Despite pandemic, Farm Credit continues to educate Congress about farm needs

Customers and staff discuss PPP, loan deferrals and infrastructure needs; set stage for in-person ‘farmers market’ in D.C. this Fall.

During the spring, hundreds of Farm Credit members and staff from California and around the country head to Washington, D.C., for the annual Farm Credit Fly-In. While at the Capitol, associates visit with their members of Congress and key federal regulators to discuss pending legislation and other important matters affecting agriculture.

This year, since COVID-19 restrictions were in effect and many lawmakers and their staff were working from home, the usual Fly-In was restructured to make it a virtual lobbying effort on behalf of the agricultural community. In addition, this offered an opportunity to set the stage for an in-person experience in November, which will include a “farmers market” reception that will give lawmakers and other policymakers a first-hand look at the wide array of products American farmers grow.

Tim Elrod, CEO of Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, said lobbying during the pandemic was essential – especially this year, as the change in administrations and congressional leadership has led to numerous initiatives that could affect farmers and ranchers in California and elsewhere.

“COVID hasn’t stopped Farm Credit from advocating on behalf of agriculture and rural communities,” Elrod said. “We’re letting our members of Congress know what we have been doing as ag lenders to support our customers and others in the farming community. It’s an opportunity to begin introductions to new members and check into longstanding relationships we’ve made with existing members, and it’s an opportunity to tell our stories.”

Farm Credit members and officials have explained how the cooperative has supported its customers through loan deferrals and the Paycheck Protection Program, and how as a cooperative, patronage payments drive dollars back into community.

Curt Hudnutt, CEO of American AgCredit, said this year there have been additional issues for Congress to discuss.

“We believe it’s important that agriculture be involved in discussions on infrastructure. It’s essential that federal investments in infrastructure benefit rural areas as well as major population centers,” Hudnutt said. “That’s especially true as lawmakers discuss efforts to make broadband more available in rural areas. COVID-19 has really demonstrated the need for connectivity everywhere, and improved broadband service has to be part of infrastructure improvements.”

Supporting Farm Credit institutions American Ag Credit, CoBank, Colusa-Glenn Farm Credit, Farm Credit West, Fresno Madera Farm Credit, Golden State Farm Credit and Yosemite Farm Credit are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System, the largest provider of credit to American agriculture.

Jeana Hultquist, Vice President for Legislative Affairs for American AgCredit, said other top priorities discussed with lawmakers this year include climate change, noting that Farm Credit members have embraced many practices over the years that contribute to sustainability and lower carbon emissions, such as no-till farming, using cover crops and drip irrigation.

“Of course, this year especially, water infrastructure is a top priority, as are proposals to eliminate stepped-up basis, which for estate tax purposes makes it possible to transfer family farms from one generation to the next,” she added. “I think these calls have been very effective. Members show up, whether they’re at home or in DC.”