Farms =/= Golf Courses

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Are farms and golf courses one in the same?

We don’t think so, either.

But don’t tell that to Carolina Farm Credit, whose idea of “serving the credit needs of rural America” evidently includes underwriting publicly-backed loans for manicured putting greens, challenging bunkers and pristine fairways.

Bert Ely first reported in 2002 that Carolina Farm Credit had lent $4.5 million earlier that year to Fox Den Development Company for 400 acres of developable land that would include “an exciting 18-hole championship golf course” to be complemented by “luxurious” homes.

As it turns out, the loan, which for starters should raise questions over interpretations of the Farm Credit Act, went belly up.

The Charlotte Observer reported last year that “a limited liability company called Fox Den Acquisitions acquired the golf course and other property…after Carolina Farm Credit initiated foreclosure when Fox Den Development Co. defaulted on other loans.”

It’s not surprising, but no less alarming, that this is hardly an isolated incident.

Whether lending to – and later foreclosing on – a millionaire’s winery or seeking the “recreational property” business of Garden & Gun’s readership, the Farm Credit System is unafraid and unashamed to expend resources on non-agricultural loans at the expense of those it was intended to serve in rural America. This is reflected in the 15 percent decrease of Farm Credit’s total volume of loans to small farmers over the past 10 years.

This pattern of behavior would almost be comical if it weren’t gravely true. For today’s FCS, a loss of focus leading to luxury pursuits including golf courses is, unfortunately, par for the course.