By: Ian McGonigal
Where can you find a lender that is willing to share net earnings with its customers? If you are in Michigan or northeast Wisconsin, the answer is: just around the corner.
GreenStone recently gave $29 million – more than 20 percent of the cooperative’s net earnings – back to its members. With 36 office locations throughout our territory, chances are there is a GreenStone branch just around the corner from your farm operation or rural home.
Our local offices celebrated Patronage Day on March 19, 2014. On this day, $29 Million was paid back to GreenStone customers as the 2013 patronage payment. This marks the ninth consecutive year that GreenStone has paid patronage back to its members, and brings the total amount of patronage paid to more than $163 million!
I spent my day at our Grand Rapids, Mich., office talking with customers as they came in to pick-up their patronage checks. The feedback from customers was overwhelmingly positive. Throughout the day I heard many people say “Thank you,” “What a great program,” and “This really reduces our interest rate.” The turn-out at the branch was also great. The branch lobby was packed (and loud!), farmers talking to other farmers, GreenStone staff talking to customers, all while consuming our fair share of calories from the snacks and lunch for everyone to enjoy. It actually seemed like a celebration between GreenStone and our customers. In many ways it should, and here is why:
- GreenStone’s annual patronage payment to its customers is a reflection of the cooperative’s performance and earnings during that year. In 2013, GreenStone reported record net earnings of $135 million, so the $29 million paid out in patronage was also a record.
- Paying patronage puts funds back in the hands of the customer – where they came from initially – so that those dollars can be reinvested into our members’ farm operations.
- Patronage payments reduce our clients’ borrowing costs, save them money and allow GreenStone to be competitive in the marketplace.
All-in-all, it was an awesome day! Great conversations, good food, happy customers and leaving your lender’s office with a check, it does not get much better than that!
Let’s hope spring actually shows up soon!
About the author:
Ian McGonigal is a regional vice president of sales and customer relations based in GreenStone's Grand Rapids branch.
By: Cindy Birchmeier
I recently had the privilege of speaking at the Michigan FFA state convention during the VIP reception on behalf of GreenStone Farm Credit Services. At the reception the Star award candidates were recognized as well as platinum level sponsors of the convention. Upon entering the convention headquarters there was a sea of blue and gold jackets as well as a feeling of electricity in the air! It was great to be back in that atmosphere again as a wave of nostalgia took me back to my days of being an FFA member.
GreenStone has been a long standing supporter of the FFA convention and the organization as a whole. As a past state FFA officer in my home state of Minnesota, it makes me proud to say that I work for an organization that is giving back to the organization that gave me so much. Through my experience as a FFA officer and national FFA degree recipient, I know first-hand the opportunities afforded to FFA members. Through donations made to the Michigan FFA Foundation, FFA members have the opportunity to develop lifelong skills, not to mention the opportunity to travel around the country and even around the world.
It is with the knowledge and professional leadership development this organization provides that students come into the production or agribusiness workforce armed with the necessary skills to thrive and become valued employees almost immediately. Moreover, FFA members possess many virtues that make them very successful members in their communities having a lifelong positive influence on the lives of the youths they encounter.
It is with this in mind that I would like to thank everyone who has made contributions to the Michigan FFA Foundation as these contributions are vital for the continued success of the organization. I am especially grateful to GreenStone and the board of directors for their continued support of the FFA organization. As a past FFA member, “thank you” for your many contributions to an organization that has had a profound positive influence in my life!
About the Author:
Cindy Birchmeier is a regional vice president of sales and customer relations based in GreenStone's St. John's, Michigan, branch.
By: Andrew Kudwa
Frozen beneath a blanket of snow and ice there is a perfect home site waiting to be discovered. It may be difficult to think about at the end of an especially cold winter, but spring is right around the corner and so is the start of the construction season.
Home sites are selling quickly in this area as the need for new construction continues to drive the market. Inventories for residential homes are particularly low in some areas and because of that shortage people are looking for alternatives, such as locating a home site with the idea of building their primary residence on the site in the near future. The problem most people face is in identifying that perfect home site that will meet their needs both today and into the future.
Since GreenStone specializes in home site lending we are a great resource for helping you understand the buying process, especially since many of our customers have purchased homes before but are new to purchasing land. This is where asking the right questions can help in your search and due diligence of the property that is the best fit for you. We can help you to better understand the questions that need to be considered.
We encourage our customers to consider the following types of questions:
- What kind of space and how many acres are you looking for?
- Do you have a need to build other buildings besides a home on the property (large garage, pole barn, “man cave”)?
- How big of a house do you want to build and does the township or site condo have any restrictions?
- Is the value of the home site you are interested in proportional to the home you wish to build?
- Does the home site have a perk test and do the results indicate that you would need to bring in an engineered septic system?
- Is the home site located within a flood plain, and as a result, would your new primary residence require flood insurance?
These are only a few of the questions you would need to think about along the way and utilizing the services of a professional realtor can really help guide you toward discovering a property that best fits your needs. Once you have found that property, GreenStone would be able to help you finance that property and make sure that you are comfortable with both the process and transition into your construction loan.
Be sure to make use of the resources that are available to you like realtors, township offices, assessors, builders and other professionals in the local industry that can help guide you through the process. It is important to take your time in the search. There will always be properties that come up for sale and even if you do not get that first “perfect” parcel, know there are a number of beautiful properties from which to choose.
Remember that perfection is in the eye of the beholder and, at the end of the day, you are the one who needs to be happy with your purchase.
If you would like any additional information on GreenStone’s interest rates or lending terms for home sites, vacant land or recreational property please visit our website at www.greenstonefcs.com or call our toll free number at 1-800-444-3276.
About the Author:
Andrew Kudwa is a country living financial services officer in our Ann Arbor branch.
By: Brandon Walters
Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 was a historic day on the campus of Michigan State University. President Barack Obama was in town to sign the 2014 Farm Bill, bringing closure to a process that has been in motion since the passage of the last Farm Bill in 2008. There were a few notable changes to agricultural risk management, but all in all I believe the changes were positive. Additionally, the bill provides new risk management programs, as well as some long overdue adjustments to the common crop insurance policy that will allow producers to customize their risk management strategy at a higher level. Everything mentioned below will be implemented starting in the 2015 crop year.
- The Farm Bill created two new risk management plans: Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC). Similar to the old ACRE and SURE programs, a producer will have to make a one-time decision to enroll in either of the two programs. If a producer does not make a decision, they are enrolled in the PLC program. Additionally, program-specific payment caps have gone away, putting in place a $125,000 cap on all commodity programs combined, or $250,000 for married couples.
- Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) allows a producer who is enrolled in PLC to purchase a county-level insurance that covers part of the deductible under their individual policy, with coverage beginning at 86 percent. Will begin implementation in the 2015 crop year.
- Enterprise unit subsidy levels were made permanent. The current subsidy levels originate from the 2008 Farm Bill and were considered a pilot program; they are now considered permanent.
- Separate insurance coverage will be allowed for dry land and irrigated acres. Starting in 2015, you will be allowed to keep irrigated acreage separate from non-irrigated acreage, even on an enterprise unit basis.
- The insurance plug yield for the Yield Adjustment (YA) option is increased to 70 percent from 60 percent, and producers are now allowed to exclude years from their APH database where the county yield was at least 50 percent below the county average yield for the previous 10 consecutive crop years. This will help so widespread disasters do not have a lasting effect on a producer’s APH.
- The Risk Management Agency (RMA) is given a clear mandate to focus on developing insurance products for underserved commodities. Studies are authorized for insurance of swine and poultry catastrophic disease, poultry business interruption, and food safety. Insurance for organic crops is to offer price elections that reflect the retail or wholesale price, as appropriate. Index-based weather insurance pilot programs are a priority.
These are just a few of the more notable changes to the crop insurance program as a result of the 2014 Farm Bill. For more information on how these changes will impact your operation, contact your local GreenStone crop insurance specialist.
About the Author:
Brandon Walters is GreenStone’s crop insurance product manager, based in our East Lansing corporate office.
By: Kaylee Reynolds
Q1 Buck Pole – if you haven’t heard of it and you’re an avid Whitetail deer hunter in Michigan, than you’re definitely missing out on a great opportunity to support the sport and brag about the season’s harvest.
Each year, hunters from all over Michigan register their bucks at a Q1 Buck Pole registration site where they are scored based upon number of points, inside spread, mass and longest tine. They are then ranked in comparison to that region’s harvest and honored at that regional party for the top two scored bucks. And perhaps, if you bagged a big one, you may be honored at the final party as one of the biggest!
The party isn’t all about the big kill, however. It’s more about supporting the upcoming generation of hunters and passing on their prior generation’s passion for the sport. People from all ages are presented with the opportunity to get up on stage, deer rack in hand, and tell their hunting tale of how it all went down. If you know anything about hunting, the story is just as important as the antlers and most often, even more important. It’s that special story of the first buck or maybe the huge “thirty” point that you missed due to buck fever that is shared around the card table during deer season. Q1 Buck Pole gives every hunter the opportunity to share their story, come together to support their passion, and proudly smile at the accomplishments of both the experienced hunter and the novice.
So even if this year’s buck isn’t a giant, you should still register. That’s your ticket into the party and the opportunity to walk away with some great prizes drawn throughout the night and to build camaraderie with your fellow hunters.
So this may be the point where you’re asking, how does GreenStone fit with Q1 Buck Pole? We understand the rural lifestyle and quite honestly many of our employees are avid hunters too! And even if some are not, it is GreenStone’s love for the great outdoors that brings us together. We understand the shear excitement of purchasing that special property and want to be there to help accomplish those dreams. It isn’t always about farms with us, as our name suggests, but rather the rural community and our support for all different types of passions for the land we live on, be it agricultural or recreational.
So come find us on Feb. 7 at the final Q1 Buck Pole party at Firekeeper’s Casino in Battle Creek, Michigan, where the big prize is a brand new ATV! We’ll be there proudly sponsoring this great event and perhaps, sharing a few hunting stories of our own.
If you missed out this season but hope to participate in next, please find the rules to enter or learn more about Q1 Buck Pole at www.q1buckpole.com.
About the author:
Kaylee Reynolds is a country living financial services officer in our Hillsdale branch.
With the arrival of June comes graduation celebrations and parties for graduating high school seniors throughout Michigan and Wisconsin. Many graduates are excited to head off to college and build experiences and friendships that will last a lifetime.
GreenStone believes education is a cornerstone to the long-term success of the agriculture industry, and helping individuals achieve their educational goals is important to the organization’s President and CEO, Dave Armstrong. That commitment to education is why GreenStone offers scholarship opportunities to students who chose to pursue a college education in an agriculture related field.
Each year GreenStone awards six, $2,000 scholarships to undergraduate students. Five students are selected from Michigan State University (MSU), while one student is chosen from the University of Wisconsin.
Armstrong recently explained why it is important for GreenStone to remain committed to providing scholarship opportunities for these undergraduate students:
GreenStone also recently awarded several scholarships to students at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Armstrong took the time to explain why GreenStone’s partnership with the College of Veterinary Medicine is vital to the health of agriculture:
As a seasoned professional with more than 30 years of Farm Credit experience, Armstrong knows what it takes to succeed in this industry. Here he shares some advice for success with recent graduates:
Michigan’s food processors have been in the spotlight much of the past several weeks after a Food and Agriculture Strategic Growth Initiative was proposed in Gov. Snyder’s budget. Food processors are a large part of Michigan’s agriculture industry that produces an economic impact of $91.4 billion on the state’s economy each year. In fact, food processing alone produces an economic impact of nearly $25 billion!
Food processing in Michigan is big business for many companies, many of whom can be seen on grocery store shelves in your neighborhood. In addition to local and regional brands like Kowalski Sausage, Better Made Snack Foods, and Country Fresh, Michigan is also home to many nationally recognized household brands, including: Gerber, Kellogg’s, and Jiffy Mixes.
The proposed Food Agriculture Strategic Growth Initiative would assist primarily small to medium size processors by funding research, education and technical assistance efforts with the aim of removing barriers and increasing opportunities identified by food processors, agri-business, and farmers. Designed around a competitive grant process, the initiative would support research into technology innovation, workforce preparation, food safety, environmental protection technology and food processing.
Michigan Food Processing Facts:
- Nearly $25 billion in economic impact to the state
- Employs more than 130,000 Michigan residents
- Michigan ranks 19th in the nation with 1,841 licensed food processors
Several individuals from GreenStone recently had the opportunity to join the Michigan FFA at their annual State Convention on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. The convention was full of excitement and provided a great opportunity for the GreenStone team to engage with the up-and-coming generation of agricultural leaders.
The festivities got started with a reception, co-sponsored by GreenStone and the Michigan Farm Bureau, honoring Michigan FFA Star Award finalists. At the reception, GreenStone’s executive vice president of customer delivery, Jack Kelly, addressed attendees and talked about GreenStone’s commitment to agriculture and developing young leaders. He also noted that many of GreenStone’s 475 employees have been or are currently involved in agriculture.
Following the reception, GreenStone’s President and CEO, Dave Armstrong, kicked off the evening’s general session with a check presentation for $25,000 to the Michigan FFA Foundation. Supporting the FFA and ensuring the success of the next generation of agricultural leaders is vital to the industry and GreenStone.
Here, Armstrong explains why GreenStone continues to invest in this important organization:
With the holiday season upon us, it is a good time to reflect on the year that was 2012. For many, the last 12 months provided a record year with strong crop yields and record farm income. While there is cause for celebration for many of GreenStone’s customers, it is also important to remember that many producers, particularly fruit producers in the northwest part of Michigan, were devastated by erratic weather that wiped out much of their crop.
I recently talked with GreenStone President and CEO, Dave Armstrong, about the past several months, here is what he had to say:
Video Clip: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egqcwq3NcFI&feature=g-crec-u[/youtube]
Dave also talked about GreenStone’s role in providing affected fruit producers with disaster relief funds as well as the successful year the organization had in 2012.
Video Clip: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hHVk0ObR9V8&feature=g-crec-u[/youtube]
Dave also took time to remind producers of some of the challenges facing the agriculture industry.
Video Clip: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bts32XBxdTg&feature=g-crec-u[/youtube]
To close out the CEO Footnotes blog for 2012, Dave wanted to share a special message with our customers.
Video Clip: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVAHN9tpddo&feature=g-crec-u[/youtube]
Are you a runner? You might not have the right running shoes or running clothes but this time of year we are all runners. Speedily racing from store to store, running to our homes of our family members during the holidays, running for work events, social events and more family activities than we can count. Running is what we do this time of year and you almost need a vacation from the vacation just to recover from it all. As you are racing along remember that although your time is precious there are ways that you can lower your payments, lower your interest rates, increase your overall cash flow and doing it all at your own convenience. In particular, we have three tools at our disposal that you might not be aware of: bi-weekly payments, conversions and reamortizations of your mortgage.
A bi-weekly mortgage is a simple and effective way for you to decrease your interest costs and pay off your mortgage sooner. In most cases, there are no additional fees associated with setting up a bi-weekly mortgage as opposed to a monthly mortgage. With GreenStone this is a free service that we have available to our customers as a feature to save you a little more time (automatic monthly payments) and money from month to month.
Most commercial banks or credit unions will make you refinance your loan to get a lower interest rate, which means getting a new appraisal, title insurance and, worst of all, getting all your financial documentation around to prove that you are still “credit worthy.” The conversion process offered by GreenStone is fast and convenient. Once you talk with your local loan officer and decide on the interest rate that best fits your needs, we will send you out a document to sign and then all you have to do is send back to us. It’s that easy.
Reamortize a Mortgage
Finally, a reamortization or recasting of your mortgage can occur because of a change in the interest rate, the balance on your loan, or the time you have to repay the mortgage. This is a feature that is typically used if you want to put a large payment against the principal of your loan and in turn would recalculate your mortgage payment based on the remaining years you have left. In most cases, a large sum would be considered $5,000 or 10% of your remaining balance, whichever is greater. The fee to complete this is usually less than $250 and there is very little paperwork to complete the process. In the end, this is another option and tool offered that could help you lower your monthly mortgage payment.
In a busy world that continues to get faster by the day, these are only a couple of options that might fit in your particular circumstance and help you lower your payments, while still keeping up with all the activities that come your way. If you have any questions you can either post a message on this blog or call us at 1-800-444-FARM.