By Dan Kaufman
Our summer vacations are over we're back into the routine of work and school and long for the summer days to return. For over one million hunters heading into the Wisconsin and Michigan woods to hunt deer, the fun is just beginning.
Leaves start turning colors and hunters begin showing off their trail camera pictures, talking about the most recent big buck sightings, and sharing their passion for hunting with family and friends.
Few traditions rival that of deer hunting in Wisconsin and Michigan. Deer camps share their hunting wisdom and strategies from generation to generation and history is shared while each year new memories are created. For many, a successful season is defined by the time spent with family and friends and it never hurts to put a few deer on the pole either. Some are even lucky enough to harvest the trophy buck that many of us have been dreaming about since last season.
GreenStone Farm Credit Services’ Northeast Wisconsin and Upper Peninsula regions would like to share in the tradition and fun by offering prizes for successful hunters. Hunters can enter their bucks in our Big Buck Contest to win cash prizes or enter their does or bucks to win Cuddeback Game Cameras or Cabelas gift cards. Hunters who shoot their first deer will receive a “First Deer Club” trophy from GreenStone FCS.
GreenStone is proud to offer loan products to help hunters realize the dream of owning their own deer hunting property where they can chase big bucks, turkeys, and bears. Contact your local GreenStone office if you’re in search for property of your own and we’d be happy to help you realize that dream.
We wish everyone a safe, successful, and memorable deer season!
Dan Kaufman is a Financial Services Officer at the Coleman, Wisc. branch.
By Brent Spencer
What a great time to be a Michigan dairy farmer! The U.S. dairy market has been on a historic run up in price and profitability over the past year, and the 2015 outlook is extremely positive. The September class III milk price has recently traded at over $24.50 per CWT. Even with the run up in the milk price, feed costs continue to decline and have recently reached four year lows. According to NASS, the income over feed cost over the last fifteen years has averaged $8.13. The September – October income over feed cost is estimated to be $15.75, which is nearly double the historic average.
A combination of things has led to the historically high dairy margins. The drought in 2012 and the high corn and soybean prices that ensued led to a very low income over feed cost, which reduced profitability for dairies in 2012. At the same time, high beef prices led to heavy cull rates which created a slight contraction of the U.S. dairy herd. While milk production has been relatively flat, the domestic and world demand for U.S. dairy products continue to grow. Over the past few years, exports of dairy products have reached 17 percent of U.S. production. A large share of the increased exports has gone to China. This is partially due to the Chinese people’s distrust of their own dairy industry. In the U.S., demand has also been strong in recent years. This can be illustrated by the fact that U.S. butter consumption hit a 40 year high in 2014.
The 2015 futures market indicates a return to closer to historic margins for dairy producers. The average class III milk price for 2015 is between $17 and $18 per CWT. Even with this $6 plus decline in milk price, the margin over feed cost will still remain strong. There are a few reasons for the expected decline in the milk price. As one would expect, the record high margins have triggered expansion in the dairy industry and production has begun to increase. Exports should also begin to slow down. The U.S. dollar has been gaining strength against most of the world currencies. This will cause our products to be more costly outside of our borders. Currently, the U.S. dairy price is considerably higher than the EU and Oceania prices. To illustrate this point, U.S. CME butter prices have traded at over $3 per lb. This is double the New Zealand butter price of $1.50 per pound and is $1.34 higher than the Dutch butter price. Even with U.S. over quota tariffs on butter, it will still be profitable for overseas butter to reach U.S. markets.
As mentioned previously, corn and soybean prices have reached four year lows and in the short term there appears to be little potential for any significant increase in their prices. In the September report, the USDA increased their projected yield on corn to 171.7 bushels per acre. If correct, this will give the U.S. a record crop of 14.395 billion bushels. The increase yield projection was offset some by an expected increase of usage due to the lower price. This increased usage still leaves the U.S. with projected ending stocks of 2.002 billion bushel. This is nearly double last year’s ending stocks. There are limited opportunities for exporting the excess corn since the global corn stocks are at 15 year highs.
Soybeans have a similar story. The September USDA report increased the projected U.S. yield by 1.2 bushels per acre to 46.6. This would be a U.S. record soybean crop of 3.913 billion bushels and, despite an increase in usage, would leave the estimated global ending stocks at 90.17 million metric tons. The previous record global inventory was 70.29 million metric ton in 2010.
Even with the futures class III milk price trending lower, the excellent crop yields for 2014 should keep the income over feed cost at or above historic levels. While 2015 does not look to be the record setting year 2014 is turning into, the lower feed costs should keep the margins profitable and make 2015 another profitable year for Michigan’s dairy farmers.
Brent Spencer is a VP of Commercial Lending for GreenStone Farm Credit Services.
As printed in the latest edition of Michigan Farm News
By: Beth Barker
There is no better time to cultivate a career in the agricultural industry than today. With the agricultural economy strong both in Michigan and the U.S., many employers are expanding their workforce.
Those of us in the industry need to reach out to young people while they are in high school or middle school, to educate and promote the wide variety of career opportunities available in agriculture. Arranging company and farm tours, along with developing internship programs, are some of the ways companies are working to get students interested in this sector. GreenStone focuses on educating our future talent through collaboration with local schools and colleges to help individuals build strong resumes and polish interview skills, our employees raise awareness by getting involved in their local communities and serving in leadership roles with organizations like student marketing groups, and we partner with organizations such as FFA and 4-H to provide hands-on learning. Regardless of the specific actions taken, it is crucial to keep this industry at the forefront of young peoples’ minds.
Thanks to a broad agricultural industry, the job possibilities go far beyond what you might naturally consider part of agriculture, including opportunities for those with backgrounds in fields such as business, education, science and technology. As a financial services institution, GreenStone employs nearly 500 people across our Michigan and Wisconsin territory. If you add up all of the employers within the national Farm Credit System, we collectively employ roughly 15,000 people with careers in lending, underwriting, loan processing, crop insurance, tax and accounting, information services, human resources, finance, marketing, and many more.
As the baby boomer generation continues to age, it is critical to replenish the workforce with talented and passionate individuals committed to providing the world with a safe and sustainable food supply. These are exciting, challenging jobs, many with excellent pay, benefits, and room for advancement.
There are many resources available online to assist with finding a position in the agriculture industry. In addition to the broad job boards, there are also industry specific sites like www.AgCareers.com which attract a wide range of large and small companies and candidates to their site. Jobs posted cover most of agriculture specialties, such as agronomy, crop protection and chemicals, biotechnology, dairy, equipment and machinery, agricultural finance, to name just a few. GreenStone’s job openings are posted on our website, www.greenstonefcs.com, and nationally, the Farm Credit System opportunities are at www.farmcredit.com.
What an exciting time to begin a career in agriculture! It is a place where someone can build expertise, give back to the community, and help sustain the industry for generations to come.
Beth Barker is the executive vice president and chief human resources officer for GreenStone Farm Credit Services.
On Aug. 19 all seven GreenStone interns took a trip to two dairy farms in the area. Our day consisted of touring each facility, talking with the owners and seeing thousands and thousands of dairy cows.
For some interns that have a strong agriculture background, much like myself, these tours were a chance to see inside the dairy operations while being able to chat with the farmers. For the handful of interns that have little to no ag background, the experience of being on the farm was a new and enlightening. Not only were we all able to see these farms in their time of growth and prosperity, but the farmers also shared their background stories, which included some hard pressed times. Each farm owner discussed the hardships that they have experienced and were able to tell us how GreenStone aided them through some of the worst decades in farming. After learning about the Farm Credit System all summer, we could finally complete the circle of what we do on a daily basis and how it truly does help agriculturalists in our community.
At the end of our afternoon, we walked into the birthing barn to find a cow in labor. Within minutes a new baby calf was on the ground. Although having a birth on the farm is far from a rare event, it truly represented our lesson of the day. Just as this calf had been brought into the world with a lifetime of growth ahead of it, GreenStone gives new light to farms in Michigan and Wisconsin to grow and expand to their highest potential.
We had a great time on our farm visits and it was inspiring to see the operations that GreenStone has supported for many decades. As our internship comes to a close, we are able to see how important our work is here at GreenStone and we are all grateful for the experiences we have had this summer!
About the author: Abby Carpenter is a regional sales intern.
Recently, I had the experience of job shadowing two of GreenStone’s financial services officers. I spent the day in the Lapeer branch with Marty Kasperski who focuses on agricultural customers, and Sandy Arnold, who assists customers with their country home and vacant land financing needs. The experience was eye-opening in terms of how GreenStone does business with their customers.
Interning in the credit department, I do not have involvement with the customers. I am a number cruncher, and as one credit analyst recently put it, sometimes it may mean being a “dream crusher” when those numbers don't work out.
I felt in order to get a holistic view of GreenStone, I needed to see the other side of the business. Sales are what drive any business and I was interested to see what differentiated GreenStone from the competition. I can confidently say I found my answer.
When people hear the word “sales,” an image that first comes to mind is the pushy salesman we have all experienced. Honestly, I had the same mindset when I asked to job shadow in one of the branch locations. GreenStone prides itself on being a relationship lender and not that pushy salesman we all envision.
GreenStone’s mindset can be described like a field that is planted. The field has to be tended to make it grow into a fruitful crop. The financial services officer plants the seed with their customers and then, like any good farmer, they have to tend to the field in order for it to grow while managing the ups and downs of the growing season. It is the same with any customer relationship. It takes time and diligence to build the relationship and produce a fruitful crop that not only benefits GreenStone, but the customer as well.
The financial services officers are referred to as relationship managers and this title fits them perfectly. Their job is to bring in money through completing deals for loans, but as I described above it, it is so much more than only that. At GreenStone, it is about managing the relationship to ensure financial security for GreenStone and also for the customer. To put it simply, if our customers thrive, GreenStone thrives as well. We are all in this together.
Making sure, through relationship management, our customers prosper is priority number one. The main thing I learned is managing customer relationships is, and will always be, the focus and key to GreenStone’s success.
About the author:
Joshua Jordal is a credit intern in GreenStone's East Lansing corporate office.
As printed in the latest edition of Michigan Farm News
By: Richard Wilson
Webster defines a relationship as “the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc. talk to, behave toward and deal with each other.” To get the most from your relationship with your lender, both parties must determine what is the most professional and efficient way to conduct business.
It has been said in real estate, the three most important things are location, location and location. With relationships, it is communication, communication and communication. Today, we have more ways to communicate than probably any point in history, but that does not necessarily make it any simpler. I can scan documents and email them to a customer, but that may not be communicating in the fashion they prefer; it is important that I know the way my customer likes to communicate. As humans, it is also still vitally important we do not forget to communicate in person. Strong, lasting relationships are built on time spent together, and I do not see that changing, no matter what technology comes down the pike.
The second part of a relationship is how we behave toward each other. Behavior between a borrower and lender is certainly a two way street, which is how a relationship should function. As a borrower, you have expectations of how your lender should behave and conduct his or herself. The Boy Scout Law comes to mind and the first three rules always apply. They are to behave in a trustworthy, loyal and helpful fashion at all times. Trustworthy means that the relationship is handled in the strictest confidence, loyalty is a loan company that stands with you through thick and thin, and helpful is the lender that goes above and beyond your expectations simply because you are valued.
From a lenders perspective, a trustworthy customer ranks the highest on the list. The most effective way to maximize your trust with a lender is accurate and timely financial records. This includes financial, profit and loss statements and tax returns. Many farmers today use accounting or CPA firms, and helping your lender establish a strong relationship with these individuals is also critical. This will allow the lender to process loan requests and provide financial assistance in a time frame that meets both parties’ needs.
How we deal with each other is the last variable in the relationship equation. This is a function of time, or in other words, the length of the relationship. The initial phase of relationships tend to move a slower as you learn about each other and your business practices. This can sometimes cause frustration, but this beginning part of the relationship is where the foundation is being laid for all future dealings. As the relationship matures and the comfort levels between borrower and lender increase, the lender is better able to serve the borrower’s needs. Yes, time and comfort do not lessen the need to continue working closely together. A level of mutual respect is, in my opinion, the “high water mark” between the borrower and lender.
The most rewarding part of being a financial services officer has been the business relationships that I have developed over the years. There is no substitute for a warm smile and a firm handshake when you meet a customer at their home or office knowing they are relying on you to help them solve a problem. Successful relationships take time and nurturing for which there is no substitute. Lastly, remember to always tell your financial professional what you are thinking, because credit training did not teach us how to read minds.
About the author:
Richard Wilson is a financial services officer in GreenStone's Monroe branch.
Last week, I attended the Ag Expo at Michigan State University and it was a great experience. I had the opportunity to meet fellow GreenStone employees from other branches and interact with some of our customers. In our booth, we had Plinko and attendees could play to win an array of fun prizes. To participate, all they had to do was answer one question pertaining to agriculture. I was in charge of running the game and it was a great way to attract people to our booth along with educating the public on the ag industry. Also, watching the kids’ faces light up when they discovered the color-changing cup they won went from green to blue, was priceless!
Ag Expo is an important event for GreenStone to attend. It is not about how many new customers we receive or to purely generate business. It lets people know who GreenStone is, our willingness to assist whenever they may need us down the road and establish a personal bond with attendees. While spending the day at the expo, I was able to work behind the scenes and observe a side of GreenStone I would not have had the opportunity to otherwise. As an intern, it was a great way to become more familiar with the type of interaction GreenStone staff has with prospects and current customers!
About the author:
Adam Boes is a capital markets intern in GreenStone's East Lansing corporate office.
As printed in the latest edition of Michigan Farm News
By: Tim McTigue
With the significant capital costs, starting a career in farming can be challenging. Beyond the expense of acquiring the land and equipment, the cost of operating a farm until harvest can be overwhelming. For these reasons, the Farm Services Agency (FSA) created the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Loan Program. The program helps provide young farmers with the means to start a career in production agriculture.
If you are a farmer, producer or harvester of agricultural products and fall under one of the categories below, you may be eligible for this program:
- Young – 35 year of age or younger
- Beginning – 10 years or less owning a farm
- Small – generating less than $250,000 in annual gross sales
Either directly through FSA or through agriculture lenders like GreenStone Farm Credit Services, young, beginning and small farmers are able to secure financing with flexible underwriting standards on agricultural loans. The fees are typically more favorable and the advance rates on collateral are more aggressive. The loans can be used for equipment, operating expenses and land. The lender works cooperatively with FSA to help the borrower start out on sound footing.
FSA also has special loan programs to assist socially disadvantaged (SDA) and beginning farmers to purchase farms with a down payment as low as 5 percent. FSA will typically lend up to 45 percent of the lower of the purchase price or appraised value of the farm – not to exceed $300,000. The remaining balance may be obtained from an agriculture lender that will work with FSA to secure the loan. The amortization of the farm loan is typically for 30 years and the rate is usually locked in for the full duration of the loan.
For more information on the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Loan Program or other FSA programs, you can call your local FSA office, visit their website at http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/, or speak with your local lender like GreenStone.
About the author:
Tim McTigue is a regional vice president of sales and customer relations based in GreenStone's Berrien Springs branch.
My family and I came to the U.S. in search of better opportunities, just like any other immigrant. Although I was only a child, I had many dreams that I wanted to accomplish. I did not realize the path to achieve my goals would be extremely tough and sometimes it seemed as though the journey would be impossible. Without the assistance of the Michigan State University College (MSU) Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), I would not be where I am today.
CAMP is a federally funded program that helps students from migrant and seasonal farm working background to succeed in their first year of college. Every year at MSU, CAMP recruits approximately 60 students and provides support to complete their respective degree. For the first year, CAMP supports the students with all of their financial and emotional needs. One of the biggest advantages of this program is they are able to facilitate in-state tuition for their out-of-state students. A migrant background does not allow one to have a settled home because constant travel to various states for their parents’ work is necessary. For this reason, CAMP students are offered the in-state tuition rate.
Before I was accepted into the program, my family and I used to migrate every year from Florida to North Carolina and Michigan for the harvest of blueberries and strawberries. With my background qualifying me for the CAMP program, all my expenses from tuition to books were paid for during my first year at MSU and the assistance did not stop there. Due to my GPA status, I was rewarded with a stipend at end of my first and second semesters and I also received assistance with books and advice whenever I needed it after the completion of my freshman year. In addition, even though I am about to graduate, CAMP is still helping with my search for internships and jobs.
I learned about the internship opportunities at GreenStone through one of my CAMP mentors, Rudy Ramos. He encouraged me to apply for the Training and Development intern position that was available and I am glad I did! So far, this experience has given me the chance to meet many great people and also learn about the other opportunities available within the Farm Credit System. Also through this internship, I have been exposed to all the positive effects farm credit institutions have on agriculture and those who depend on it for a living.
About the author:
Juana Lopez is a training and development intern in GreenStone's East Lansing corporate office.
By: Yvonne Fleis
Summertime in northern Mich. means sun, fun at the lake and of course the annual fair. Anytime now, we will begin hearing the jingle “Going to the fair, going to the fair, going to the Northwestern Michigan Fair!” signaling that it is once again time for our fair! While the 4-H kids are training with their livestock projects, GreenStone is planning the second annual Youth Moo-vement!
GreenStone’s Traverse City location has decided to take on a role in the surrounding communities to raise agriculture awareness among the youth by getting involved in the local fairs. 2013 marked our first Youth Moo-vement event with the Northwestern Michigan Fair. The contest required entrants to submit a short essay discussing one of the following topics:
- How has 4-H impacted your life?
- What have you learned from raising a project animal?
- What does agriculture mean to you and why did you choose to get involved in agriculture?
Participating 4-H students have the chance to win a junior beer steer, which would be brought back to the fair the following year as the project entry. The number of quality essays we received was incredible; some went the extra mile to include pictures and even a video submission! The essays were extremely well done and at the 2013 4-H awards banquet, we decided to give out two awards to the deserving entries. First place went to the junior beef (which will be brought back to the 2014 fair) and second place received $200 to go towards the participant’s 2014 project animal. Throughout this past year, we have received regular updates from the first place winner to show the progress with her steer. We are excited to see her steer - Boo - compete in market and showmanship in the 2014 Northwestern Michigan Fair!
So whether you are looking for an eventful day out with the family, an elephant ear or just a ride on the Ferris wheel, visit your local fair. Be sure to ask the 4-H students to tell you about their projects. I think it is safe to say they will be happy to chat about their experience, and maybe even educate you on the 4-H program, their steer or the ag industry!
About the author:
Yvonne Fleis is a tax accountant in GreenStone's Traverse City branch.