Approximately two years ago, the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee held an historic hearing in which it performed its responsibility of oversight of the Farm Credit System. You may recall that Rep. Marlin Stutzman from Indiana had penned a letter that received a good deal of media coverage questioning some of the acts of the Farm Credit System Banks.
Both the American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America enlisted bankers who provided excellent testimony. The bankers were well prepared for this committee hearing, as opposed to the Farm Credit System representatives, who were not well prepared. Following the hearing, many of the committee members walked away concerned about some practices of the Farm Credit Banks.
Tomorrow, May 19, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry is holding its oversight meeting regarding the Farm Credit System. The ABA and the ICBA again have engaged bankers who are well prepared to testify regarding some of the actions of Farm Credit Banks that seem outside of their mission. I suspect that this time the Farm Credit System representatives will be much better prepared. That remains to be seen, since the Farm Credit System has a different regime in place today.
Indiana is again ably represented, as our own Sen. Joe Donnelly is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He also serves as a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs and has been a champion for community bank regulatory relief.
The fact that committees from both the House and Senate have been assessing the performance of the Farm Credit System represents quite a coup. It had been more than 10 years ago that either of these congressional committees had exercised FCS oversight responsibilities. After tomorrow, both will have done so. These meetings have occurred because of the outcry from community bankers through the state bank trade associations, the ABA and the ICBA. Absent our voices, I doubt that these meetings regarding the Farm Credit System would have taken place.
Many Indiana bankers have joined the chorus, in the past several years, requesting that hearings be held. This is a huge win for banking, and a testament to the collective strength of our voices. So often we have been frustrated by actions coming out of Washington, DC, particularly in the past eight years. This victory proves that bankers are being heard. Yes, the legislative process is a slow-moving machine, and often it seems as if no one listens to industry concerns. The next time you feel that way, however, think about how bankers’ efforts managed to move the needle relative to the Farm Credit System.
Also consider how continuing efforts in other areas, such as regulatory relief, will pay off at some point. Regulatory relief is the right thing to do, and congressmen from both parties know that it must be accomplished. An effective way for you to add your voice is to participate in the Indiana Bankers Association Annual Washington Trip, set for Sept. 25-27. Last year we had an impressive 57 bankers attend the trip, out of a total of 88 attendees. This year I hope that we have 75 bankers and over 100 attendees. That level of outreach makes a statement to congressmen that our concerns need attention.
My hope is that tomorrow’s hearing will shine a light on some of the unfair practices and advantages that the Farm Credit System has over bankers. I also hope you will join us in September to express your concerns in Washington, DC.
– S. Joe DeHaven