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Photos & story by Mark Parker.

The bottom line for FCS Financial is a better bottom line for its friends and customers.

Delivering dependable credit and solid financial expertise is a big part of that mission but it doesn’t stop there. Information empowering farm business decision-making is another critical component for Missouri’s premier ag lender.

Cutting edge intel from some of the nation’s foremost experts was the harvest that FCS Financial shared at a series of eight free ag seminars across the state during February, as well as its commercial farm symposium in Kansas City in January.

For CEO Daryl Oldvader, adding even more value to what FCS Financial offers its customers was the purpose of the informational series.

“It’s all about providing tools to help our customers succeed,” Oldvader said. “In today’s agriculture — more than ever before — good information fuels good decisions and that’s what we’re trying to provide for our customers.”

[rich-callout title="Helping our Customers Succeed"] “It’s all about providing tools to help our customers succeed,” Oldvader said. “In today’s agriculture — more than ever before — good information fuels good decisions and that’s what we’re trying to provide for our customers.”[/rich-callout]

Farming the economic landscape of today and tomorrow was a major theme of several of the speakers at the symposium and the seminars. In Kansas City, internationally known economist David Kohl told FCS Financial farmers that increased volatility offers both income opportunities and cost challenges. The Virginia Tech professor emeritus, who advises businesses, lending institutions and governments, said an increasingly complex global economy delivers demand-driven commodity prices as well as pressuring farm inputs — “The global economy has a daily impact on your farm,” Kohl asserted.

And, without a doubt, China is the 800-lb. gorilla in the room.

“China and its growth significantly impact Midwest agriculture,” he said, pointing out that economic growth in emerging economies is a double-edged sword, driving grain prices higher while also wielding upward pressure on petroleum-based farm inputs. “Eighty percent of farm expenses are linked to oil — you have to put that into your game plan,” Kohl noted.

The Virginia economist suggested that farmers must make themselves “farm credible” with good records and sound risk management plans. “The bar is going to be raised,” Kohl said, predicting that credit will be rationed to a greater extent in the future. Maintaining a good relationship with a lender, he emphasized, will be an important component of farm financial success.

Dr. Kohl speaks to Commercial Farmer Symposium attendees

“Having a very, very stable lender is one of your tools,” Kohl said. “A lender that has deep knowledge of your industry is one of the things that you require but, on the other side, you have got to make yourself farm ‘credible’ and that means good records and utilizing and executing those records.”

While several of the ag experts advised farmers to keep a good handle on rising input costs, they were also optimistic about what lies ahead for production agriculture.

Although cautioning that, “everyone is downloading risk to the farmer,” Iowa farm business consultant Moe Russell said, “There is more money to be made in agriculture than any other industry.”

Bullish on both crops and livestock, Russell asserted that profitability is a function of neither size nor type of operation and urged financial preparedness: “Bullet-proof your balance sheet and, in the bottom part of the cycle, you’ll catapult ahead.”

Calling world demand for soy protein “unquenchable,” Mark Pearson, host of Iowa Public Television’s “Market to Market,” seconded Russell’s optimism: “There is no better time to be in agriculture,” he told farmers at the ag symposium in Kansas City, “but we have to control and mitigate volatility because it’s something we’re all going to see for the rest of our careers.”

Farmers from across the state who attended the series of eight seminars sponsored by FCS Financial also had the opportunity to gain insight from top-notch ag talent. Informa Economics Washington Bureau Senior Vice President Jim Wiesemeyer ran the gamut of issues impacting agriculture. A frequent contributor to Pro Farmer, the farm policy expert told farmers their industry is entering “a golden age — but it can still be derailed.”

Expressing concern about oceans of federal debt, Wiesemeyer noted that the U.S. now spends more on defense than the next 14 nations combined. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid costs also cast a shadow on the future but market fundamentals look very strong for agriculture. The economic realities of federal budget deficits and ballooning interest of the national debt must be dealt with by Congress and the White House, he said, for the U.S. economy to achieve full recovery.

Burgeoning demand abroad and tight global stocks, Wiesemeyer said, bode well for crop prices. With twice as many hogs as the United States, China has a huge appetite for soybeans and corn prices also promise to continue to ride high due to ethanol and other demand streams.

And because, “There just aren’t enough acres to go around,” he said.

On the livestock side, Wiesemeyer noted an all-time low for the U.S. cow inventory and a strong beef export market that necessitates favorable trade policies for American agriculture.

Wiesemeyer told the farmers that the next farm bill will be written against a backdrop of spending cuts. He urged them to employ risk management strategies in order to deal with volatility and not to count on the government for a substantial safety net.

“If you think Washington is thinking for you, think again,” he said.

At the Kansas City event, Kansas State University Ag Policy Specialist Barry Flinchbaugh echoed that sentiment. “There will be a farm bill and there will be a safety net — but it’s liable to have bigger holes in it,” he said.

Flinchbaugh called for sober, fact-based discourse and cautioned that it’s time for the nation to get its economic house in order. “We need a reality check. We need to sober up and solve this deficit,” he asserted. “We need real statesmen in Washington — with the guts to deal with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

University of Missouri Climatologist Pat Guinan provided a weather update at the ag seminars. He presented a historical view of Missouri weather and identified some recent trends. Four of the five warmest winters, going back to 1895, have occurred since 1990, Guinan pointed out, but the past two have recorded below average temperatures. And although last summer was the seventh hottest on record, the state really hasn’t had an exceptionally warm summer season since 1980 and nothing has come close to the 60 days of 100+ degrees back in 1936.

Regarding precipitation, 2008, 2009 and 2010 have each been 30 inches above normal on a statewide basis. Since the 1960s, Guinan has noted an upward trendline in the number of days with precipitation events as well as a slight upward trend in heavy rain events.

Guinan has put together a long list of weather-related web sites that can be accessed at http://agebb.missouri.edu/weather/wealinks.htm.

In a climate of unprecedented risk, Daryl Oldvader related that FCS Financial, as a partner of production agriculture, also takes measures to deal with volatility. His advice for Missouri farmers included creating a financial plan that addresses risk management and vigilant monitoring of that plan.

“Traditional farming is no longer traditional,” Oldvader told FCS Financial friends and customers. Driven more by economics, he observed that while there are about 2 million farmers in the country, 10 percent of them produce 90 percent of agricultural value. The changing farm landscape places new demands on farmers as well as their lenders and access to quality economic information is one of the ways FCS Financial and its customers can meet those challenges.

Content from the ag seminars is available at the FCSF web site, www.myfcsfinancial.com.

 

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