On Friday, January 25, an agreement was reached to reopen the federal government after it had been shut down for the longest stretch in history. Federal workers went without pay, and even though many still worked during this time, essential services lapsed. Farmers across the country struggled, and many are still struggling, as crop insurance checks and operating loans normally issued by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) were not available. Farmers need certainty, and barring that, they need reassurance.
But America’s farmers were not the Farm Credit Administration’s (FCA) priority this shutdown.
The FCA is the Farm Credit System’s (FCS) regulator. Occasionally, it issues public statements and informational memoranda to keep the public aware of what it is doing. But during this time when so many farmers faced uncertainty from the federal government and were looking for answers, what did the FCA announce?
It announced some excellent news: a cap on salaries for FCS bank directors had been repealed!
One can only imagine the sighs of relief coming from America’s farmers, ranchers and producers as they read that FCS bank directors were no longer prevented from reaching their true potential. This is exactly what farmers wanted to read while they worry about making their mortgage and operating loan payments.
Farmers weren’t just facing uncertainty from the shutdown – there are the new policies set in place by the 2018 Farm Bill to consider. And out of all 500+ pages of the Farm Bill, with 50 pages alone set aside for Farm Credit matters, this one provision on lifting salary caps got all of the FCA’s attention. The FCA has not yet issued a memorandum on the Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation’s (FCSIC) new powers to prevent a system-wide collapse of the FCS. The FCA has not yet issued a memorandum on the new industry-wide prohibition of employment for proven bad actors. The FCA has not yet issued a memorandum on a new report to be issued on FCS loan risks. The FCA has not yet issued a memorandum on newly-required reports to examine whether Farm Credit is adequately serving the credit needs of socially disadvantaged farmers and Indian tribes. But the FCA has issued a memorandum on FCS bank director compensation.
The carelessness of the FCA in issuing this statement is tremendous and entirely revealing. A functional, competent agency would do whatever it could to help farmers during the shutdown, just as USDA has done. Instead, the FCA made the inconsiderate decision to show its true priority – enriching the FCS while it leaves America’s farmers behind, especially its young, beginning and small farmers.
Does the FCA understand the message this sends to farmers across the country? Whether it does or not, Congress should take note: the FCA either doesn’t understand the needs of farmers or simply doesn’t care. And if the FCA doesn’t care, then Congress should.