• Farm Credit Wants in on Health Care

    Farm Credit Watch | Risk | Waste • 11.21.17

    Everyone needs health care, including farmers, but does that mean the Farm Credit System (FCS) needs to get involved?

    Farm Credit definitely thinks so.

    In a case of trying to slip something under the radar, the Farm Credit Administration (FCA) Board decided, in a notational vote taken between official meetings no less, to approve a request from (former) AgStar Financial Services, ACA to “invest up to $2.5 million in taxable bonds to be issued by a rural continuous care facility in Texas.”

    Let’s break this down.

    AgStar Financial Services, ACA is no more, and has been absorbed into Compeer Financial, a giant FCS association with total assets of $18.77 billion. Compeer operates in 144 counties throughout Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Compeer Financial proudly and “regularly collaborates with others who are also dedicated to agriculture and rural America. Our in-house specialists participate in conversations that extend beyond our service area.”

    Farm Credit was created to serve farmers, ranchers and producers, and its cooperative structure was designed so that it would be accountable to its local member-owners. So why is a Farm Credit association based in the northern Midwest investing in a health care facility in Texas? On top of that, why wouldn’t this be under the jurisdiction of the Farm Credit Bank of Texas and its member associations?

    Of course, the most pressing question is why is a Farm Credit institution involved with health care anyway?

    The FCS was designed and created to ensure the success and stability of American agriculture by providing access to credit for farmers, ranchers and producers. It was not designed and created to provide “investments” to health care facilities.

    This isn’t the first instance of an FCS “investment” (read: loan) in a health care facility. In an oversight hearing of the FCS in December 2015, Chairman Conaway asked whether the FCA could “explain the distinctions between loans and investments”. His question was met with a lackluster non-answer that the FCA permitted an “investment” in a hospital in Minnesota, revealing the FCA’s complicity in the FCS’ forays into the health care sector.

    The FCS’ jump into the health care sector – financing nursing homes and health care facilities – is proudly displayed right out in the open. The FCS’ involvement in the health care sector is now a matter of congressional and public record. Will the FCA clamp down and finally hold the FCS to its true mission?

    No, it won’t. Congress will however. Congress needs to step in and stand up for America’s farmers by clamping down on this flagrant example of mission creep.