Thursday, September 20, 2012


If you keep checking back here for my most recent post regarding MidAtlantic Farm Credit and the agriculture industry, I am sorry that I have kept you waiting.  In an effort to give you the best reading experience, I have moved my blog to a new site and combined with MidAtlantic Farm Credit's blog to give you the most up-to-date and valid information as possible.

And...since you are already here, please take the time to check out and subscribe to our new blog site -

I apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Testifying on the Farm Bill: The Farm Credit System is Strong

Yesterday, I had the priviledge of testifying before the House Agriculture Committee's Credit Subcommittee on behalf of the Farm Credit System.

I shared with them that the Farm Credit System remains financially strong, stable, economically vital, and focused on serving its mission for agriculture and rural America. We continue to make credit available to all segments of agriculture including commercial producers as well as young, beginning and small farmers.

We are proud of our commitment to rural America. There are no federal dollars invested in the Farm Credit System. We pay for the expense of being regulated by the federal government through assessments on all Farm Credit System institutions, and we pay insurance premiums to provide protection for those who invest in our debt securities.

To continue serving our mission, we must have continued access to the national debt markets and an independent, arm's-length regulator that comprehends the unique requirements of agriculture and rural communities. In addition to being closely regulated, we have the built in oversight mechanism of our owners holding our feet to the fire to keep service quality high while protecting their equity in the cooperative.

Of course, I shared much more than those few paragraphs, but it's a pretty good summary of what message was sent. If you want all the details, you can download the full testimony, or view it online.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Simple Thank You

On Saturday night, the University of Maryland College of Ag and Natural Resources held its annual alumni and awards banquet…and presented me with the Outstanding Alumnus award. I am truly grateful for all of the support and the opportunities that I’ve had in my life…and I am keenly aware that I have many many people to thank in my life. Below are the remarks I made in accepting the award (and yes, I kept my speech to the one minute directive I was given!):
I’m here because of the vision, commitment and sacrifices of others. I’m here because 150 years ago, Senator Justin Morrill authored visionary legislation that created our land grant college system. The Morrill Act made higher education more accessible and broadened it to include what was then called the “practical arts” such as agriculture. I’m here because my parents sent a clear message that education is important and made a commitment to support me. I’m here because I’ve had the support of my family who sacrificed our time together to enable me to do the things that have caused you to so graciously honor me. To all, I say a simple and heartfelt thank you.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Good Things in Difficult Times

Last week we wrapped up our five annual stockholder meetings. I really enjoyed visiting with our membership and talking to them about all the ways Farm Credit has opened doors for many over its more than 95 years.

For those that couldn't make it, I thought I'd share my remarks at the meeting. If you'd like to see the powerpoint presentation, which includes some financial highlights, click here for our website.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve had it with negativity. It makes me want to close a door instead of opening it! It’s hard to escape the daily news feed with its stories of unemployment, defaults on debt, politicians fighting, problems looking for solutions. For the few minutes we have together tonight, I’d like to shift that focus and tone and talk about some good things that have come from difficult times and to talk specifically about some of the good things MidAtlantic is doing.

Let me start by sharing two examples in the history of our country where we’ve risen above the stresses of the moment and have done things that have had a deep and lasting impact. 150 years ago, Senator Justin Morrill of Vermont opened a door for agriculture and rural America. His vision and leadership led to Congress passing the Morrill Act in 1862. This Act created the nationwide land grant college system and ushered in a major strategic shift in our system of higher education. Before its establishment, higher education was limited to the study of the classics and liberal arts by people of privilege. Morrill believed that there was a need for advanced research and training in highly practical subjects like agriculture and that education should be made more accessible and affordable.

Senator Morrill’s groundbreaking legislation directed the establishment and a means of funding the establishment of a new higher education system. No other country in the world had ever done anything like this. With this law, each state was granted federally owned lands which they in turn could sell and use the proceeds to fund the creation of schools for the purpose of education in the practical arts. Agriculture and the mechanical arts were the first programs to be established with efforts focused not only on learning, but also research and sharing the results of that research with the general public.

This strategic federal effort to advance agricultural research and education was a major contributor to the advancement of our agriculture from one of subsistence to one that today leads the world. Every one of you and your farms are where you are today because of the important research that continues to come out of these universities. Schools like the University of Maryland, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, University of Delaware, Delaware State College, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Virginia State, West Virginia University.

95 years ago, the first institutions of what is today’s Farm Credit System opened a door for agriculture and rural America. For the first time in the history of this country, farmers were granted access to a source of reliable and affordable credit. Many of you know that story….a story of farmers coming together, with the help of the government, to help themselves create their own sustainable source of credit and financial services.

What’s striking to me is that both of these game changing institutions were created during times of great adversity. Imagine yourself in the year 1862. Our country was engaged in a war that gravely threatened its very survival when President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act. Imagine yourself in the year 1916. The world was engaged in what to that point was the largest, most widespread conflict in human history, World War I, the war to end all wars, when the Farm Credit System was created. That our citizens and our leaders were able to come to agreement, in the midst of major upheaval is a testament to our collective capacity to focus on the future and to take bold actions to enable us to be better. It’s about what we can be and can do.

It’s true that we have experienced the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Nobody working today has been through anything like this. We see evidence of it in our credit quality. We see evidence of it at the human level with our customers who’ve lost jobs or have had their farms and businesses decline or fail because of the economy. Regrettably, the statesman like leadership that led to the creation of our land grant colleges and the Farm Credit System has gone dormant in a political environment that rewards rancor over collaboration. It is a time of great adversity.

Seemingly, there are no landmark initiatives of the magnitude of the Morrill Act or the Farm Credit Act on our national agenda. I might be naive but I believe there are still Americans who are thinking creatively about how to address our country's challenges. I believe it because I see it in the people I work with and work for. These times are precipitating significant public policy dialogue.

The developing Farm Bill discussions wrestle with how shrinking federal dollars should be allocated to support the strategic needs of agriculture. Federal and state budget constraints beget questions like what should land grant colleges and universities be doing that will enable them to have the impact on the next 150 years that they had on the past 150 years? A global financial system that’s in the process of reengineering and rebuilding stimulates strategic thought about our role in the financial community and our agricultural and rural customers.

What does the Farm Credit System, collectively and as individual institutions, need to do to be as relevant 95 years from now as we have been for the past 95? That’s what we’re thinking about. These adverse times bring challenges, but can also help us sharpen our focus. We are nudged from the inertia of our conventional thinking to by necessity thinking differently, thinking creatively.

How are we thinking differently, creatively? We start by acknowledging these are challenging times. We didn’t create them, but we have to deal with them. We recognize that we have a strong history and a solid financial foundation, but we’re not being complacent. As an example, we’re working to sharpen our focus on anticipating and managing the risks to your association. We’ve made a major commitment of time and money to establishing a program that’s known in the financial services industry as Enterprise Risk Management. This approach stimulates us to think about what our major risks are, how they might be connected and what we might do to manage those risks.

We’re also looking for ways to improve the quality of our service to you. Sometimes that happens in ways that you don’t see, such as a major investment with our partner associations in the AgFirst Farm Credit District in a new technology platform that will position us to improve the reliability of our services as well as efficiency. In other words, all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes that helps us generate loan documents, account for your loan activity, generate bills, calculate your patronage…we’re working on systems to do that stuff better.

We’re also expanding our service offerings where we see that others in the market place may be pulling back. Crop insurance is a good example of that. With the uncertainty around crop insurance that looms as the next Farm Bill is contemplated, we’ve seen evidence that some providers want to get out of the business. Crop insurance is important to you and to us in managing risk. We’re increasing our staff to make sure there are no gaps in the market place.

We have benefitted from the doors that have been opened for us. From the vision of Justin Morrill that led to the creation of the land grant system to the commitment of the farmers and policy makers who established our Farm Credit System, we are better off. But, there’s no way to open a door that isn’t connected to something. Doors are connected to frames, which are connected to walls, which are connected to floors and roofs…and a foundation. Doors won’t open if they’re not maintained and if the structures on which they depend are not maintained. What I want you to know is that we’re continuing to work to maintain the foundation, floors, walls and roofs of MidAtlantic so that we can deliver on our mission promise and open doors for you, but also to have the vision to create new doors for those who depend on us for the future.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Study in Excellence

I'm excited to announce our 2012 scholarship winners. We received about 90 entries for this year’s contest, and—as always—I’m amazed at the quality of young people that we have within our footprint. These students are truly the best of the best, and reading through them each year is a study in excellence.

Winners are listed in order—the first name in each region received a $2000 scholarship; the second, a $1500 scholarship; and the third, a $1000 scholarship.

Scholarship checks will be presented to the winners at our stockholder meetings in April (want to attend one of those - check out for more details).

Delmarva Region
Jake G. Jones of Milford, DE
John D. Gordy of Snow Hill, MD
Skyler S. Golt of Preston, MD

MidMaryland Region
Katharine J. Dallam of Bel Air, MD
Jane E. Sussman of Westminster, MD
Julia M. Kehoe of White Hall, MD

Penn Region
Hannah R. Wentworth of Quarryville, PA
Kimberly R. Weaver of Morgantown, PA
Christian J. Becker of Elizabethtown, PA

Valley Region
Jessie A. Kull of New Market, VA
Tyler M. Payne of Clearbrook, VA
Benjamin R. Snapp of Winchester, VA

Congratulations again to all of our winners—look for full write ups on each of them in the May edition of our Leader magazine!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Best of the Best

Last month, we closed our offices for a day to hold an employee information meeting.

Whenever our entire staff gets together, I’m reminded how lucky I am to work with such a great group of people. Our staff members are fun, and funny, but they’re also incredibly hard workers, innovative and committed to making our association the best financial partner for ag producers and rural homeowners in our area.

At that meeting last month, we recognized several employees who have gone above and beyond their call of duty in the last year. There are two types of awards: our Distinguished Service Award, an award given to employees who have improved our association and benefitted our customers in some way. These award winners are nominated by their co-workers, and those nominations are ultimately judged by our senior management team. The second award is given to people who were recognized for outstanding service attitudes. Those winners are the Employee Choice awardees, and they are nominated at large by other employees, and then chosen by a committee of their peers.

I’d like to share the winners’ names, as well as the remarks shared by their supervisors and their peers as they recognized the employees.

I hope you’ll join me in congratulating them—and give them a big THANK YOU for their contributions to our cooperative. They truly make all the difference in the world.

Rebecca Bowmaster – Distinguished Service Award
You identified some issues with our file management process that were causing confusion and redundancy. When you brought the issues to our attention, you had already prepared a well thought out and detailed solution. We liked your idea and asked you to run with it. You formed a cross sectional team of staff members, gained their consensus as well as the consensus from our IT department; led the communication effort to the rest of the staff, and finally developed and managed the implementation plan. Your actions demonstrated initiative, team work and leadership.

Garret Barbush – Distinguished Service Award
You have taken a huge leap in the past year to becoming a solid performer and a true asset to our team. While exceeding sales goals in every area, your approach to the job has impressed your co-workers. You embrace the team approach with exceptional communication and collaboration with others that allows you to deliver a high level of service to our customers. In addition to learning the skills of the Loan Officer position, you are aggressively pursuing an MBA degree.

Sandy Miller – Employees’ Choice Award
You are someone that many people rely on in many facets of the day to day operations. You help out with everything including compliance, reports, forms, procedures and operational details. We commend your ability to be mindful of the many needs of our customers and to work hard to help MidAtlantic Farm Credit provide the great customer service that sets us apart from our competition. The committee recognizes you for all you do, as do your fellow employees and our customers every day. Congratulations!

Linda Scott – Employees’ Choice Award
Your ability to handle your usual work load, pilot new procedures and pleasantly work from another office while displaced are all reasons that you exemplify what a MidAtlantic Farm Credit Employee Choice Award winner should be. The committee recognizes your dedication and resilience during busy and challenging times as well as your ability to persevere. You are a wonderful asset to the association. Congratulations and thank you for all your hard work!

Andy Terrell – Employees’ Choice Award
Your nomination was based on your knowledge not only in the agricultural industry but within the financial industry as a whole. Your ability to juggle a large agri-business portfolio while mentoring fledgling loan officers is an attribute to your hard work and dedication to MidAtlantic Farm Credit. The awards committee recognizes not only your commitment to your own job but your value on honing other loan officers as the future of the company. Congratulations and thank you for all you do!

Christine Soos – Employees’ Choice Award
After your nomination by one of your peers, the selection committee has recognized your extraordinary dedication to your job. Commendations from your nomination and the selection committee included were that when an unusual situation occurred that left us with two vacant customer service positions within a period of about two weeks, you were asked if you would help us fill the gap until we could re-staff. Without hesitation, you agreed to the redirection of your responsibilities and took over the customer service function. Even though you had help from others, your influence brought a sense of stability and calmness to an otherwise panic situation. Your approach and dedication to the task at hand set an example to others who often volunteered to help. You demonstrated teamwork and leadership in its purest form.

Congratulations to all of our winners!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Putting the Serve in Service

One of our speakers last week (at our annual employee appreciation/information meeting) was Charles Marshall, a motivational speaker who focuses on the importance of customer service. A couple of things he said really resonated with me, and I wanted to share them here.

Charles talked about putting the SERVE back in service. By that, he means that each employee (of any company--so feel free to share this with your staff!) should always strive to:

S--Surprise their customers with their passion and excitement for the services that Farm Credit offers.

E--Evaluate the customers' needs every time you talk to them. It's so important to listen to the challenges that the customer is facing, so that you can

R--Respond to those needs. Then, after the transaction is complete,

V--Validate the customers' decision to work with you. It's a big honor to be chosen as a customers' financial partner, and we should all remember to

E--Express our thankfulness to our customers.

When I saw these five actions demonstrated in Mr. Marshall's presentation, I made a note to thank our customers when I returned to the office.

Thank you for choosing MidAtlantic Farm Credit. It's a great tribute to our staff and our reputation that you chose us to be your lending partner.