"What's an open heifer?"
"Why would they need a grain dryer?"
"Why do you need that information? You've never asked for it before."
"This sure takes a lot more time and paperwork than it used to."
Most ag lenders have probably heard questions and comments like these in their career, particularly in recent years. In many cases, our co-workers and our farm clients live in very different worlds, and one of the few similarities between them is that the ag lender (that's you!) is their source for information about how to work with the other.
Having one foot in the financial world and one foot on the farm may feel like the best of both worlds, but it also presents a unique challenge for ag lenders in our changing communities and industries. The folks underwriting, approving, and documenting our loans are increasingly removed from rural life and have less exposure to the topics, ideas, and even the words that are a part of our daily life.
Likewise, changes in the banking industry - whether regulatory, technological, or cultural - continue to require explanations and sometimes even confound our farm clients as we try to serve them as best we can.
Through all of this, the ag lender needs to be the bridge between these two worlds. Rather than frustration and confusion, focus on the unique opportunity you have to bring them together. Take an underwriter on a farm call with you, and answer that potentially-annoying question in loan committee with a smile and positive explanation.
On the flip side, use those difficult discussions with your farm clients to educate and help, not complain or apologize. The bank needs the farmers, and the farmers need the bank. In many cases, it's up to the ag lender to bring and keep them together. For the sake of everyone, embrace that challenge!
Towns is vice president, agricultural lending at DMB Community Bank, DeForest.