What a difference a year makes! At this time a year ago, we started to come under more restrictive COVID-19 orders as infection rates began to spike again igniting what turned out to be a second spike that was worse than the original outbreak in the spring of last year.
While the Delta variant has surged through populations in a few states this summer, our marketplace (in general) has experienced mostly mild to moderate rates of infection recently. It’s been nice to enjoy life with few mask and/or social distancing restrictions. I know for me, it’s been great to see fans back in the stands here in East Lansing, MI and Madison, WI as well. Okay… maybe even in Ann Arbor, MI! There’s nothing like losing some of the simple things in life we typically take for granted to make us grateful when they finally return.
Fall harvest is underway across our territory with “outstanding” yields having been anticipated early in many areas. However, corn producers are now realizing the significant yield impacts from tar spot. Higher prices for most crops will help bridge this gap, and bring a well-deserved smile to those cash crop customers experiencing high yields in other crops this year.
Although dairy farmers and many of our fruit growers (who suffered losses from the spring’s freezing temperatures) are likely not going to experience the same euphoria as crop producers, they have experienced much worse in prior years and should do okay in 2021.
In fact, based on our ongoing customer financial assessments, we’ve upgraded a significant amount of previously classified high-risk loan volume across a variety of commodities resulting in one of the lowest risk profiles in GreenStone’s 21-year history. This further supports the industry’s anticipated resilience of strong net farm income in 2021 based on economic fundamentals rather than the record government support and stimulus payments received last year.
PPP Loan Update
Speaking of government stimulus programs, I am very pleased to report that as this edition of Partner’s goes to press, GreenStone has assisted all of its customers in submitting their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness applications to the Small Business Administration (SBA) with less than 3% of the more than 4,900 loans awaiting final forgiveness.
This is a significant milestone for GreenStone and our customers who received these funds to help keep their employees and cover other eligible expenses during the very difficult economic times created by the pandemic. It has NOT been an easy path due to the complexity and ever-changing direction of the program. However, I am very proud of our team members who worked tirelessly to “do the right thing” (as our Core Four Values encourage) to help our customers through these tough times.
2022 and Beyond Business Direction
Moving forward, the GreenStone board and leadership team have completed the 2022 business planning process, which includes GreenStone embarking on a significant “digital transformation” strategy over the next 5+ years. The purpose of which is to continue to provide you with higher levels of service, convenience, and security while striving to create additional efficiencies that keep our costs competitive and our Patronage payments to you strong. Over the next 12 to 18 months, we will be implementing a new loan origination system, customer relationship management platform, a forms generation application, plus enhancements to our credit underwriting tools.
While many of these systems are primarily “behind the scenes,” the benefits are far reaching. For example, the credit underwriting tool alone will allow customers to conveniently share their financial information with us through direct data feeds, optical scanning or other methods that will improve the accuracy of the information provided and eliminate redundant keying just to name a few. As you know in your business, constant change is a given. Our goal is to never stop making continuous improvements in our business that will make a positive impact on yours as well.
2021 Customer Satisfaction Survey
Our 2021 customer satisfaction survey results dropped slightly to 92% from 95% satisfied/very satisfied in 2020. The primary driver appeared to be concerns by some customers that GreenStone did not open its offices for walk in traffic as early as some of its competitors did. Also, due to the “tsunami” of new loan demand, including the PPP program we administered, our application to loan closing times were unusually long in some cases, often due to factors outside our control such as the time of completion of appraisals by third party appraisers and slower turnaround times at title insurance companies.
Yet, overall, the results and feedback were very positive. We have reviewed the comments many of you provided in the surveys and are committed to make course corrections to exceed your expectations in the future. I want to thank all of you who took the time to complete these surveys to help us help you better in the future.
Welcome to GreenStone’s New Board Member
I would like to also introduce you to our newest Board Member from Region 2.
Michael (Mike) Feight was elected to the board out of Region 2 in June of this year. He is from Tecumseh, MI in Lenawee County and has been a member of GreenStone and one of its predecessor associations for 36 years. He operates a partnership with his father and brother which includes 2,500 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat along with 75 acres of carrots for Campbell’s Soup.
In fact, Mike’s father, Fred, was one of the founding board members of GreenStone when it was formed in 1999/2000.
So, please read page 26 to hear more from Mike, and join me in providing him a warm GreenStone welcome!
Value Above and Beyond Just Loans
Before I close, I would like to focus your attention on this edition’s GreenStone Story about our land value benchmarking project, on page 23.
Many of you likely already know that for years, GreenStone and its predecessor Federal Land Bank Associations maintained benchmark farm valuation data to assist its appraisers in completing appraisals that are required for the extension of credit. Today, with the advancements in information technology, we are excited about being able to provide much of this same information and more to you, our members, to use in your evaluation of future land purchases, rental negotiations and/or real estate values in general across our territory. We hope you find this information of value and see GreenStone as much more than just loans! From risk management products (crop insurance, DRP, etc.) to accounting and income tax services and now real estate benchmarking data, we are truly your one stop for high quality financial products and information.
Best wishes for a safe and productive harvest and thank you for your business! Please feel free to reach out to me any time at if I can ever be of assistance.
To view the article in the online 2021 Fall Partners Magazine, click here.