the support the ag industry has from both Republicans and Democrats,” he says. “I really felt confident in our endeavors due to the willingness of the Congress members and their staff to take time out of their day to sit down with us and have a genuine conversation.”

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