By Chris Schneider
This November, about a dozen ag bankers from Wisconsin and I made the trek to Oklahoma City for the 71st annual American Bankers Association (ABA) Agricultural Bankers Conference. This year, the number one message was getting the ACRE Act through Congress to help the American farmer. This act, which would create a tax exemption on ag loans and rural home mortgages, will aid in saving approximately $1.15 billion in ag loan interest and will reach 17,000 local communities across the country.
In attendance at this year’s event was Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R–PA), who chairs the House Committee on Agriculture. During his opening session, GT offered updates on agricultural policies including the Farm Bill and shared what bankers need to know going into 2024. My impression of him was that he is committed to helping the American farmer and local communities.
Interest rate discussion was no surprise due to the past 12 months of increases. While many were questioning whether we will see it rise more, stay stable, or flatten out some, we will have to see if — as usual — the election year brings with it some softening of rates. I’m not sure if we will see the low rates of past years again in future.
Representatives from the ABA and Farmer Mac shared with attendees the results of the 2023 ABA/Farmer Mac Agricultural Bankers Survey. A few of the top and notable themes from this past year have been interest rate volatility, lender competition, credit quality, increased regulator burden, and weak loan demand.
In just the first day of the conference, attendees gained insight into food spending trends (a shocking 51% is spent on food outside of the house), student loan debt, legal cannabis, and more. Throughout the rest of the event, topics including new technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) and ESG trends and the sustainability especially the ag community. To me, the greatest take away from this year’s event was that in order to have successful farmers, ag bankers should be prepared to aid them in strengthening their ag IQ. By understanding the cost of production, strengthening their balance sheet, developing a marketing plan, and utilizing technology to set next level, we can help our clients do all the little things even better.
Schneider is vice president – senior ag banking officer at Nicolet National Bank in Manitowoc. Schneider also serves as Past Chair of the 2023–2024 WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board of Directors.