The spate of Farm Credit mergers continues, with Farm Credit West announcing that it will be merging with Northwest Farm Credit Services.
This announcement comes on the heels of this year’s news of the merger of North Dakota’s AgCountry Farm Credit Services and Farm Credit Services of North Dakota, and the absorption of Yankee Farm Credit, which served Vermont, by Farm Credit East, now serving Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.
What exactly is going on here?
According to Farm Credit West’s Chair of its Board,the merger will result in the association being “better positioned to strategically address marketplace changes and provide even greater value for our customer-members.” How that would be accomplished isn’t exactly clear, but the Chair continues in explaining, “no office closures or branch staffing changes are anticipated as part of this merger. Customers can expect the same personalized service from their account teams with the merged association.”
Those are weighty claims which, other than the office closures and staffing changes, aren’t measurable. That will likely be little consolation to the farmers, ranchers, and producers whom this merger will affect.
And that’s going to be a lot of farmers, ranchers, and producers: Farm Credit West’s service area includes parts of northern California, mid-California, and Los Angeles County, Nevada, and Arizona. Once it merges with Northwest Farm Credit Services, its service area will include all of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Can Farm Credit West really be sure that there won’t be any disruptions to the services that current customers deserve?
This newest merger is just one link in a chain that grows longer every year: first Farm Credit West absorbs Farm Credit Services Southwest in a shotgun merger, then Farm Credit Services of Hawaii disappears, then Yankee Farm Credit and Farm Credit Services of North Dakota are absorbed, and now Farm Credit West takes over Northwest Farm Credit Services.
Farm Credit West’s statement rightly mentions that Farm Credit’s regulator, the Farm Credit Administration (FCA), must first review and approve the merger plan. The FCA cannot let Farm Credit West’s and Northwest Farm Credit Services’ merger continue without a serious holistic review. With this many absorptions and mergers taking place, the FCA must consider the broader impact this will have on farmers, ranchers, and producers. If the FCA does not consider this merger holistically, then Congress should consider whether these mergers are in the interest of America’s farmers, ranchers, and producers.