Farm Credit is celebrating its 100th year of service in 2016. The cooperative is one of the nation’s largest agricultural lenders and financial service providers and was founded to help fund the production of food, fuel, and fiber and support rural communities in America.
On July 17, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Farm Loan Act legislation creating the Federal Land Bank System to raise and disburse funds to cooperative national farm loan associations to make real estate loans to farmers and ranchers. Farm Credit grew out of these organizations.
From those beginnings, Farm Credit has grown to have a large national footprint serving all 50 states and Puerto Rico with about 500,000 borrowing customers. In Florida, loans were issued to growers soon after the loan act was signed. Today, Farm Credit in Florida serves more than 4,000 member-borrowers and the three associations that make it up have a combined loan volume of more than $2 billion.
As part of the celebration, Farm Credit has selected 100 of its borrow-members to participate in its Fresh Perspectives program. The program honors those members and seeks their insights on the future. Wayne Davis, an agribusiness owner from Brandon, FL, was among the 100 selected. Davis has worked with the University of Florida to develop its innovating Agricultural Entrepreneurship program. This program focuses on identifying students who might have an entrepreneurial mindset, determining how to increase entrepreneurial thinking, and providing exposure to the concept of entrepreneurship during a student’s program of study.
“I’m inspired by the desire to motivate University of Florida students to become entrepreneurs in the agricultural industry, with the goal of sustaining agricultural production in the U.S. and beyond through the free enterprise system with highly educated and motivated participants,” Davis says.
“For a century, Farm Credit has had the privilege of working hand in hand with rural entrepreneurs and innovators who have helped shape the fabric of our nation,” says Reggie Holt, Farm Credit of Central Florida President and CEO. “While we mark this milestone year, we can reflect on our history and heritage, while also asking, ‘what’s next?’ for our rural communities.”
Farm Credit patronage refunds is one of the things that make Farm Credit unique. Because it is a cooperative, member-borrowers share in the lending institution’s profits by giving them a lower effective loan rate of funds. Since 1988, the Board of Directors of Florida’s three Farm Credit Associations have declared patronage refunds exceeding $500 million.
“Farm Credit has an ongoing commitment to helping specialty crop producers be successful now and into the future,” says Mike Stuart, President of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. “They’ve supported our growers in good times and in challenging times, playing a vital role in keeping Florida agriculture strong and competitive.”