Editor’s Note: To help celebrate Cooperative Month in October, USDA will be running blogs about the nation’s co-op sector, starting with a look at the nation’s producer-owned financial institution: Farm Credit. This blog is based on comments from Joy Upchurch, Vice President at AgFirst Farm Credit Bank.
Since 1916, Farm Credit has been a trusted partner to agricultural producers and agribusinesses across rural America. As a nationwide network of cooperatively owned banks and retail lending associations, it is fitting that we help acknowledge October as Cooperative Month. This celebration coincides with a historic milestone for Farm Credit. As we celebrate the cooperative nature of our member organizations, we are also in the midst of celebrating Farm Credit’s 95th anniversary of service to rural America.
When Farm Credit was established, nearly one in three Americans farmed the land. Today, farmers make up less than 1 percent of our population, with fewer than 1 million working to feed 308 million Americans – plus untold millions more people around the globe. Their ability to do so is a testament to the willingness of U.S. farmers and ranchers to work hard and adapt to change.
During the past 95 years, Farm Credit has worked with our customer-owners to meet their changing needs. From a time when technology meant horse-drawn plows and business planning consisted of prayers for rain, we have evolved alongside our nation’s farmers and ranchers, helping to finance innovations such as computerized tractors and automated irrigation systems. Today, Farm Credit continues to help producers improve efficiency with new technologies, to increase yields to feed a growing world and to expand facilities to support changing consumer demand.
Our nation’s food system is unparalleled in the world due to the commitment and progressiveness of our farmers and ranchers – hundreds of thousands of whom are Farm Credit customer-owners. As members of cooperatives, they not only borrow from Farm Credit, they share in the governance of the System. Farm credit member-owners vote for and serve on boards of directors that govern their organizations and ensure that Farm Credit remains focused on its mission of serving rural America. And, in most cases, they share in profits through patronage programs.
Together, Farm Credit and its customer-owners work to continue providing safe, abundant and affordable food to America and the world.
Secretary Tom Vilsack has declared October National Cooperative Month. To find out more, click here.
To read the proclamation click here.