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Lisa HigginsWritten by Lisa Higgins, State Bank of Cross Plains

Last month we heard from Craig Rogan of Nicolet National Bank on celebrating June dairy month. This month, we are knee deep into fair season. Most of us have a connection to our county fairs, whether we were involved in 4-H or take our families to enjoy the animals, projects, entertainment, rides, games and let’s not forget the fair food!

This time of year, we are lucky to have the opportunity to get out from behind our desks to support our Ag Community at our county fairs. I’m not sure about you, but it seems like I spend more time on fair grounds during the summer than at the office or on farm calls. One of my favorite things to do is to walk through the barns and see the kids resting with their animals, cleaning up, or sitting in a circle on lawn chairs or coolers and shooting the breeze or playing cards with each other. Showing up and making a day of it is an easy way to support the hard work that the kids put into their animals and projects (and the parents behind them) to make sure they succeed.

Another way to enjoy the fair is by bidding and buying at the meat animal sales. Even though it is highly competitive, when it comes to being there for one another, there is nothing like it. Neighbors bid on neighbor’s animals and local businesses come to see what they can buy. At State Bank, we do the best to spread the wealth, so we are represented at each fair-bidding on customers and prospects and the friendly competition between banks-it is for a great cause! It is an electric atmosphere and sometimes highly emotional.

Once the fair is over, we go through and share the thank you cards that we receive from the kids that we bought from with the full bank staff. They are a sweet reminder of how much we impact our youth.

I am thankful that we can support and enjoy our community in such a fun way. I hope each of you has a chance to visit your county fair this year!

 

Lisa Higgins is vice president, ag and commercial lender with State Bank of Cross Plains in Janesville, and also serves on the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board.

A historic bank in Coffeyville, Kansas.

By Darla Sikora, Citizens State Bank of Loyal

Here’s to hoping that this month’s From the Fields finds your customers finally able to be out in their fields after what seems like a particularly long winter and slow-to-arrive spring! How can it be that in just one more month, the year will already be half over?

With June Dairy Month quickly approaching, complete with its many June Dairy Breakfasts and the appreciation it brings for our ag producers, I am reminded of the words of well-known WGN Farm Broadcaster Orion Samuelson. At the 2013 ABA National Ag Banker Conference in Minneapolis, he told us that he ends each day with this prayer: “Thank you God, for America’s farmers and ranchers: the people who put the food on my table, clothes on my back, a roof over my head and energy in my tank.” There is no doubt our customers have strong work ethics as they strive to provide the food and fiber for the rest of us, but we too all work hard, day-in and day-out, year-in and year-out. For us, the work entails providing an array of ag banking products, programs, and services along with a great deal of guidance, analysis, and direction for the ag producers of the fine state of Wisconsin. With summer (finally!) around the corner, I just want to remind everyone to make sure to carve some time out this year, and every year, for yourselves.

It’s important to take time away from the job to get “out of our heads,” out of our “normal” and to step out into something else. Recently I enjoyed a family road trip to the state of Texas, via some interesting byways. Taking the “scenic route” we also saw much of small town America. It is always interesting to see the agriculture in other parts of the country; from massive farm fields, to rows and rows of grain bins, to longhorn cattle right on the outskirts of town, to the Southwest Dairy Museum, and to “Rancho” proudly displayed in the titles on overhead signs leading to Texas ranches.

Tying just a bit of banking into the vacation, on a quiet, cloudy Sunday morning we drove through rural Coffeyville, Kansas where 130 years ago on October 5, 1892, the Dalton Gang rode into town attempting to make outlaw history by robbing not one, but two banks simultaneously. They were unsuccessful and after a 12-minute gunfight, four of the six members lay dead. The storied shoot-out also claimed the lives of four of Coffeyville’s courageous townspeople who defended against the Dalton’s last raid. (Interesting note: In 1876 John W. Cubine helped put Coffeyville on the map by creating a cowboy boot that fit the left and right foot individually. Before this, all boots were constructed exactly the same and didn’t have a specific fit for each foot. Think of that the next time you pull on your Ariats! John’s nephew, George Cubine, and another employee of the boot shop, Charles Brown, were both killed defending Coffeyville on the day of the Dalton Raid.)

There is so much out there to learn, to see, to experience. Life is short. Moments are fleeting. Time is precious. Remember to set the busy-ness and the demands of the daily routine aside every now and again to take a break and to spend time with those who mean the most to you. Years ago, on another road trip, I saw a sign outside of a church near Escanaba, Michigan that read, “families go on vacation to become families again”. Take the road less traveled, step outside the usual, make the connections, laugh more, and embrace those you love with all your might.

Darla Sikora is senior vice president of agricultural banking with Citizens State Bank of Loyal, and currently serves as the Past Chair on the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board of Directors.

Vieau and Endres on Farm

By Cassandra Krause

Ask anyone from out of state what the first thing that comes to mind is when they think of  Wisconsin, and they’re likely to respond “farms” — and for good reason. Wisconsin farmers work hard to put food on tables across Wisconsin and the globe. Fondly known as “America’s Dairyland,” Wisconsin is also a leading producer of cranberries (the state fruit), soybeans, potatoes, ginseng, corn — the list goes on and on.  

According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP), agriculture is a major economic driver, contributing $104.8 billion annually to our state’s economy. The state is home to 64,100 farms on 14.2 million acres (the average farm size in Wisconsin is 222 acres). For those working in the industry, farming is not just a profession, but a way of life — one that poses unique stressors and challenges.

Tough Times Made Tougher by the COVID-19 Pandemic

In the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. farmers were already dealing with damaging weather conditions, increased global competition and tariffs, and falling commodity prices. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), citing data from the Federal Reserve, reported in July of 2021:

Clear signs of financial distress had emerged among U.S. farmers even prior to the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. Investment in equipment was down, farmer debt was up, and so was borrowing against land. By the end of 2019, the delinquency rate on commercial loans hit a six-year high, and the delinquency rate on farmland loans was at its highest level since 2013.

When COVID-19 began rapidly spreading and parts of the global economy shut down, the food system was hit by major supply and demand shocks. For example, when demand for milk from restaurants and schools plummeted due to closures, producers were forced to dump milk. Meanwhile, milk supply on grocery store shelves was sparse for consumers purchasing for their homes, and prices rose.

Sara Kohlbeck

Sara Kohlbeck
is the director of the Division of Suicide Prevention at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a researcher on farmer suicide in Wisconsin.

Especially on small farms, many families rely on income and benefits from jobs outside of the farm and were hurt by job losses due to the pandemic. In addition to the financial stresses of running a family farm, interpersonal issues often come into play between spouses and family members who work together. This is particularly evident when it comes to succession planning and the legacy of a longstanding family tradition.

A 2018 survey from the National Farm Medicine Center, headquartered in Marshfield, showed that 29% of farmers suffered from depression and 35% suffered from anxiety. The National Farm Medicine Center conducts a wide range of research ranging from topics such as child rearing and women on farms to veterans who become farmers. More can be found at marshfieldresearch.org/nfmc.

Sara Kohlbeck is the director of the Division of Suicide Prevention at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and is researching farmer suicide in Wisconsin for her doctoral dissertation. “Just about every farmer I talked to mentioned finances as a stressor,” said Kohlbeck of interviews conducted for her research. A small, organic farm may be one hailstorm away from being wiped out, and a larger farm may be millions of dollars in debt — the farmers’ entire livelihood can be at stake. While suicide is a relatively rare outcome (about 190 farmers are reported to have died by suicide from 2004–2018), Kohlbeck emphasizes that, “even one is too many.” Suicide rates are disproportionately high among farmers (about 2% of total suicides in Wisconsin, while farmers make up about 1% of the labor force), pointing to a larger mental health concern.

Resources for Farmer Wellness

Wisconsin Farm Center and Farmer Wellness Program
Farmcenter.wi.gov

  • Farm Culture Training for Ag Lenders and Ag Service Providers
  • Online Farmer and Farm Couple Support Groups
  • 24/7 Farmer Wellness Helpline | 888-901-2558
  • Tele-counseling | 888-901-2558
  • Counseling Vouchers | 800-942-2474

DATCP’s Farm Center started during the farm financial crisis of the 1980s, when farmland values dropped up to 60% in some areas of the Midwest. At its onset, the Farm Center strengthened relationships between ag lenders and farmers. It has since expanded its consulting and referral services to include financial consulting (reviewing balance sheets and cash flow, analyzing profitability and viability, analyzing debt structure, etc.), transition/succession planning (financial stability, operating agreements, tax implications, etc.), and farm mediation (dispute resolution).

The Farm Center’s Farmer Wellness Program began with $200,000 of funding in the 2019–21 biennial state budget and is now in addition funded by USDA grant money and other sources.

Vieau and Endres on Farm

Penn Vieau and Karen Endres are hosts of the “Rural Realities” podcast and recently brought their wellness messages to the stage at the WBA Agricultural Bankers Conference.

The Farmer Wellness Program offers services including a 24/7 Wisconsin farmer wellness helpline (888-901-2558), tele-counseling, and counseling vouchers. It also hosts online farmer and farm couple support groups. All of the resources are free of charge to Wisconsin farmers and their families. The services are there for those who are experiencing anxiety or depression, or just need a welcoming ear to talk to. Karen Endres, Farmer Wellness Program coordinator at the Wisconsin Farm Center, explained that the program was designed with the “4 A’s” in mind: affordability, accessibility, acceptability, and awareness. “Our most important resource is our mind,” said Endres. “We need to do a better job of taking care from [the neck] up.”

Endres noted that rural areas lost some of their sense of community during the pandemic as people were no longer seeing each other at coffee shops, card clubs, and so forth. The Farmer Wellness Program’s farmer support groups have served to combat the isolation felt by many farmers and have the added benefit of connecting farmers from around the state who may not otherwise have met but have much in common. Every session is facilitated by a licensed mental health provider with experience serving farmers and/or a trained peer leader.

The helpline, tele-counseling (via phone or Zoom), and vouchers for in-person counseling sessions all connect farmers and their families with licensed mental health professionals. The counselors can help bring control to farmers in navigating challenging situations. One farmer caller who sought mental wellness counseling for the first time through the program said, “please tell every farmer there is hope.”

Shifting the Mindset

Endres teamed up with mindset coach and former banker Penn Vieau to produce the Farm Center’s ‘Rural Realities’ podcast, which provides expert advice that can help farmers reduce stress, improve finances, implement effective farm family communication skills, and more. Vieau recently addressed the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA) Agricultural Bankers Conference on the power of a positive mindset and is scheduled to speak at the upcoming WBA Building Our Leaders of Tomorrow (BOLT) Summer Leadership Summit, June 9–10, 2022 in Wisconsin Dells. He discussed how the stigma of mental health in farming communities can be a barrier to getting help. “Stress does not equal crazy,” said Vieau. “When stress is too much to bear, talk to somebody.”

A 2019 American Farm Bureau Federation study revealed that a majority of farmers/farmworkers think the media (72%), people in their local community (58%), and their friends (56%) attach at least a fair amount of stigma to mental health.

How Bankers Can Support Farmer Mental Health

Agricultural bankers are part of rural communities and have strong ties to the farming industry — many grew up on or live on farms themselves. MCW’s Kohlbeck said bankers may be coming into contact with farmers more often than their doctors. “We’re not expecting them to be therapists, but in some ways, bankers can be nontraditional helpers,” she said. She said the most important ways bankers can help are 1) sharing resources and 2) understanding the red flags and what to do about them.

Karen Endres

Karen Endres
Farmer Wellness Program Coordinator
Wisconsin Farm Center

Endres underscored, “bankers are relationship people, and they want to do what’s best.” She recommends the Farmer Wellness Program’s online farm culture training for agricultural service providers. It is a free, virtual course to help ag lenders and other service providers understand the unique stresses and challenges of farming, handle difficult conversations, and recognize signs and symptoms of stress with farm clients. More information and the link to register are available at farmcenter.wi.gov.

One piece of advice Vieau offered the attendees of his presentation was to create a “personal board of directors” for their mental wellbeing — in other words, identify a group of close contacts to serve as trusted advisors and consultants. He pointed out that a banker is most likely already on a farmer’s “personal board of directors,” so the banker has a unique opportunity to share a flyer or card for the Farm Center’s services. “Bankers are always offering a value-add, like sharing trending reports,” said Vieau, and likened the practice to hospitality staff offering tips on local attractions. He said it’s a great idea for bankers to use the resources and information offered by the Farm Center for themselves personally and as an added service for their clients.

To learn how to spot the signs of distress in farmers, bankers and community members may participate in gatekeeper training for lay people. The Wisconsin Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is one example of an organization that offers free, one-hour training sessions online and in person.

The Outlook

All of the experts interviewed for this story agreed that more can be done to build more supportive communities and policies for farmers. “Instead of expecting farmers to reach out, we need to reach in,” said Kohlbeck. “Farmers are proud. For policies on things like climate change, don’t put the onus on farmers to solve the problems on their own.”

Penn Vieau

Penn Vieau
Professional Speaker and Coach

Vieau noted, “we spend a lot of time with [corporate] executives doing leadership training, and we need to do the same to break the stigma with farmers, who are independent businesspeople.” He highlighted that this focus is also important in encouraging the next generation of young people, who prioritize mental wellness in their careers, to become farmers.

Similarly, Endres expressed the need for everyone to look out for our farmers, who are stewards of the land and grow our food. She encourages community members to talk to one another and direct those who could benefit from a resource or service on how to access it.

“If one person shares a resource and saves a life, that’s a pretty great day,” concluded Endres.

If you are thinking about suicide or are concerned about the wellbeing of someone you know, call the Wisconsin Lifeline at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255), the Wisconsin Farmer Wellness Helpline (888-901-2558), or 911.

By Chris Schneider, Nicolet National Bank

How nice it was to finally get together again as a group after two years of modified delivery of our annual WBA Agricultural Bankers Conference. The long-awaited return of the fully in-person conference was marked with great attendance, over 160 attendees including 130 bankers from across the state.

Always a highly-rated presenter, Eric Snodgrass, Science Fellow from Nutrien Ag Solutions, provided a detailed presentation on weather patterns and his prediction for this year’s weather forecast and the impact on crops in certain regions of the country. His long range predictions have been very accurate in past years. One of his topics that I found particularly of interest was the impact of Hurricane Ida on the supply chain.

Next up, Dr. Chad Hart, Iowa State University, took the stage and discussed marketing and risk management. He addressed many topics including the overall production of corn, beans, and wheat, and how the shifting of acres planted is impacted by certain factors; the Ukraine crisis and how that will affect global markets and shift exporting countries with commodities that come from them; and higher priced corn and the effects on exports. He also outlined how input cost and availability issues have increased cost dramatically and how that impacts if/when farmers can get products.

Wilson Law Group’s Daniel Purtell presented on estate planning brought out a lot of questions from conference attendees. Plan, Plan & Plan was the theme. We all know how most farmers like to plan, most are “reactive” folks. Don’t leave Ralph, the farmer’s son who was an underachiever his whole life, the farm because he will lose it. It’s never too early to plan for the next
generation.

Mike North from Ever.Ag was up next with marketing ideas for all commodities. He discussed marketing protection products and how they use these different types of items to protect milk, feed, and other items, sharing that less fluid milk and more cheese is what drives Wisconsin dairy plants. Cheese use increases on a yearly basis and is consumed in a variety of foods. The effects of European markets reducing production will help our country with driving more exports.

Ed Elfmann updated attendees on ABA’s priorities in Washington; from covering all the seats that are changing to policy updates. CFPB 1071 Rule, Farm debt declines at the end of 2020 somewhat due to additional government money, net farm income increasing, payments to farmers decline in 2021. The farm size has also changed; 9% of farms account for 33% of assets and 89% of farms are small but hold 60% of assets. Issues that should be top of mind for ag bankers include the Farm Bill hearings, as the current bill will expire in 2023; ECORA legislation; Farm Credit issues and the leveling of the playing field for banks vs Farm Credit; and RNG and Carbon credits and how this is getting driven into new income opportunities for farmers.

WBA’s John Cronin provided the Wisconsin update, covering the state budget and future policy discussions; shared what seats are up in the Wisconsin state assembly; and shared the budget and rule making process going forward.

AMPI was represented by their CEO and Co-President Sheryl Meshke. She talked about their markets and different facilities. AMPI is Co-op owned by farmers in multiple states and highlighted 50 plus years in business, producing award-winning products. Sheryl highlighted products including Dinner Bell Creamery, Co-op Crafted Promise, and Crystal Farm cheese. She expanded on how AMPI monitors the markets to stabilize and build business with their products.

Lastly Penn Vieau, a leadership expert, provided how to positively look at day to day activities. Have a positive mindset, positive thoughts, practice gratitude with purpose. Control, Influence, Accept. Attendees were encouraged to create goals that create new drive and energy, and importantly, goals that are achievable.

If you were unable to join us for this year’s annual conference, I hope that you will consider joining us in 2023. Watch for the 2023 conference dates to be announced soon to the Ag Section membership.

 

Chris Schneider is the current chair of the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board of Directors and is the vice president, agricultural banking with Nicolet National Bank in Appleton.

Corn seedling

By Amber Keller, Town Bank

I am looking forward to seeing many of you next week at the WBA Ag Bankers Conference. It will be great to reconnect, share stories and experiences, and learn about the latest trends and tips for navigating this agricultural super-cycle and these tenuous times in our world today. Whether you are new to farm lending or have been around the block a few times, there is still much to learn. Yet, some things do not change all that much- sound credit analysis and risk identification, assessment of farm management competencies, optimum use of technology and labor mix, as well as strategic planning for long-term success.

One of the strategic planning topics to be featured at our conference is farm succession and estate planning. Many of us are familiar with estate planning, as it relates to making plans for the business and assets when one passes on. However, farm succession planning also includes what happens to the business and our assets while one is still living. That’s just as important and even more so.

Think of farm succession planning as a way to build a road map for operations and enterprise growth, better defined job roles, knowledge and management transfer, and business decisions to be made by delegation, empowerment, or consensus as a team. Attorneys, accountants, lenders, and others can help farm families view their farms as dynamic businesses, respecting those long-standing traditions and embracing innovations with open minds. Indeed, that’s some powerful planning with purpose.

The legal professionals at Wilson Law Group will share with us some important concepts to consider when referring our clients for farm succession and estate planning services. They help farmers, business owners, and farm land owners plan and protect the assets and legacies they have built and transition them to the next generation and beyond. Hope you can join us next week! I’ll see you in the Dells!

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.

The Wisconsin Bankers Foundation has awarded UW-Platteville senior Alexis Boston and UW-River Falls junior Joseph Schlies with the 2021 Agricultural Banking Scholarship. The scholarship is given to two students who plan to go into a career in agriculture finance and who demonstrate in their application a strong understanding of the importance of financial literacy.

Boston is a declared agribusiness major expected to graduate this December. She has worked as an agribusiness professor assistant at UW-Platteville and currently is involved in many on-campus and community organizations including UW-Platteville’s Agribusiness Club, the Collegiate Farm Bureau, and the National Agri-Marketing Association.

Schlies is a declared agricultural business major. He currently holds two positions at the college as a teaching assistant in the Agricultural Economics Department and as a residential assistant. Previously, Schlies was the state president for the Wisconsin Association of FFA State Officers. He is also actively involved on his campus as the vice chair of the Finance Committee and at-large senator of the Student Government Association.

“Joseph and Alexis’s passion for agricultural finance and making an impact on their community is foundational to the qualifications for the Foundation’s Agricultural Banking Scholarship,” said Foundation Chair Rose Oswald Poels. “I am pleased that we are able to honor their achievements with this scholarship and wish them each much success in their future agribusiness careers.”

Joseph Schlies (center) accepts 2021 Agricultural Banking Scholarship from WBF Chair Rose Oswald Poels (second from left). Also pictured are: Dr. Dale Gallenberg, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (far left); Dr. Brenda Boetel, professor and chair of the Agricultural Economics Department (third from the right); Dr. Sierra Howry, associate professor of agricultural economics (second from right); and Tony Betley, vice president – senior agricultural banker at Nicolet Bank.

Alexis Boston (center) accepts 2021 Agricultural Banking Scholarship from WBF Chair Rose Oswald Poels (far left). Also pictured are: Nicholas Felder, vice president – commercial/ag banking at MidWestOne Bank (second from left); Chad Bahr, assistant vice president – agribusiness lending officer at Mound City Bank (second from right); and Donna Hoppenjan, president and CEO of Mound City Bank (far right).

Triangle Background

Last spring, Jenna Raisbeck was awarded the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation’s (WBF) Agricultural Banking Scholarship. Originally from Lancaster, Wisconsin, Raisbeck is now a junior at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville and holds a position as a credit analyst and branch marketing liaison at Community First Bank in Platteville.

This inaugural scholarship awarded two individuals attending accredited Wisconsin universities with career interests related to agricultural banking/finance a $1,000 scholarship towards their education. WBF is excited to soon announce the recipients of 2021’s Agricultural Banking Scholarship, which accepted applications in the fall.

Raisbeck was raised understanding the importance of agriculture to her local community, despite not living on a farm herself. As a credit analyst, she works closely with farmers and their credit and has come to realize the need for having good agricultural finance professionals and resources for farmers. Not only does her current position allow her to explore finance and banking, but it also combines her interests in the agricultural industry and helping her community.

Along with receiving the scholarship from WBF, Raisbeck also had the unique opportunity to enter the bank as an intern. “Most companies target graduating seniors for full-time positions, but hiring younger students as interns or tellers can be just as important,” she says. “In my experience, the bank has been able to teach me a lot since I started out so young and with little experience. They know what areas I am interested in and eventually can help me prepare for the right position.”

Following her graduation this January, Raisbeck plans to continue her banking career long term. Through opportunities such as job shadowing, she has decided to pursue lending because it will allow her to work closely with customers, utilize the financial skills established through her time as a credit analyst, and help customers reach their goals.

“Being the recipient of the Wisconsin Bankers Foundation Agricultural Banking Scholarship has benefited me by helping lighten my financial burden that comes with attending college,” says Raisbeck, “This has allowed me to focus more time on my courses which is important to my career. Without successfully completing these finance-focused courses, I would not be able to pursue the career I want long-term, nor would I be able to be in the position that I am now. Getting this recognition for all my hard work from the WBF means a great deal to me and motivates me to continue to push myself to be the best I can be.”

Triangle Background

By Nicholas Felder, MidWestOne Bank, Lancaster

As the 2021 year wraps up and the 2022 year jets off to a roaring start, we, as bankers, prepare ourselves to renew partnerships with customers and prospects alike. Tasks we as bankers regularly undertake are innumerable. We look to assist with financial statement review & projection evaluation, and to challenge producers to look introspectively at their operations in both a macro– and micro-sense. We encourage them to work with their advisory groups more closely or, in some extreme cases, make changes to long-term partnerships that have gotten stale and now lack the drive for symbiotic gains. We assist in capital planning and the rationalization of purchases with 50% to 200% increases in cost if the item being acquired is available within 500 miles. We inquire about the stability of their internal labor force or challenges being faced by suppliers. We also tiptoe around the highly politicized COVID-19 discussion and hope the visit ends without it being brought up. All of this while making sure that family remains a priority in each of their lives. These interactions occur irregularly a few times a year to as often as weekly updates.

Commodity prices, weather and natural disasters, supply chain management, labor, interest rates, inflation (or sometimes hyperinflation), and on– and off-farm accidents all lead to increases in stress and anxiety for ag producers across this country. Farming is a lifestyle, a business, a legacy. Something that each will give every last breath to retain. One item that I believe is missing from our regular interactions with customers and prospects is a review of their mental health. The quality and future successes of both short– and long-term decisions are highly correlated to the mental well-being of the person making the decisions at that point in time. What can we do to assist in this aspect of our value-added services and increase the likelihood of success?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that rural communities have nearly double the suicide rates of urban areas. It’s pretty obvious what are the two major contributors: 1) daily life and the stressors indicated above and 2) fewer mental health resources due to the rural nature of the communities where they reside. Bankers are often relied upon to act as sounding boards for all sorts of decisions and thought processes. Sometimes even dispute resolution between family or spouses. Successes and failures are not necessarily evidence of the current state of mental well-being and should not be assumed.

With COVID-19 and its resulting isolations from family, friends, and outlets for celebration or consolation, these noted stressors will have been layered upon one another over the past two years. If not appropriately mastered by the individual, this resulting onion will need to be delicately peeled away layer by layer by trained professionals. Newly funded (2021) partnerships of UW-Platteville & DATCP as well as a grant received by SWCAP and UW-Madison are looking to address the mental health needs of Wisconsin farmers and workers. These projects “seek to engage farmers, family members, workers, and the wide range of individuals that provide products, services, technical information and support to those in the industry who produce the food and farm products that keep us healthy and safe during these challenging times.” Farmers are the key to the economic health & success of the entire country as well as the health and success of everyone therein.

These resources can be found at:  https://farms.extension.wisc.edu/farmstress

I challenge each of you to be an advocate for mental health this spring not only for each of your customers or prospects, but also for yourself. Make a point to review how people are feeling and connect those who may need additional assistance with the resources needed to be a productive, successful member of each one’s community.

Felder is vice president, commercial and ag banking, with MidWestOne Bank in Lancaster and currently serves on the WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board of Directors.

The WBA Agricultural Bankers Section Board is excited to announce that registration is now open for the annual WBA Agricultural Bankers Conference, which will return in person on April 6–7, 2022 at the Kalahari Resort & Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells.

This year’s conference will help prepare ag bankers for the many conversations that take place between farm client and banker. Whether good times or bad, high prices or low, the perfect weather or the most unusual weather events in history; Wisconsin ag bankers continue to provide those “value-added conversations” beyond the traditional financing discussions.

In addition to the dairy and commodity market outlook sessions that have become staples of the annual conference, attendees will hear from attorney Dan Purtell on the topic of farm transition planning. Each family farm presents unique challenges and opportunities when it comes to transition planning, and Purtell has seen it all. Sharing best practices learned from experiencing the good, the bad, and the ugly, Purtell will also include time for audience Q&A with his presentation.

Farmer Mac economist, Greg Lyons, advises bankers to “ride the bull with a helmet” as he shares his agricultural economic outlook for 2022. Farmers and ranchers are entering 2022 with strong market prices, surging land values, and more cash on hand than any point since the commodity supercycle. This session will cover early indications of 2022 incomes for producers in Wisconsin, as well as what pitfalls could knock this bull market on its heels. How deeply will inflation cut into producer profitability? Can we rely on strong agricultural exports if China is a top trade market?

Will a rising rate environment end land value growth? Lyons’ session will review these and other questions as we seek to answer just how comfortable lenders can be with the current strong state of the agricultural sector. In addition to a great lineup of speakers and presentations, attendees will enjoy the always valuable networking that takes place throughout the conference. An exhibit hall of trusted partners will showcase the latest in ag finance products and services and provide a place for value added conversations during breaks and meals.

Make plans to join your fellow ag bankers in the Dells, April 6–7. You can find more information on the conference agenda, room block details, and more at www.wisbank.com/ag.

Events

A review of the fundamental skills needed to begin to undertake credit analysis, loan structuring and monitoring for agricultural customers. The course also provides guidance on dealing with problem loans. This course was developed in conjunction with the Schools of Banking, Inc., a jointly-owned subsidiary of the Kansas and Nebraska Bankers Associations.

There is no separate textbook for this course. All reading materials are posted online in the Learning Community of your course.

Gain an essential understanding of agricultural collateral, risk management, loan documentation, loan administration and loan monitoring.

This webinar will provide bankers with an essential understanding of agricultural collateral, the risks presented by agricultural lending, agricultural loan documentation and loan administration.

Experienced lenders will find the material covered to be a beneficial review, while less experienced bankers will benefit from a strong foundation in the OCC guidelines for safety and soundness in agricultural lending and their application in day-to-day loan monitoring.

Covered Topics

  • Risks of agricultural lending
  • Common agricultural collateral
  • Agricultural loan documentation
  • The Food Security Act of 1985
  • Agricultural financial statements
  • Statutory liens on farm products
  • Documents of title: warehouse receipts and bills of lading
  • Dealing with warehoused farm products
  • Commodity contracts
  • Crop and livestock inspections
  • Registered livestock
  • Farming operations on leased or mortgaged property
  • Crop and other insurance
  • Federal farm programs
  • Lending limits

Who Should Attend
Anyone involved in ag lending and ag loan documentation, including loan officers, assistants and secretaries, operations personnel, credit analysts, and loan administration personnel.

Instructor Bio
Robin Russell has practiced law for 30 years and is licensed in Texas, New York, and Massachusetts. She is a fellow in the American College of Bankruptcy and of the American Law Institute. She combines a depth of experience in bankruptcy restructuring and litigation with financial transactions. She has represented corporate debtors, independent directors, liquidating trustees, bondholders, unsecured creditors’ committees, bank groups, private equity funds, landlords, trade creditors, and bidders for estate assets in Chapter 11 and Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. She has also represented banks, institutional lenders, and corporate borrowers in commercial loan transactions and debt restructurings.

Russell is the principal author of Thomson Reuters’ Texas Practice Guides for both Creditors’ Rights and Financial Transactions and the Texas Bankers Association’s Texas Secured Lending Guide, Texas Problem Loan Guide, Texas Real Estate Lending Guide, and Texas Account Documentation Guide. She is a frequent speaker on banking, bankruptcy, and financial restructuring-related topics and has served as a Chapter 7 Trustee. Russell received her LL.M. in Banking Law from Boston University and her J.D. from Baylor University where she was Editor-in-Chief of the Baylor Law Review and the highest-ranking graduate in her class. She clerked for the Texas Supreme Court before beginning her legal career.

Registration Options
Live Access, 30 Days OnDemand Playback, Presenter Materials and Handouts $279

Available Upgrades:

  • 12 Months OnDemand Playback + $110
  • 12 Months OnDemand Playback + CD + $140
  • Additional Live Access + $75 per person

The 2022 WBA Agricultural Lending School will be held August 10–12 (with an optional Pre-School workshop on August 9) at the Wisconsin Bankers Association office in Madison. Classes will begin at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday and conclude at 3:00 p.m. on Friday. This school was developed as an intermediate-level school. Case studies, in-class work, class discussions, and a farm visit are all elements of this school.

An optional pre-school workshop has been added on August 9, 2022. This optional workshop is geared towards those ag lenders and credit analysts who would like to strengthen their foundational knowledge of ag financial statements, the 6 C’s of Credit, and look at some initial ratios. The 3-day school curriculum is based on attendees having an intermediate-level knowledge of these topics. If you’d like a refresher or to reinforce your ag financial statement knowledge, sign up to attend this optional workshop during registration.
Curriculum Includes:
  • “Lenders’ Lens” on Agriculture Today
  • Cyclical Nature of Agriculture
  • Borrower and Lender Relationship
  • Agricultural Financial Statements
  • Farm Business Financial Model for Informed Decisions
  • Cash Flow Budgeting
  • Introduction to Financial and Credit Analysis
  • Financial and Credit Analysis
  • Risk Management
  • Commodity Marketing
  • Credit Structuring
  • Credit Enhancements
  • Loan Narrative/Credit Presentation
  • Farm Visit & Recap
  • Introduction to Problem Loans
  • Looking for Red Flags
  • Bank Policy
  • Preparing for Loan Committee
Optional Pre-School Workshop Curriculum Includes:
  • Farm Business Financial Model for Informed Decisions – a focus on the building of financial statements
  • Balance Sheet
  • Income Statement
  • Statement of Cash Flows
  • Reconciliation
  • The Building Blocks for Credit Decision Making – the 6 C’s of Credit
School Faculty:
  • Bradley Guse, senior vice president, Agribusiness Banking – BMO Harris Bank, N.A., Marshfield
  • Dr. Kevin Bernhardt, professor and UW Extension Farm Management Specialist, UW-Platteville 
Who Should Attend:
This school is designed for ag lenders with a few years of experience, or for those lenders who would like a refresher. Credit analysts, processors, and other ag lending staff will also benefit. Those attendees with less than 2 years of experience should consider registering to attend the optional pre-school workshop on August 9, 2021.
School Requirements: Successful completion of the school will be based on class attendance and participation on a team for a comprehensive case study including a presentation on the final day.
Registration Information: The student fee of $895 includes program registration, instruction and materials, and lunch and refreshment breaks daily. Dinner will be provided Thursday evening with the farm visit. Registration for the optional pre-school workshop is an additional $200/attendee.

A review of the fundamental skills needed to begin to undertake credit analysis, loan structuring and monitoring for agricultural customers. The course also provides guidance on dealing with problem loans. This course was developed in conjunction with the Schools of Banking, Inc., a jointly-owned subsidiary of the Kansas and Nebraska Bankers Associations.

Audience: Those new to agricultural lending or with limited experience

Price: $475

A review of the fundamental skills needed to begin to undertake credit analysis, loan structuring and monitoring for agricultural customers. The course also provides guidance on dealing with problem loans. This course was developed in conjunction with the Schools of Banking, Inc., a jointly-owned subsidiary of the Kansas and Nebraska Bankers Associations.

Audience: Those new to agricultural lending or with limited experience

Price: $475

What makes a farm a farm for lending purposes? Would you believe only $1,000 in annual sales? With so many possibilities and potential products, ag loans just might be the answer for many borrowers. Intrigued?

 AFTER THIS WEBINAR YOU’LL BE ABLE TO:

  • Identify the key regulatory areas that impact agriculture loans, including ECOA, HMDA, Flood Disaster Protection Act, RESPA, and Truth in Lending Act
  • Understand the importance of documenting the ag-related purpose
  • Explain the requirements of the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act
  • Recognize the red flags for ag fraud
  • Establish initial and ongoing due diligence of ag borrowers using the tools provided

WEBINAR DETAILS

Agriculture. Everyone knows the meaning of the word. But when an applicant presents unique circumstances, can you accurately determine whether the request meets an ag exemption or should be handled as a consumer loan? As Americans build barndominiums, grow flowers and produce for the local farmer’s market, and purchase farms for country living, it is important for lending staff to understand how to apply compliance regulations to ag-related loan requests and know when an ag exemption is available. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a farm as any place from which $1,000 or more worth of agricultural products are produced and sold during a given year. Therefore, even if you are not your institution’s ag lender, it is highly likely that you will encounter a loan application that includes some agricultural aspect.

This webinar will delve into the consumer compliance regulations and specifically focus on definitions and exemptions that relate to agriculture. As more and more people become involved in nontraditional agricultural activities, it is imperative that these lending requests are properly processed. Having spent her whole life on a working farm, presenter Molly Stull can speak from experience as she explains regulatory compliance requirements in the context of the agriculture industry.

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

This informative session is designed for lenders, loan processors, and compliance officers who work to serve the agricultural community.

 TAKE-AWAY TOOLKIT

  • Worksheet to determine the required amount of flood insurance
  • Ag-related references
  • PDF of slides and speaker’s contact info for follow-up questions
  • Attendance certificate provided to self-report CE credits
  • Employee training log
  • Interactive quiz

NOTE: All materials are subject to copyright. Transmission, retransmission, or republishing of any webinar to other institutions or those not employed by your agency is prohibited. Print materials may be copied for eligible participants only.

MEET THE PRESENTER — Molly Stull, Brode Consulting Services, Inc.

Molly Stull began her career as a teller while working on her undergraduate degree and has continued working in the financial industry ever since. She has experienced the growth of a hometown bank, branch mergers, charter changes, name changes, etc. Stull has activated business resumption plans, performed secondary market quality control reviews, processed wires, filed SARs, and coordinated reviews with external auditors and examiners. Her favorite role has always been educating staff and strongly believes that if staff understands the reason for a process they will be more compelled to follow the procedures. Stull holds a bachelor’s from the University of Akron and an MBA from Ashland University.

REGISTRATION OPTIONS

  • $245 – Live Webinar Access
  • $245 – OnDemand Access + Digital Download
  • $320 – Both Live & On-Demand Access + Digital Download

Many factors affect the loan structures used in commercial lending, both for commercial and industrial (C&I), and commercial real estate (CRE), agricultural, and other situations. This program provides the four keys to developing the best loan structure, starting with the bank’s goals.

Of secondary, and almost equal consideration, is the customer’s goals. We’ll focus on strategic goals and business life cycle concepts, which often supersede the borrower’s desire to get the lowest interest rate. In structuring a financing arrangement, the banker must have a thorough knowledge of the available credit facilities and how to match them to the customer’s needs (third key) and the anticipated source of loan repayment (fourth key).

This seminar provides bankers with a working knowledge of the basic principles of loan structuring, including:

  • Understanding your bank’s goal(s) in structuring the loan
  • Identifying the goals of your customer and the resulting credit needs
  • Discussing and implementing the products you can utilize
  • Identifying the loan structures that best match the source(s) of repayment

Target Audience:  Small business lenders, private bankers, commercial lenders, credit analysts, loan review specialists, lending managers, and credit officers involved in C&I loans.

Presenter
Richard Hamm, Advantage Consulting & Training

Registration Option
Live presentation $330

Recording available through June 29, 2022

Rising input costs, strong commodity prices, and inflation are major topics that the Ag industry is currently dealing with. Will your customers be able to handle a sudden change in demand and/or crash of commodity prices. Understanding the underlying credit risk in your ag portfolio will be key moving forward. In this 60 minute session, we will take a quick look at what is currently going on with economic conditions that is impacting credit risk to ag lenders. We will also discuss what are some of the most common ratios, techniques on how to improve net margins, and methods you can implement to stress test your ag loan portfolio.

Key takeaways from this program are:

  • Understanding the current economic conditions that are driving the credit risk in your ag portfolio
  • Reviewing common ratios and financial information used to assign credit risk to your ag portfolio
  • Pricing and product offerings that can improve net margins
  • Techniques that can be used to stress test your current ag portfolio to assess the potential losses that may exist

Target Audience: Ag lenders, commercial lenders, credit analysts.

Presenter
Rob Newberry, Abrigo

Registration Option
Live presentation $275

Recording available through May 23, 2022