This month, Theresa Windham, Secretary, and I were given the opportunity by the National Office to attend the Farm Loan Programs National Training November 30th - December 4th in Albuquerque, NM. The remaining NACS Executive Board was able to attend the training through selection by their respective FLCs, including John Gehrke, VP; Tom Shelton, Treasurer; and Tanya Dostal, Past President. Jim Radintz, DAFLP, opened the meeting with a conference overview, introductions, and farm loan briefing. Opening remarks were also provided by Val Dolcini, FSA Administrator; Lanon Baccam, Deputy Under Secretary FFAS; and Latrice Hill, representing DAFO. Some highlights of the training included presentations from Nathan Kauffman, AVP & District Executive of Federal Reserve of Kansas City - Omaha Branch, and Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus of Virginia Institute and State University.
Mr. Kauffman provided an agricultural forecast, discussing current agricultural finance conditions, as well as the outlook for future risk. Mr. Kauffman highlighted several important points throughout his presentation, including the abundance of uncertainty, especially in China; the current conditions which indicate liquidity as a key factor for future financial stress; the current state of interest rates; the escalation of operation consolidations; the growing concern regarding cash flow; the strengthening of the dollar, resulting in exports becoming more expensive; and the unlikeliness of a 1980's-style bust. Overall, Mr. Kauffman emphasized the agricultural sector is in a period of transition with adjusted balance sheets and decreasing profit margins.
Dr. Kohl addressed the agricultural economic reset and how to position producers for success, as well as several macro factors impacting the agricultural economy, such as the burn rate for working capital, the current grain and livestock markets, financial and non-financial characteristics for possible financial issues, and perspectives for working through turbulent times. Dr. Kohl also highlighted several important points throughout his presentation, including the importance of human resource retention, particularly for "coaching" and "teaching" inexperienced loan officials; the increase in educational opportunities for both loan officials and producers; the significance of having a credit strategy to focus on the "90%" so as to retain young farmers and ranchers; and the use of best management practices with regard to analytics and technology.
Multiple topics of discussion were presented by the National Office during the meeting, comprising of effective communication, human resources, information technology, loan making, loan servicing, and outreach. Panel discussions were also conducted, featuring a "partnership panel" discussion involving a direct borrower, a FLM, local lenders, and a mediation representative; along with a "lessons from the past panel" discussion involving four FLCs providing advice, comments, and wisdom on how to prepare for the agricultural economic reset.
The training also afforded the NACS Executive Board the opportunity to meet with Jim Radintz. We discussed hiring concerns, specifically involving inconsistent classifications. Jim indicated these concerns will be followed up with human resources. The 292 GS FTEs vacancies have not yet been filled completely across the nation. The National Office is still developing a "welcome/orientation" training for FLOTs/COTs entering the workforce. FBP Modules will be rolling out soon with the updated version of FBP for FLOTs. Jim also informed us the Deloitte Work Study Report is still in Phase I, but it is estimated GS FTE levels will remain the same or, potentially, increase.
As always, if you have any concerns or issues, please feel free to contact myself or a NACS Board member.
Lisa A. Liska
Denise is a Farm Loan Manager from Nebraska. She was elected NACS President at the June 2018 Convention.