Is Credit Crisis "Growing" For Farmers?

It has been a crazy year for corn and soybean farmers. Do you plant more corn--in high demand--but expensive to grow? Or do you plant more soybeans which are cheaper, also in demand, and better able to tolerate this year's weather-delayed planting?

Those I've talked to ended up favoring corn.

Then came the next dilemma: how much of this year's crop to pre-sell ahead of time, and how much to hold off, hoping prices get even better? I'm told many farmers pre-sold about 25 percent of their crop back when corn was $7 a bushel. Now, in Waterloo, they're just hoping to get $4 for the rest of it. John Hoffman pre-sold 40 percent, "wish I'd sold more."

This is a capital-intensive business. Farmers borrow big upfront to plant and then repay as the harvest cashes in. They have strong balance sheets, but much of that value is in the land, and we are hearing that some banks think farm real estate may be a bubble. They may not lend as much. So will the credit crisis hit agriculture in a meaningful way? We won't know for a couple of months, when farmers start asking for loans.

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Ron Litterer, who heads the National Corn Growers Association, is optimistic farmers can weather Wall Street's storm. He says the way local banks re-capitalized Farmer Mac (see note below), after its bad investments in Fannie Mae, proves farm country is one place where banks are still strong. But that's not to say there isn't an air of uncertainty. Goes with the territory.

Note: Farmer mac is a GSE which provides loans, like Fannie and Freddie. It got in big trouble last week because it owned Fannie preferred stock, and local farm banks had to recapitalize it.

The video clip is more from Hoffman and Litterer.

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