The 2018 WBA Agricultural Lending School was in session from July 31-August 3 at the Grand Lodge Resort near Wausau, and by all accounts it was another successful year. Brad Guse, senior business relationship manager with BMO Harris Bank, and Dr. Kevin Bernhardt, farm management specialist with UW-Extension and Center for Farm Profitability as well as professor of agri-business at UW-Platteville, once again served as instructors for the school. Changes for this year’s class included an optional pre-school workshop for those who are just beginning their agricultural banking careers. 

Among the 22 attendees was Julie Bohr, an administrative assistant with Nicolet National Bank in Rib Mountain. Having graduated from UW-Stevens Point in 2016 with a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Business Management, Julie said that she found the introductory pre-school especially helpful. “Learning about the relationship between the agricultural balance sheet and earnings statement was a good starting point” said Julie, “which was followed up by a discussion of the 6 C’s of credit. Having that background really helped me understand the coursework for the following days.”

The school included a case study where the class broke into 5 groups to come up with a credit decision, as well as an evening tour of Miltrim Farms, an 1800-cow dairy near Athens that is in the process of executing an expansion incorporating robotic milkers into the operation.  

In the classroom, Julie found the discussion on the cyclical nature of agriculture and how to spot the signs of a problem loan the most interesting. She also liked the dynamics of having a banker (Brad Guse) and an academic (Dr. Bernhardt) leading the discussions, as they bring somewhat different approaches to the table. She was especially impressed with Dr. Bernhardt, indicating, “I wished that I had more professors like that when I was in college,” as he made the topics very easy to understand. In addition, Julie found that networking with the other attendees outside of class was very important. “This was a younger group, so of course socializing after hours was a key component of the week. It was quite interesting to get different perspectives from bankers, including some from other states, who represented commodities other than dairy,” she said. Overall, Julie thought that the class was time well-spent, and looks forward to using the information gathered in the school to further her agricultural banking career. This is exactly what the WBA Agricultural Lending School is intended to do: prepare the next generation of agricultural bankers.

Buttke is vice president - commercial and agricultural banking at Nicolet National Bank in Wausau, Wis. He currently serves as the Past Chair of the WBA Ag Banking Section Board of Directors.

Interested in reserving a seat for the 2019 Agricultural Lending School? Contact WBA's Lori Kalscheuer via email to receive an update as soon as registration is opened!