As the ongoing coronavirus public health crisis continues to upend U.S. agriculture, farmers and ranchers are struggling with supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, uncertainties in the livestock market, and the mounting economic toll of millions of Americans sheltering at home.
Despite these challenges, America’s farmers and ranchers continue to keep the country fed, supplying supermarkets and dinner tables with meat, produce and other farm products. As farmers and ranchers continue to meet America’s needs, they need help from the institutions designed to support the U.S. agricultural sector. In this critical moment, however, Congress has yet to fill a key vacancy on the board tasked with overseeing the Farm Credit System (FCS), the federal institution that manages a significant portion of U.S. agricultural lending.
The FCS is a century old federal institution tasked with providing farmers and ranchers with access to affordable credit. Affordable credit is essential to ensuring that farmers and ranchers can continue to operate in the face of economic uncertainty. To oversee the provision of this much-needed affordable credit, Congress subsequently created the Farm Credit Administration (FCA) to ensure that that the FCS lives up to its mission and meets the needs of U.S. farmers and ranchers.
Unfortunately, a persistent vacancy on the three-person Farm Credit Administration board limits its effectiveness in overseeing the FCS. Without a full executive board at the helm, the FCA cannot ensure that farmers’ needs are met or chart a path through stormy waters.
Fortunately, President Trump has already nominated and re-nominated a well-qualified candidate to fill the vacancy: Rodney Brown. Not only is Brown a Kansas native with generations of farmers in his family, but he has built his career through meeting the needs of farmers and ranchers. As the CEO of a community bank in California, the leading U.S. state for cash farm receipts, Brown is intimately familiar with the importance of agricultural lending.
There’s little doubt that confirming Brown to the FCA board would help U.S. agriculture. With farmers facing a shaky agricultural economy and U.S. consumers concerned about stable food supply chains the FCA needs a competent and complete board.
Despite Brown’s nomination, re-nomination and clear qualifications, the Senate has yet to hold a confirmation hearing. This unnecessary delay takes on added urgency as farmers and ranchers are struggling with economic disruptions caused by the coronavirus. A timely hearing and confirmation will help ensure that the FCA has the leadership necessary to steer U.S. agriculture through difficult times.
Today, farmers must be able to rely on the Farm Credit System to access the affordable credit they need to stay afloat. To make sure that the Farm Credit System meets the needs of farmers and ranchers, the FCA must exercise its authority to oversee FCS. To do that, the outstanding vacancy on the FCA board must be filled. Brown’s understanding of both agriculture and lending makes him an ideal choice for this position and its critical role of ensuring the financial health of U.S. farmers and ranchers. Brown stands as the president’s nominee; Congress must act to consider his nomination, and if he is worthy, confirm him.