Stepping Into Spring
Dave Armstrong
Beautiful pink cherry blossom tree in spring

Dave ArmstrongAnother planting season is about to be in full swing.

It had just recently seemed so far away given the brutal weather conditions much of Michigan and Wisconsin endured as winter extended its icy grip through mid-March. As spring kicks in, warmer temperatures and longer days will once again renew the optimism of the possibilities a new year will bring.

By now, all members have received their patronage check for their business with GreenStone in 2018. Many members I have spoken with said they immediately noticed the increase in their check amount, and had no shortage of places to use the extra cash!

Like the speed of time, it is also hard to believe that GreenStone’s patronage program has been going strong for 14 years, reaching a total of $400 million returned to its members since its inception. The program started out by paying around 20 percent of net earnings in the early years, increasing to 25 percent from 2014 through 2016, rising again in 2017 to 33 percent and reaching nearly 50 percent in 2018. When the program started, members valued GreenStone (and its predecessor organizations) as a dedicated lender to agriculture and rural communities that was a dependable, competitive, and responsible source of credit and financial services in good times and challenging times. Our people, the interest rates, and our understanding of their business were the key reasons they chose GreenStone over its competitors for their financial needs.

Today, these continue to be the same basic reasons our members choose GreenStone. As an important and a significant benefit of membership, some may compare patronage to the “icing” on the cake that was “baked” long ago to serve farmers and other eligible members in rural America.

If you’ve read my comments before, or have spoken with any of our teammates here at GreenStone, you know we thank our members for your efforts – both in the field and behind the balance sheets. Patronage Day is an opportunity to bring attention to your accomplishments, and to thank you for placing your trust in us every day. It is also a time to show our appreciation for your continued hard work, dedication and commitment that leads to your cooperative’s financial strength. Without your strong value system, record financial performance and patronage payments would not be possible. As we work with our members through the extended downturn in the agricultural commodity markets, we remain impressed with the tenacity, determination and resilience our members continually express through challenging times.

Because we are focused on the success of our members, we work proactively with individuals to provide the right solutions for them. In a challenging farm economy, it is essential that we remain financially strong in order to provide flexibility and individual solutions to our members.

As we look at agriculture in our territory today, it is devastating for any farmer to be part of the statistics feeding media headlines. One bankruptcy is one too many. Nationally, the numbers show a slight uptick in Chapter 12 bankruptcies (designed for small and mid-sized farm operations in the 1980’s) as a result of nearly five years of negative margins. Locally, 2018 brought the opposite trend with fewer filings than 2017. That said, the numbers – both nationally and locally – are comparatively low for the circumstances. While the markets present a significant share of financial stress, we have witnessed our members’ commitment to honor their obligations, and we too are committed to working with them. We work proactively with all members; being financially strong allows us to offer individualized solutions for their unique situations. And the return of nearly 50 percent of our net income through patronage is one more way we team with our members for a longer, positive future.

Current forecasts for net farm income in 2019 remain dampened by the markets and uncertainty created by recent trade disputes. But the future of farming is bright and full of opportunity. Our GreenStone members will once again “lace up their boots” and produce another crop that will be the most affordable, healthy, and dependable source of food the world has ever known. Our country and the entire world is blessed to have the American farmer who has, and will continue, to persevere in spite of current challenges. Thank you for what you do!

I encourage you to set aside a little time to pause, acknowledge your accomplishments, and take in all the information this issue of Partners has to offer. We are excited to bring you stories about your fellow members, new crop insurance and risk management tools, cooperative reminders, our full line of farm business accounting and tax preparation services, and many other tips we believe provide you value. I would also encourage you to check out GreenStone’s website for more information and resources, as well as electronic tools to help you do business with us more conveniently. From routine commodity updates to financial calculators, online banking, electronic bills and statements and the ability to send financial information through our secure My Access portal, your online resources, and customized conveniences, continue to grow. Remember, everything we do “starts with you!”

Best wishes for a productive and profitable 2019! Thank you for your business and feel free to reach out to me if I can ever be of assistance.

Link to the full article: here


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