Finding the right lender for an agricultural operation is a key business decision that can impact the success of an operation. Because of the high capital needs and the cyclical nature of agriculture – as soon as one season is over, preparation for the next begins – farmers and ranchers are best served when they find a lender with whom they can work long-term, both working together for the producer’s success.
Building a strong lender relationship can happen quickly or it might take some time, but there are several essential aspects to achieving this goal.
- Dependability: We all know that agriculture has its ups and downs, and a situation that benefits one sector might create a challenge for another. Farmers and ranchers should look for a lender that will stand by their side even during a difficult or challenging economic environment.
- Consistency: The right lender will treat their customers consistently through whatever opportunities might present themselves. For example, underwriting standards shouldn’t constantly change because the land market goes up or down, or corn prices become volatile, or cattle prices rise or fall.
- Communication: Lenders need to be clear about what information they need and when, setting the stage for both parties to know what to expect. The lender should also clearly explain financial expectations, such as the owner-equity ratio necessary for future loans so the producer knows what he or she needs to work toward. The customer, meanwhile, should feel comfortable sharing their long-term goals so the lender can work on their behalf to help achieve them.
- Commitment: It takes a lot of hard work to succeed in agriculture, but working with a lender who is committed to your success can make it that much easier. This commitment means proactively reviewing customers’ operations and the broader lending environment, and presenting ideas that will benefit the customer – suggesting refinancing of loans when interest rates drop, flagging any areas of potential concern in the balance sheet before they become a problem, or setting loan terms that the customer will be able to meet such as matching payments to anticipated cash flow. The lender should also sometimes challenge their customers, helping them think differently about what might be possible.
When both the lender and the borrower display the characteristics outlined above, they’ll build the most important feature of any strong relationship: TRUST. With a trusted financial provider by their side, agricultural producers can be more confident in managing their operations, capitalizing on opportunities and planning for the future.
At United FCS, we serve 22 counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin. You can find one of our 12 conveniently located offices by clicking here. To find other local Farm Credit lenders, visit www.farmcredit.com/locations.