By Craig Rogan, Investors Community Bank

Craig Rogan, Investors Community BankAs the 2021 harvest season comes to an end, a new beginning is in the horizon. As we reflect on the second year of increased feed inventory throughout most of the state for dairy farmers, our producers may be facing a decision on how to best capitalize on excess feed inventory. The farmer, with the help of his team of advisors (nutritionist, agronomist, vet, consultant, banker), may consider the following options:

Should excess feed be sold as another revenue stream?

Does the farmer consider alternative crops such as oats to sell and harvest the straw to sell or keep for their own use?

Can the herd be expanded in existing facilities to increase milk production with more animals on feed?

If an expansion is looked at, be sure to consider whether it will affect a quota with the milk plant or if the milk plant will even take the additional milk.

Does the increase in feed inventory provide an opportunity to reduce cropping costs in 2022?

Feed and cropping expenses increased throughout 2021 and appear to be on an upward trend into 2022. Does the excess feed inventory provide opportunity to save on fertilizer cost, for example, knowing they can reduce spread on the field despite a potential negative effect on 2022 yield?

The importance of making a robust plan with the help of advisors will be a key to success for our farms in 2022. 

As bankers, we can help our customers navigate through making these decisions by providing financial analysis help in working through various scenarios and the impact each has on the client’s cost of production.

As feed and fertilizer cost increase heading into 2022, maximizing this excess feed inventory will be the key to 2022 cash profitability. One notable aspect that can be completed now to assist in mitigating continued rising costs is fall tillage. Future fuel costs are expected to be higher than today and it could be prudent to do tillage along with manure application in the fall. Optimum 2021 fall weather conditions are ideal for completing tillage. By completing fall tillage this will allow for less work, stress and timely planting in 2022. Not completing fall tillage will be a missed opportunity. Communication is the key in any relationship. Continue to work with your customers to be proactive in their planning for the upcoming year.

Craig Rogan is vice president, ag banking officer with Investors Community Bank in Stevens Point and serves on the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board of Directors.

The excitement of a new year and COVID-19, which affected the global supply chain during this pandemic, have awakened consumers to the importance of agriculture. We, as ag bankers, realize how important farmers are to this economy. We will start seeing more growers digitize their farms at a faster rate and use electronic platforms with their partners to conduct routine business. We also will see agricultural professionals increase their personal protective equipment for their staff and establish better social distancing to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus.

If the virus doesn’t get under control and the infection rate keeps increasing, we could see supply chain shortages and slowdowns from farm product deliveries as workers stay home due to illness or caring for a family member. These same concerns would affect processors. Slowdowns could also impact fertilizer, fuel, and other farm inputs.

Everyone has experienced a lot of stress this year dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused turmoil in markets and loss of work and family illness. I hope that we all stand together to get through these hard times and put our people and country first.

Let’s all remember to thank all the farmers who work so hard to supply for the needs of this country.

Paul Curran is VP, commercial/ag lending with Ergo Bank in Fox Lake and serves on the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board of Directors.

25 bankers attended and completed the WBA Agricultural Lending School, held August 4-6 at the WBA office in Madison. In addition to the classroom instruction, case study work, and many discussions, the group also went on a farm tour of Sassy Cow Creamery in Columbus. The group met with third generation co-owner and operator James Baerwolf to discuss their farm operation, then enjoyed dinner and ice cream back at the creamery. A special thank you goes to Sassy Cow Creamery for hosting our bankers!
The school is instructed by BMO Harris Bank's Bradley Guse and UW-Platteville Professor Kevin Bernhardt.
Congratulations to these bankers for their successful completion of the 2021 school!
  • Allison Batton, Royal Bank, Cobb
  • Amber Bellows, Investors Community Bank, Oneida
  • Becky Bisek, Waumandee State Bank
  • Derek Blanchard, Investors Community Bank, Marshfield
  • Joseph Boilini, Town Bank, Burlington
  • Kari Bosse, Bank First, Watertown
  • Aaron Breuer, Peoples State Bank, Mount Hope
  • Ashley Connors, Royal Bank, Cazenovia
  • Hannah Delwiche, USDA – Farm Service Agency, Sturgeon Bay
  • Jacob Flannery, Wisconsin Bank and Trust, Monroe
  • Daniel Glass, Peoples State Bank, Lancaster
  • Tracy Gomoluch, Investors Community Bank, Green Bay
  • Tony Hein, Citizens State Bank of Loyal, Neillsville
  • Cody Kirschbaum, Peoples State Bank, Prairie du Chien
  • Josh Murray, Farmers & Merchants Bank of Kendall
  • Brooklynn Nagel, Royal Bank, Prairie du Chien
  • Kasie Nellis, Bank First, Waupaca
  • Aubrey Netzel, Investors Community Bank, New London
  • Nick Neubauer, River Bank, Holmen
  • Cole Paulson, CCFBank, Barron
  • Alison Prey, Investors Community Bank, Green Bay
  • Derek Sedlacek, Bank of Luxemburg
  • Joel Steber, Peshtigo National Bank, Green Bay
  • Amanda Suchla, Bank of Prairie du Sac
  • Julie Vomastic, Investors Community Bank, Cecil

By, Lori Kalscheuer

For decades now, one of the symbols of the American farmer is his/her iconic baseball cap, sometimes known as a seed corn cap. Caps not only have the physical functions of hair keeper, sun visor, and dust shield, but they also serve as an advertiser of the products and services used by a farmer or even sentiments held by the wearer. Beliefs and virtues such as hard work, persistence, and family traditions creep into the advertising slogans sported on farm caps offered by equipment dealers, seed corn companies, feed suppliers, and yes, even banks. Though they can only wear one cap at a time, farmers may own dozens of caps; some well-worn and sun-faded and others still collecting dust in a closet.

Like the variety held in their farm cap collections, farmers wear many ‘hats’ or caps in their daily roles on the farm. There are numerous skills and competencies in which a farmer must manage and master in order to be successful. As the saying goes, “Do more of what you do well and delegate or hire out the rest.”  Understandably, the scope and scale of a farm may drive which competencies or tasks can be affordably delegated or hired. Here are some of the caps in which a farmer must wear to help ensure best success:  

  • Business Strategy – forecast and assess business model performance, enterprise mix, expansion and diversification opportunities, and resource management (time, talent, capital).
  • Livestock & Milk Production – deliver nutrition, healthcare, sanitation, breeding, growth and development programs for animals in all life and production phases.
  • Crops & Land Production – implement agronomic best practices for growing quantity and quality crops and feed, averting diseases and pests, improving soil health, and evolving conservation practices.
  • Equipment & Facilities – selection, maintenance, and repair of large equipment, vehicles, structures, and systems needed for the production, handling, and distribution of crops, manure, feed, and milk and meat products.
  • Financial & Marketing – manage budgets for the purchase of inputs and capital expenditures, delegation of labor, human resource relations, operating cost containment, and price discovery for the sale of outputs.
  • Risk Mitigation – negotiate legal contracts, insurance coverages, human and animal health and safety practices, government programs related to production, pricing and land management, environmental standards, market trends, and weather.
  • Public Relations & Communications – interact with the general public (99% are not familiar with modern farming practices), municipalities, neighbors, politicians, producer groups, consumer groups, and others who want to better understand how food, fuel, and fiber is produced and distributed locally and globally.   

In some farm businesses, one or two people wear most or all of these caps. Yet in others, these caps are worn by fellow family members, neighbors, employees, or outside experts to deploy specialized functions and best practices. As agricultural lenders, it is our job to understand our clients’ favorite caps- the ones in which they are the most skilled and to recognize which caps are being worn by chosen delegates in order to accomplish the farm’s operational and financial goals. Thus, lenders have a few hats of our own to wear each day too, and it’s perhaps one of the most enjoyable components of our role. It’s a great day to be an Ag Lender!  

Amber Keller is the current vice chair of the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board of Directors and is the senior vice president, director of ag banking with Town Bank in Clinton.

By, Lori Kalscheuer

June 1 marked the start of a new fiscal year at WBA, meaning the start of a new membership year as well for the WBA Agricultural Banker Section, which also means some changes for our WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board.

Our new Section Board Chair is Chris Schneider, vice president of agricultural banking with Investors Community Bank in Manitowoc. Let's meet Chris! 

Chris grew up on larger dairy in Hilbert, Wisconsin where his grandfather started in late 1940’s. The farm grew to 700-800 cows by 1995, where his father and 4 uncles farmed together. Chris grew up on the farm, so as he shared, "it was the center of my life." After coming back from school at UW-River Falls in 1988, Chris was the assistant herdsperson until 1997. He then left the farm and worked for a local John Deere dealer as sales rep and service manager.

In 2005, Chris was asked to join Investors Community Bank as a loan officer, and he has been at the bank ever since. In his position, he works mostly with dairy farms and some cash grain farms. "The most enjoyable part is working with farm families and watching them succeed" shared Schneider.

Chris currently resides in Kaukauna with his wife and 4 boys ranging from 11 to 25 years old. He enjoy spending much of his time with family and attending the boys' sporting events. 

Chris is "honored to be part of WBA Ag section and work with the dedicated people who serve the Ag community."

Learn more about the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board and our 2021-21 board members by clicking here.



By, Lori Kalscheuer

Wisconsin farms generally have fared well through the first half of 2021, as higher prices for products, increased exports to China, and pandemic payments have provided a financial boost.

Although a dearth of precipitation during spring and much of early summer has caused some nervousness in the southern half of the state, recent and expected rain could lessen those concerns.

As always, Wisconsin bankers said, it’s important to stay well-connected to their ag clients to monitor the ebb and flow of farming – even when things are mostly looking up.

“Overall the farm economy is what I would call steady and improved,” said Amber Keller, senior vice president and director of ag banking for Town Bank in Clinton. “It’s improved from the standpoint that we have a lot of opportunity to lock in a profit this year, even into ’22.”

The state is coming off a year in which many farms saw strong earnings because of a good growing season and government stimulus money intended to aid businesses and farms during the Covid-19 pandemic. The previous five years were a struggle for many farmers.

“It seems like right now for the most part we’re in a demand market,” said Bradley J. Guse, senior vice president/agribusiness banking for BMO Harris Bank in Marshfield. “By that I mean the agriculture products are in demand for various reasons. Part of it is that China has imported a lot of things as they rebuild their hog industry. That is starting to take more and more product, whether it be corn or soybeans."

China also is buying products from dairy farmers, particularly whey protein to feed piglets.

"As that industry rebuilds that pipeline has had to get refilled, so that’s created some excess demand," Guse said.

Pork output in China declined 21% in 2019 after an outbreak of African swine fever hit the country and its breeding stock declined. The downturn lingered into 2020.

As China builds back with a new model, “It appears some of this is going to be pretty sustainable, not just filling the pipeline,” Guse said.

Dairy farms also could benefit from a growing appetite for “cheese tea” in China and elsewhere, Guse said.

According to The Dairy Alliance, cheese tea, also called milk cap tea or cheese mousse tea, is a cold tea topped with a foamy layer of milk, sweet or salty cream cheese, and whipping cream sprinkled with sea salt. The tea itself typically is green or black tea.

Cheese tea was first seen in Taiwan 11 years ago, with market vendors combining powdered cheese, milk, and salt with whipping cream to form a foam to top cold tea, The Dairy Alliance said in an article on its website. In 2012, the trend made its way to China, which swapped the powder for real cream cheese and fresh milk, the dairy organization reported.

Nicholas Felder, vice president of commercial/ag banking for MidWestOne Bank in Lancaster, said farm exports to China have increased, especially since the U.S. elections. In addition, government aid has been helping Wisconsin farmers.

“The federal stimulus funding from last year into the spring, and then higher commodity prices the last half of last year and first half so far this year, has really strengthened some balance sheets,” Felder said.

Keller said low interest rates and stronger land values also are factors in a healthier outlook for farms right now.

“Those low interest rates really keep things stable out there, and the outlook is stable for a while yet, until we know which way our economy is tracking in terms of inflationary concerns,” Keller said.

Keller said land values have been rising.

“That buoys the farmers’ balance sheet so when he goes to his banker to borrow money, he has borrowing power,” she said.

The dry weather in much of spring and June in the southern half of the state has made some farmers wary, but it’s not considered a major hindrance to a good growing season yet, ag bankers said. Rainfall over the weekend and storms expected this week could mitigate that concern.

“As a whole it’s dry but the crops still look pretty good,” Guse said.  "I always feel like the biggest crops we have in Wisconsin usually happen when we have a dry spring because it drives the roots deep, and then if we get some timely rains later on to get the crop going, we get some really good-sized crops.”

A map from the National Drought Mitigation Center showed that as of June 22, more than half of Wisconsin – largely the southern half of the state – was considered to be in a moderate drought. The worst-hit areas were in the extreme southeast and the lower southwest. The precipitation last week and early this week (week of June 27) is expected to reduce short-term dryness, but additional soaking rains are needed to alleviate the drought, the federal weather agency said.

A drought would be particularly concerning to farmers who might not be able to grow their own feed crops, and then would have to buy them at a time when prices are up, Felder said.

“Soybean meal has gone from $290 a ton to $430 a ton. Corn is up from a little over $3 a year ago to $6.50 today,” he said. “You’re seeing the user – the consumer of crops – have a little more furrowed brow because they aren’t sure of what’s next. If they don’t get a crop and they have to buy to replace a short crop, they’re going to be paying significantly higher prices than they would have a year ago.”

The timing of the rainfall is important, ag bankers said.

“Corn is typically pollinating in July and soybeans are typically seeding pods in August – the little bean is filling the pod,” Keller said. “It needs rain during August to fill those pods so that there is a bean of a size that is saleable. So we do need timely rain in July and August to make this crop.”

The dryness this spring and early summer did result in some “hay hoarding” – sellers hanging on to reserves until the weather picture becomes clearer.

“Farmers will harvest typically four crops of hay in a summer. Corn and soybeans, you harvest once a year, where with hay, we’re taking four cuttings off of that field,” Keller said. “And if we don’t get rain, we don’t get much in a cutting. And if we don’t get much hay in one or two cuttings, now our hay is half of what it was in any other year.”

If a drought is serious and farmers are stressed, bankers have a lot in their tool box to help them get through it. But farmers need to take steps on their own, such as buying crop insurance and marketing their products well, to make sure they succeed.

“Proactive wins,” Guse said. “If were sitting to wait for a loan to go bad before we try to collect it, we’re probably too late.”

Said Keller: “We really look at all remedies that make sense. But at the end of the day, the client still needs to be operating a viable enterprise and using a viable business model where we can say, yes, this operation is going to be successful long-term and they just hit some bumps in the road here.”

Paul Gores is a journalist who covered business news for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for 20 years. Have a story idea? Contact him at

By, Ally Bates

By Rose Oswald Poels

Dairy Month has deep roots in supporting the agricultural industry. During the warmer months of summer when extra milk needed to be distributed, this celebration doubled as a way of promoting any surplus produced on dairy farms. Here in Wisconsin, June Dairy Month takes on a different, more personal meaning.

The history of dairy farming in our state is a rich and extensive one and I’m proud of the valuable role Wisconsin ag lenders have played throughout this time. Starting in the late 19th century, dairy quickly became an efficient alternative to wheat when its price began to drop and yields started to diminish. The growth of dairy rapidly expanded thanks to the help of New York settlers familiar with the craft, the marketing and promotion of the enterprise spearheaded by William Dempster Hoard, and the scientific research performed at the University of Wisconsin. By the early 20th century, Wisconsin had become the nation’s leading dairy state and the emblematic community of Cheeseheads it is proudly known as today.

Despite its iconic rise in the Badger State, the dairy industry has certainly faced its ups and downs throughout the last century, as our ag lenders know all too well. In January of this year, Wisconsin Farm Bureau’s Chief Administrative Officer Kim Pokorny detailed in her economic update that despite a navigation through unstable markets, the farmers in our state have encountered a “fair-to-good financial year” through federal support programs, an increase in exports, and a record harvest. The dairy industry specifically has had a stronger demand in cheese, and sales of Class III milk used to produce most spreadable cheese and cheese to be grated or shredded is expected to remain especially strong.

This year has been difficult for many. Unpredictable, unforeseeable, and unprecedented; these have been the describing words of our businesses, our communities, and our lives since March of 2020. But as we are coming to fully understand, this past year has not redefined our businesses or their commitment to our state. As Jeff Gruetzmacher, SVP at Royal Bank, stated in his recent “From the Fields” editorial, “agriculture is one of those industries that can shine through just about any adversity thrown its way.” With this combination of commitment and support, there is no doubt that the industry will remain successful.

To further support farmers, WBA is one of many organizations in several states supporting the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America (ECORA) Act in Congress, as well as in Wisconsin. This legislation would allow banks to lower interest rates on farm real estate loans and more efficiently serve borrowers in smaller rural communities. The goal is to benefit our farmers in this way and ensure that the agricultural industry will receive increased access to low-cost credit from banks. With commodity prices fluctuating and the cost for land and farm inputs continuing to rise, optimism cannot be the only force helping our farmers. There is action to be taken, and WBA is proud to advocate for it.

I know many banks celebrate June Dairy Month with their customers, and I hope everyone has taken time this month to enjoy the delicious products made from milk. As America’s Dairyland, we remain proud of the products and people that have helped define our state. And WBA remains proud of the ag lenders that work diligently alongside their farm customers to help them succeed through all the highs and lows of farming. This month is more than a celebration; it is a reminder of Wisconsin’s roots and the growth of our culture through the workers and lenders who have made it all possible.

The agricultural industry faces many challenges, and these have only been emphasized as a result of the pandemic. Through necessary reform such as the Enhancing Credit Opportunities in Rural America ECORA Act — legislation authored by Congressman Ron Kind (WI-03) to remove taxation on income from certain farm real estate loans made by FDIC-backed institutions — banks would be able to provide significant help by lowering loan rates and serving these borrowers in a more efficient manner. Advocating for the success of this industry requires a collective effort, and Senator Tammy Baldwin is one of these individuals making a powerful difference in Wisconsin’s ag community.

On April 29, Sen. Baldwin held her first hearing as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. The hearing, titled “Diversifying On-Farm Income: Opportunities to Strengthen Rural America” focused on how diversifying the operations of agriculture producers can result in more on-farm income as well as the challenges and opportunities of the industry.

“In Wisconsin and across the country, a strong agricultural economy is vital to a strong rural economy. As the pandemic continues to weigh on our rural communities and agriculture sector, we must deliver more support and solutions so our farmers and small businesses have the tools they need to get through this economic crisis,” said Sen. Baldwin.

Accessing newer and fairer markets has been a priority for Baldwin as well. As the discussion around climate change becomes more pressing, there is a growing number of farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers looking to address this. Being able to assure profitability for these workers, who are also looking at solutions to climate issues, is a critical part of assisting the industry, though it has not come without obstacles.

Following the passage of the Economic Aid Act, farming partnerships were shut out from using a new and more generous loan calculation despite a co-authored provision by Baldwin and Sen. John Thune to allow sole-proprietor and self-employed farmers to use their gross income to calculate their maximum Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. As a result of this, Sen. Baldwin along with several other legislators introduced bipartisan legislation titled PPP Flexibility for Farmers, Ranchers, and the Self-Employed Act to extend more relief to farmers in Wisconsin through PPP changes. This also included a fix that allowed self-employed farmers already receiving loan forgiveness to retroactively apply for another loan. The amount of the loan would be the difference between the former and latter loan, based on gross income.

“I’ve been working to make more resources and funding available for Wisconsin farmers so they can access the relief they need,” said Sen. Baldwin. “And as chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and Rural Development, I’m going to keep working across the aisle to ensure farmers and agriculture businesses have the tools they need to succeed and strengthen our rural economy.”

WBA looks forward to continuing its work with Sen. Baldwin to support Wisconsin’s agricultural industry by addressing these challenges and push for legislation.

By, Alex Paniagua

If there is any lesson I’ve learned coming out of 2020, it is that we shouldn’t be surprised anymore, really, by anything.

In the agricultural world, we’ve witnessed milk being dumped because schools closed down. Would you have ever imagined that? We saw packing plants send employees home and turn cattle away because people got sick. We saw fuel prices go negative for the first time in history because no one was driving. We saw whipsawing commodity prices going from a period of 5-7 years of doldrums to some of the best prices in a decade. Lines and shortages in stores of literally everything.  Forgivable government loans. High unemployment yet job shortages. Just-in-time supply chains that are never on time anymore.  

All the while watching our own government printing money at a pace that would have shocked anyone from any political persuasion just years before. It’s as if public debt no longer matters.  

Was it weather that caused all of this? Was it population growth? A natural disaster.

No, not this time. 

All of the economists' models that predict trends broke this time. This time, it was unforeseeable events – and more importantly, human behavior that caused much of this.  

The proverbial “black swan” and then the feedback loop of human behavior reacting and re-reacting to it.

We’ve seen how human behavior and emotion can really change almost everything when something unpredictable happens.

Even in the workplace, the events of the past year really drove behaviors in people that were not predictable, and in some cases, truly surprising. You know what I’m talking about. There are many people who have risen through the ashes and have shined. And then there were those who really surprised us.

Of all the lessons we should learn, is that we really shouldn’t be surprised anymore.  

And agriculture is one of those industries that can shine through just about any adversity thrown its way.


Jeff is senior vice president with Royal Bank in Lancaster and has just completed six years of service on the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board.

By, Lori Kalscheuer

Statement on the release of first-quarter 2021 Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) numbers from Rose Oswald Poels, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Bankers Association

  • The numbers demonstrate banks' financial strength and an improving economy.
  • Wisconsinites continue to save money as deposits have increased over the prior year (17%) and loan volume grew slightly.
  • A decrease in noncurrent loans and leases compared to last year (11%) shows more customers are up to date on their payments.
  • Banks continue to demonstrate their health through strong earnings and positive growth.

“Wisconsin banks maintained a strong financial position throughout the last year as they assisted with the financial stresses of their customers through the pandemic. Commercial and industrial loans grew nearly 20 percent year over year in part due to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lending, providing businesses with critical money to ensure employees were paid. Looking ahead, strong capital and liquidity levels position Wisconsin banks well to respond to customers' lending needs.” 

FDIC-Reported Wisconsin Numbers*  




 YoY Change 

Net loans and leases  




Total deposits  




Commercial and industrial loans  




Residential loans  




Farmland loans  




Farm loans  




Total assets  




Noncurrent loans and leases  




 * dollar figures in thousands 


About the Wisconsin Bankers Association
Founded in 1892, WBA is the state’s largest financial industry trade association, representing more than 200 commercial banks and savings institutions, their branches, and over 21,000 employees. The Association represents banks of all sizes in Wisconsin, and nearly 98 percent of banks in the state are WBA members. 

By, Cassie Krause