A new report calls for greater accountability in the system that provides funding to farmers in underserved communities. The research takes a dive into the Farm Credit System, examining the risks and suggesting improvements to make the system more fair and sustainable.
Report lead author Dr. Joshua Humphreys is a farmer and president of the Croatan Institute. He asserted that, despite the Farm Credit System making around 45% of all agricultural loans, there is no transparency in how much of the funding goes to small, midsized or socially disadvantaged farmers.
“Minority home buyers were deeply underserved,” Humphreys pointed out, “yet no data demographically related to race, ethnicity or gender along the lines of other equal lending opportunity sectors are provided.”
According to the report, most Farm Credit System loans go to very large operations, and fewer than 20% to small or beginning farmers. Humphreys said the findings can be an opportunity for the system to address the disparities.
The report also examines the system’s lack of climate-related reporting, and suggests ways to make sustainability a bigger priority in lending. For the last several decades, farmers have dealt with increased risks — from rising temperatures and more frequent severe storms to wildfires.
Report contributor David Beck, director of policy at Self-Help Credit Union, said as agriculture’s Government-Sponsored Enterprise, more can be done to help farmers to transition to more eco-friendly practices.
“For instance, helping small farmers or even larger farmers switch to more regenerative ag practices that can require a lot of upfront cost,” Beck explained. “So, maybe helping subsidize that switch to more sustainable ag systems.”
The research touches on governance issues as well, such as board members serving expired terms. Humphreys added these challenges must be addressed, as taxpayers ultimately would bail the system out in the event of a crisis.
“Agriculture is not immune from a wide array of environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities,” he insisted. “I think that’s the key takeaway, is that we really want to encourage the Farm Credit System to end its laggard position among Government-Sponsored Enterprises.”
The report recommends conducting more climate research, implementing Green and Impact Bonds, and establishing a grant set-aside program through a congressional mandate.
This article originally appeared on Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.