Help may soon be on the way for young, beginning and small farmers (YBS farmers).
In May, the Farm Credit System’s (FCS) regulator, the Farm Credit Administration (FCA), announced at its executive board meeting that it would be issuing a proposed rule to require Farm Credit institutions to adopt strategic plans for their YBS farmer lending programs, reform how those institutions track their lending to YBS farmers, and to reinforce oversight of those objectives.
This is only an incremental gain, but still an important one. The Farm Credit Act of 1971 requires each Farm Credit association to establish a program to “furnish sound and constructive credit” to YBS farmers (§2207). In recent years, it has become apparent that Farm Credit has underperformed, with tens of thousands of YBS farmers across the country left behind.
But in recent years, in part due to Reform Farm Credit’s relentless oversight, it looks like the tide may turn. The FCA appears to recognize that Farm Credit’s history of lending to YBS farmers isn’t as good as it could be. In 2019, the FCA issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to invite comments on how it should define and count young, beginning and small farmers for the purpose of Farm Credit’s various YBS programs. Though the FCA has not yet issued an official notice of proposed rulemaking on that issue, the comments it collected may have informed the production of this latest rule.
The rulemaking process moves at a glacial pace, and this proposed rule will be no exception. The FCA will solicit comments for 60 days, until August 15, 2022. Members of the public should review the proposed rule and submit a public comment in support if they want Farm Credit associations to be more transparent about their YBS lending programs and more proactive about serving YBS farmers.