New Report from Croatan Institute explores Farm Credit Lending Practices

Joshua Humphreys

November 16, 2023

Croatan Institute, in partnership with Self-Help Credit Union, has released a new report, “Credit Worth and Soil Wealth: An Environmental, Social, and Governance Analysis of the Farm Credit System.” Some of the key takeaways from the report can be seen below:

  1. With nearly $350 billion in assets, Farm Credit cumulatively is the largest lender to the agricultural sector, making approximately 45% of all agricultural loans.  

  2. Farm Credit faces an opportunity to invest equitably in farmers while providing green bonds and investments that address climate solutions, regenerative agriculture, and resilient rural development.  

  3. 85% of Farm Credit’s borrowers hold only 17% of the total amount of loans outstanding, averaging less than $500,000 per loan. Approximately $206 billion of the $373 billion outstanding in Farm Credit’s loan portfolio is held by only 1.2% of its borrowers with loans averaging over $28.5 million for the top 1%. Today, the deviation of Farm Credit’s loan portfolio from its initial focus on farmers who seek farm mortgages that private banks will not provide now represents a credit risk.

  4. Farm Credit lacks transparency in their data, with the only available data on the number of farmers financed by the system being associated with “Young, Beginning, and Small” farmers and ranchers which are all lumped together.

  5. To date, Farm Credit has not published a formal ESG strategy or incorporated ESG metrics in their loan criteria, contrary to other Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

  6. Across Environmental, Social, and Governance categories, Farm Credit lags behind other Government Sponsored Enterprises with respect to consideration of climate risk, acknowledgment of historical discrimination in loans, diversity on their board, and other criteria. 

Report lead author Josh Humphreys and contributor David Beck spoke with Public News Service in an interview about the report: “Agriculture is not immune from a wide array of environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities,” Humphreys noted. “I think that’s the key takeaway, is that we really want to encourage the Farm Credit System to end its laggard position among government-sponsored enterprises.” Humphreys observed.

See Self-Help’s press release highlighting the report’s release here.

To read the full report, click here. For media inquiries, contact Croatan Institute at soilwealth@croataninstitute.org.